A little freedom comes our way this morning by way of a hire car. You’d have to drive through southern Cornwall to appreciate just how tiny the roads are here.
It’s not just the width- their most beautiful feature, the hedgerows, add to the challenge. Grown over the top, many of the roads are small tunnels of greenery. Spectacular to look at, either impenetrable by the motorhome or “set your teeth on edge” slow progress. All this is solved with the hire car. With the beast parked, we can zip around at will.
Picking the hire car up and following Chris home gives me a new appreciation of his driving skills. 20℅ of my mind is focused of working a manual shift, the other 80% is in awe of the millimetres that often separate him from rock walls and hedgerows. I’m reminded for the umpteenth time how glad I am that I’m not in charge of driving the motorhome. The little Ford Focus? I’m all over that.
We move to near to Padstow today, so as to be near to Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant. A second, much looked forward to, birthday dinner – the reservation was a tough one to secure. Given the tiny unlit country roads a short drive home after dinner is advisable.
Once settled, our first port of call is Port Isaac, more affectionately known as Port Wen, named so by the TV series Doc Martin, a shared favourite. It was high on our list in our first trip, four years ago, but there was no way to stop – the streets were beyond tiny, steep and without parking for large vehicles (or really any vehicles). It was our first run in with the issues size can bring. But! Armed with the zippy black wee car, we are masters of the tight squeeze.
In the Focus, the green roads fringed by the hedgerows are even more spectacular than in the motorhome. These are ancient, one green tunnel after the other. We sit much lower in the car too and often can’t see over the hedgerows that aren’t grown over – it feels a little like we’re off to visit Hobbits. I do love Cornwall. Its green beauty and ancient roadways elicit a sigh whenever mentioned to UK residents. It’s easy to see why. In many places, time has indeed stood very still.
Port Isaac is one such place – the walk down to its famous harbour is lined with beautiful old stone houses set on steep narrow laneways, created long before cars were a concept. Sure enough, there’s Doc Martin’s surgery, Bert Large’s restaurant and all the key buildings we’re so used to seeing in the series.
We’re not the only fans either, it’s busy, busy, busy. It’s clear that the series has breathed life into Port Isaac’s tourist trade. Even if it hadn’t been for the series, it would be worth visiting for the shellfish alone.
Port Isaac is a thriving crab and lobster fishing port – there are family run fishing vessels that have been handed down from generation to generation. We have to show some restraint, being off to dinner tonight we’re not going to spoil our appetites. This does not extend to a cream tea – it would be rude to not have scones with jam and cream when in Cornwall or Devon. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!
Even though the zippy little car got us here, it appears the tourist rush has generated a new carpark high on the hill – if it was not for this, the village could not hold the volume of visitors. Last time we visited, it was very quiet – we certainly stood out and turned a few local heads manoeuvring about.
Port Issac/Wen crossed off the list, it’s time to go home and get prettied up for dinner. I remember how to do this! After months of flats and casual gear, dressed up at last! Our come the heels and little black dress, on goes a smoky eye and lashings of mascara and liner. I look like myself, once more. I may well be the only person in heels in a 100 mile radius, but you know what? I don’t care.
The Seafood Restaurant is beautifully appointed and we have a truly memorable meal: a Japanese inspired crab starter for me, Spanish inspired scallops with Iberico jambon for Chris. Mains are traditional classical French: I have truffled brill, Chris a crispy skinned seabass. Desserts are a pistachio ricotta bomb alaska for me, poached peaches with vanilla icecream for himself. French chardonnay from the Bourgogne, satuerne and birthday petit fours have me purring into the late evening.
Chris gets order remorse when he sees the Singapore chilli crab come.out – it’s spectacular – but otherwise it’s a flawless meal. We both love Rick Stein’s cooking shows and we can see his cooking history in the menu, from his traditional beginnings to the influence of his travels. Top stuff.
In the way out I grab a cooking school brochure to study later, then it’s a quick waltz around the busy Padstow harbour before Chris has to drive home via the hedgerow maze. Even trickier at night. Again, glad it’s not me.
Extended birthdays. Love them. Never mind a birth-day, a birthday week is just right.