Sunday, June 11, 2017

The other St. Michael's Mount

The skies had cleared as we set off for St. Michael's Mount. I was very curious to compare this tidal island to its French cousin that I know and love so well. From the parking lot the silhouette looked promising.  The tide was low and the tourists were arriving as we found our way to the rock path leading  to the island. It is a footpath which can be walked during low tide. Otherwise there are boats that make the trip for visitors. 

We climbed the hill to the entrance where a long line waited for tickets. Fortunately our Royal Oak membership cards cut us to the front and we started the pathway to the castle entrance. The view over the bay toward Penzance was spectacular.

The sea was azure and sparkled in the sunshine. We climbed the stone steps and entered the north side of the building. The St Aubyn family owns the castle and lives in the lower floors. The upper floors are arranged with family possessions including period furniture, artwork, weapons collections and silver. It is all nicely arranged and shows a family with wealth and connections. There is a small chapel with some nice glass. A soprano was rehearsing for an afternoon concert so we got to hear the organ.  Compared to the mighty spiritual presence at Mont St Michel, this was a weak comparison.

After visiting the heights we descended to the garden entrance. This was the truly unique feature of the visit. The Southwest side of the island is blessed with a subtropical microclimate. Cacti, that grow in Los Angeles in Amanda's front yard, flourish on the rocky walls.  The garden climbs vertically up the rocky face and looks down on green lawn and surging surf. 

Our rendez vous was at the cafe, and Bill, Lillian and I showed up on time, but we didn't see Peter. It took us a while to realize that there was another cafe, which was where Peter was waiting. Once we all convened in the same place we had a lunch of tea and Ann's Pasties. 

After the Mount we turned back to the Lizard to visit the serpentine shops. This area of Cornwall is famous for this beautiful mineral. We had already scoped out the shops the other day so we were ready to buy souvenirs. It was Lee's birthday so getting him a gift was a priority. We decided that we should buy birthday  presents on the birthday date. 

The shop owner made the rocks used for the objects. The most unusual color is red, and the few red objects were in a glass case. They showed us his workshop in the back of the store where the quarried rock was cut down to size and mounted on a lathe to be shaped and  polished. The objects were beautiful and we bought several gifts. 

Finally we headed off on our walk in the direction of the little town of Cadgwith. The walk began on the road, then turned into a field and past a rather decrepit church with an ancient Norman tower, surrounded by a tiny graveyard. The jewel in this sad, old building was the pulpit and lectern dating from 1830, carved of beautiful red serpentine.  

We continued on a paved path which took us past a farm. We spied a large black cow in the yard, but didn't expect to be followed. We heard a loud moo and turned to find the cow following us. Fortunately she gave up and turned back.

We passed another couple herds of gentle cows before we made it to the coastal section of our path. The path was close to the edge, and seemed wild and unkempt, but the birds loved it. We were surrounded by gulls and gannets on the seaside, and swifts and swallows  over the hillside.  

An unusual feature of the landscape is called The Devils Frying Pan. Apparently a rocky cave hollowed by wave action, partially collapsed, leaving a depressionleading out to sea through a short tunnel. The tide was rising and the water surged rhythmically through the opening.  The swifts and swallows danced joyously before us.  

We arrived in Cadgwith at dinner time. The shop selling jelly donuts and the crab sandwich cafe were closed. The boats were beached, and savory odors wafted from the thatched cottages. 

Our own dinner was waiting. We had several leftovers to polish off before leaving for Wales on Saturday. 

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