This journey is about sharing. Luckily, it turns out that Andy and me share the fascination for cliffs and impressive coastlines. With my camera being low on battery, we even share the pictures and, later on, drinks and dinner.
Most of all, we share the 11,2 m² of Hector. As a matter of fact, this works pretty well. Sorting out where to go, enjoying coffee and scrabble on the couch, preparing dinner or getting on the yoga mats for common exercises – all easy. Henry’s Hippie-like campsite enforces this spirit with its colourful style and all kinds of animals.
Hector and the surf board fit in perfectly. I just wonder who smuggled in the business-style of the hard-shell case…
Lizard Point is the furthest South you can go without leaving UK mainland. We use the sunny evening for a walk to the cliffs (what else).
With Hector’s spacious interior of 33,6 m³ (5,60m x 2m x 3m), even some drizzling rain does not prevent us from laundry service, work station and well-being on the lounge sofa.
After two days, we are well prepared for next destinations. Having seen a lot of nice Cornish landscape, we will look for some place of mystery and legends, some brand new architecture among ancient ruins and some more of Northern Cornwall. No need to run around like crazy sheep, though.
The fantastic part of van-travelling is that we will take all the comfort with us: the couch, the kitchen, the whole 2-bedroom-apartment. Only the exterior setting will change – we will see where we will end up the following evening…
Weeks later, I will feel exactly like this: as powerful as the waves, strong as rock, and focused as anything.
Today, we make it to the edge. To Cape Cornwall, to be more precise. We pass through St. Just with umpteen cafés and nice breakfast along the way, until we receive the most welcoming hello on the parking of the National Trust.
Right from the start, this edgy part of the world enfolds a particular charm. Few, but old houses, stony walls and open skies. There is plenty of a view and not more than a handful of people.
The chimney on top of the headland comes from former mine activities, had then been supportive to marine navigation, is now just a leftover and proudly presented as “Heinz Monument”.
If you look for typical Cornish coast line with a bit of a history, yet without touristic overflow, then Cape Cornwall is the place to be. If you are more into big names and bus loads of visitors, then you might be better off at Land’s End.
Andy and me like the slightly abandoned scenery. Smooth green meets the ocean, decorated with fragments of stone and rocks.
It is rough and beautiful, with the meadows almost falling down into the sea.
A peaceful (private) garden contrasts the coastal environment, like a refuge of civilization.
We spend quite some time on the furthest point of the headland, watching the waves gnaw at the cliffs.
We might have filled our one-hour-parking period with 120 minutes, fascinated by this particular spot. Now that we have been to the almost-most-Western point of Cornwall, it is time to continue further down and walk on the Southern edge of UK.
Hector is all up for it – following the sun is just his natural habit.
The best way to approach St. Ives is via the coastal path. Unless you dislike grey stones, green plants or blue sea. Wonderful weather might be even more of a cliché (never seen one of those “Rosamunde Pilcher TV movies” on German TV, but might look just like this), still, with Andy joining, we decide to endure it all.
Outlooks are fantastic and we enjoy every step and the bright colours around.
In fact, I could show about a dozen pictures just from the coastal path, each of it looking splendid.
However, sooner or later we should look at St. Ives. Beaches, narrow roads, shops and museums – just the quantity of restaurants does not meet the requirements, anything else is just fine.
Surfing would be one of the classical activities, if only they had some waves. First days of June, the sea is quiet and flat. Even without the black-white flag (indicates the surfing area), nobody would be run over by a full-speed-surfer.
With my surf board parked in a half-hour walking distance from the beach, I can easily smile at the untroubled surface of the sea.
One thing hardly ever mentioned is the typical Cornish village style: Wherever houses meat the coastline, all is built with the utmost effectiveness and no regard to proportions or beauty.
When walking through St. Ives, I cannot confirm that the town is attractive. Still, with a good angle, pictures tend to show the best parts of it.
The beach close to the train station is the calmest one, luring us into a cup of coffee with the feet in the sand. However, the ultimate, perfect image comes when passing by crystal-clear water decorated with a bulk of seagulls.
Just behind, we detect a small church with the most inviting garden café. We manage to defend our cup of tea and gluten-free cheesecake against the gulls before we continue our way through the village.
Next on our list is: art. Sculptures of Barbara Hepworth, shown in her former house and in the charming garden.
Between Hepworth and Tate Gallery, we enjoy the re-usage of historic farm buildings on Hellesveor Campsite. It is a clear recommendation for St. Ives due to wonderful owners and the nice overall setting.
Another day brings us down to the Tate St. Ives, located in a former gasometer. The building competes with neatly curated exhibitions, and the café on the 3rd floor is also worth a visit.
Inner views are colourful, especially with the current exhibition of Ad Minoliti.
Still, in the end I spend endless time looking out of the building onto the main beach. It is framed artfully by the rotunda of the building.
Compared to my French West coast experience, St. Ives main beach is on an OK-level only. Yet, with today’s light and weather, it turns out like the most wonderful image of a Cornwall beach.
Especially, when (again) taking the picture inside-out from the Tate.
Finally, we have seen it all and it is time to move on. Having had one rainy day out of three makes us re-design our next steps: South will be the direction of choice. Let’s see if we can soak in some sun when going as South as UK can be.
One of the ultimate highlights of The Tour 2022: Seeing friends and family in London!
Hector remains in St. Ives while I pay impressing prices for the Great Western Railway. All worth it when arriving in London, hopping on the brand-new Elisabeth line, contrasted by the old Northern line and arriving in Finchley.
Hampstead Heath is the first destination, having a little walk and wide views all around.
Ute leads us in the most colourful parts of the London subway, all following Anthony’s “Classic London” tour of the day.
Just around the corner of King’s Cross, we detect upcoming quarters of the city. Lucky me that I am totally resistant when it comes to shopping in fantastic boutiques or when lured into design furniture shops. At least until I hold just the right piece for my living room in my hands, hearing myself ask if I can pay in cash…
Andy is busy taking pictures: architecture, urban development, modern make-overs of historical buildings, new usage in old ruins and all that. Frozen in thousands of pictures, making her smartphone steam and sweat.
Our fantastic guide leads us through the most beautiful train stations, through tiny alleys and down the music street, sneaking into China town and crossing Soho.
Still, the most wonderful event is seeing quite some faces: Only 25 years ago, some had longer hair, some have not been born and some had just started to figure out what life is about. And look at us now!
Vivid conversations over three generations make us forget about tired feet or stressful jobs. We add drinks at one of their favourite pubs, stroll around the town some more and enjoy the weekend together. Then it is time to get back to brave little Hector and a splendid time in Cornwall.
Weeks ago, I reserved a pitch on the most expensive campsite ever: roughly 83,- EUR. Per night. For 1 Hector and 1 Lady. This being set, the overwhelming decoration with thousands of flags is the minimum I could expect. Only in the improbable case that the queen comes by for her platinum jubilee, she might claim it all for her. With her Majesty staying in London, I only have to share honour and glory with my van, which is fair enough for our first UK campground.
I have chosen Newquay for beaches and surfing, but come to think that it is moreover famous for being busy and crowded.
The beach right in front is for families and stand-up-paddlers only, thanks to its natural bay.
Time to bring my surf-van on the next level: With a sophisticated surfboard-mount, I am good to go towards Watergate Bay for appropriate waves.
I check out the options and make it my preferred spot for the next days.
Hector surveys my ongoing attempts from the cliff-parking position. Good to know that even in early morning, I am not entirely alone in the bay.
Meanwhile, I practice wave by wave, improving my skills. Take-off, whitewash and greenwater, topped with some washing-machines every now and then. I ride some waves and some waves ride me. Afterwards, I have my board washed by the kind and handsome men of wavehunters.co.uk, chatting a bit about life, surfing and all the rest.
The coastal path is worth some hours of walking, showing lovely facets of the cliffs and bays. Wildflowers, rocks, sand and different perspectives depending upon the tides come together in the most enchanting way.
Danger for tourists is always part of the game: vain selfie-spotters might fall off the cliffs, tides and current are underestimated easily and the sunburn-risk is continuously high. Still, wandering the coastline is all worth it.
Newquay downtown is full of tourist, shops and cars. Better again: focus on the landscape around.
Of course, the beaches need to be checked out thoroughly. First: Fistral beach, famous for surfing and attracting the majority of people.
Thanks to the shortage of service staff in most places, I drop in the Headland Hotel for some afternoon Cornish Cream Tea with the most wonderful gluten-free scones I never dared to dream of.
The next beach is a more relaxed one. Might be due to the umpteen stairs you need to climb down…
Third in a row is the one close to my exclusive campsite. During low tide, there even is a bit of a shore with miniature waves.
Following the coast further North shows another bay that is fully eaten up by the ocean during high tide. Other times offer endless sands and stones.
After sneaking in The Mermaid Inn, I stroll around in the evening sun, now with high tide and the water filling in most of the bay.
A couple of days if enough for this place. New places to see and friends to meet make us move on to further destinations.
My inner clock is still set on continental time; hence I am up and gone early enough. After the first half hour on the road, I start to relax and develop steady routine on left-driving. Just then, I face a car accident ahead with a blocked road. Without hesitation, I follow the recommendation of the courteous officer: follow that car!, meaning another motorhome, heading West. My inner racing queen sort of enjoys chasing after the other, on tiniest field roads until ending up at another blocked junction. Helpless charm of a certain blonde-violet lady takes over and seconds later, the other RV guy and me make our way.
Along the way, I notice signs towards the Eden Project and I vaguely remember to have it on my list. Spontaneously, I exit the main road and make my way to the world’s biggest greenhouses. Rather: green-bubbles, to be more precise…
The general idea is something about saving the planet by ecologic education and I certainly take over my part when paying the 38,50 £ entrance fee. Hard to decide whether this is like a green-washed Disneyland for kids, pedagogical paradise for school classes or a nice garden area – probably, all of it.
I stroll through the rain forest biome with palm trees, waterfalls and rope bridges. It is easy to wander on the prepared paths and welcome all the nature-impressions and the general spirit of this place.
My personal highlight is the platform held by steel ropes, gently sliding and with a 50m view down.
Around noon, more and more families and masses of kids take over the place. Some lunch, a last picture of the greenhouse-bubble-structure, and then I hop on Hector for the next destination.
Last night I have dreamed of driving on the left side of the road, meaning that my mindset is ready for today’s adventure. With all the “Left!” signs pinned to my cockpit, it is hard to focus on right-side-driving when approaching the port of Roscoff.
Hector’s head lamps got some stickers that shall prevent dazzling of other cars. It looks strange and almost certainly, I got it all wrong – but in case of anyone controlling it, I can proof that I tried my very best. It is a pity that nobody bothers, all they check at the ferry is whether I hide illegal persons under my couch. As usual, it would have worked out with the bathroom as hiding place, but that should be kept a secret.
Once on the boat…
…no, really: once on the boat, I get lost between restaurant hours and continental versus UK time. In the end, Hector’s tyres touch British ground around 8:30 p.m. and we hurry up to find an appropriate parking place for the night.
All along the 10 km towards the “Seven Stars Inn”, I tell myself to keep left, no matter what the tomtom says.
At 9:00 p.m. sharp, we reach the parking of Plymouth’s oldest pub. Other places might be more charming, but everyone inside welcomes me with a warm hello (owners and guests) and a fart (the dog) and I am relieved to have reached my first milestone in the UK.
Tomorrow morning, I will try to lead Hector further towards Cornwall. Fortunately, I do not know anything about blocked roads, accidental junctions and other difficulties, I just fall asleep and hope for the best.
Time to follow some more of Comissaire Dupin traces: Approaching Tregastel as close as possible, my internet research reveals a campsite at the Côte de Granit Rose. While Southern and Western parts of the Bretagne have been blessed with low season, the Northern parts are far from developing anything like a season.
The rocks are less pink than expected and the sea options are: high tide = no beach at all, tricky rocks waiting for knee scratches under water; or: low tide, endless sands/rock-mixtures with the smell of dead sea weed.
Contrasting the rural landscape, the Camping Municipal of Landrellec is comfortable and brand-new. Hector has a nice view on the sea (a clear plus), but the range of activities comes with restricted dimensions.
Option a: Follow the coastal path “GR34” to the right.
Option b: Follow the path to the left.
The fun stops when trying to find an open restaurant for the next evening. The few within reach (two, thoroughly counted) are closed with exceptions to weekend-lunchtimes. Trégastel is a bit too far or requires car usage. Conclusion is that this region throws tourists right back on themselves, and all of a sudden I understand all the satellite antennas on the RVs around.
The next morning, I rather go for St. Brieuc with it’s Ville Historique, a shopping street and: a hairdresser with free timeslots.
Not only the Granit rock at the coast is supposed to be rosé/pink, the same shall be the preferred style on my head. Unfortunately, the hair stylist has no pink available, so we agree to try violet instead. The outcome is a bit less exciting than expected, but with sun + sea it will brighten up soon just the same.
However, the main reason for being here is the Train Station and the big hello upon Linda’s arrival!
We start relaxed in our common holiday week with sea view, sun and yoga.
Later, trying some more of the Northern coast, we reach Plouézec / peninsula of Paimpol. Again, this is supposed to be a nice region with a nice campsite – still, we are not the right peer-group.
In the long run, stunning views from Hector’s couch are not sufficient. Without getting too deep into details, let’s pretend this were tinder and the campsite/region a possible date – it is a clear non-match, after all.
We leave behind the picturesque views and seek a more suitable place. Assuming I had an idea for future stays, including a beach bay and surf occasions… add the coincidence of a new surfboard that fell out of Decathlon into my van… I wonder where we might end up!
Hector (Van-Perspective): “People are strange… All this back and forth, the months of nothingness and then immediate action – hope they know what they are doing. At least the wellness treatment with a new toothed belt, bright eyes and a new rear battery is well-planned. Guess it will make me look 10 years younger! Good starting point for the next 5.000 km, be it with 1 or 2 or 5 girls.”
B., Driver’s Perspective: When it is all about spontaneous travelling, why does nobody mention the squeeze of flexibility vs. fully booked campsites? Refusing silly ideas like “hidden places in the middle of nowhere” or “back-country-camping only”, I am confronted with wonderful internet pictures and the “Sorry, we are full!”-lady on the phone.
H: “While drivers and passengers get more and more excited about the upcoming trip, I keep calm and wait for all the piles of stuff to be packed. Hope we will make it to some waves this summer… I wonder if I will get the surfboard I dream of ever since, it would suit me so well!”
B: After some rollercoaster of planning, letting lose and a couple of calls, the spontaneity includes 1 ferry, 2 campsite reservations and the flight dates of at least two travel mates. For all the rest, we will see what the next weeks might bring.
Meanwhile, juggling with Hector’s garage appointments, UK plans and over-sophisticated excel-lists culminates into waking up at 4:15 a.m and a constant buzzing hum. It makes me re-consider my preparation, and not before long, I figure out that some yoga classes, meditation or and a bottle of wine are by far more appropriate than endless to do lists.
Weeks before departure, Hector carries a big smile on his face. Spreading good vibes, he tells stories about how he will enjoy champagne with the girls soon.
Since prices for gasoline reached unknown heights, my van is convinced of getting champagne all the time – nothing else makes sense with the pricing, right? With the utmost positivism, Hector bares hailstorms while dreaming of sandy bays at the sea, castles along the way and rebellious moves when driving on the wrong side of the streets.
Spontaneous Reactions to “Champagne with Hector”
Meanwhile, Linda plays with options for joining us in Brittany. Andy and local friends align for London, and Melly has booked flights in and out of Great Britain. Furthermore, the house-sitter gets accustomed to our place and Barbara plans to hop on towards the end of the trip. Altogether, packing will be more Tetris than ever.