(May 15, 2015)
Portsmouth to Cornwall
Our breakfast was lovely — smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for me, and a bacon-cheese croissant for J., accompanied by tasty decaf coffee, toast, juice, and jams. This meal, included in the price of the room, really made the accommodations a bargain. The room was not much other than room for the bed, with a wardrobe in the corner, and the bed was nothing remarkable. But the shower was magnificent — excellent pressure and heat. I would happily recommend The Florence House to anyone visiting Portsmouth.
We got a bit of a late start because we needed a recharger for my camera battery (urgently), but were on the road by 11:30am. . . and off the see the south of England.
Our first stop was the Long Man of Wilmington. There is a lot of mystery and controversy surrounding this figure, which purports to be 100s, even 1000s of years old, but there is no mention of it (AT ALL) previous to the 17th century. To keep it intact the National Trust has covered the carved lines with concrete blocks and mow the grass around it diligently. (Which raises the question: how was it maintained prior to the Trust?) J. was a bit let down that we couldn’t see the actual chalk figure, and we regretted not having wifi so we could explore the mysteries a little deeper than the signage provided.
At this point I reexamined the map and discovered that we were due south of Stonehenge, and it really wouldn’t be out of our way to go there, so we did. And it was stunning and moving and incredible.
It was also very busy (where do these people come from? Oh, there are a dozen or more tour buses right there. Got it.) and not at all the serene experience I might have desired. But the stones are magnificent in their brooding, and I was quite affected.
Once again, I had planned to see more than time really allowed, so we skipped the Knowlton Church & Earthworks and went straight to see the Cerne Abbas Giant.
Like the Long Man (and the White Horse of Uffington), this priapic figure is surrounded by mystery. People want to believe it is 5000 years old, or even 500, but no mention exists before 1645. The view point is across the valley, and you’re not supposed to walk on it because that damages the figure, but when we were there a groups of people were doing just that. If I’d been able to, I would have called the police, it was upsetting to see the vandalism in progress and be so helpless to do anything about it.
We continued into the west to our home in Devon for the next several nights — Swallow Barn, outside Lewdon and not far from Dartmoor National Park (of ‘Hounds of Baskerville’ fame). Our host, Simon, met us and gave a tour of this lovely cottage. We have a woodburning fireplace, hardwood floors, white washed plaster walls, a full kitchen, garden sitting area, a tub made for soaking, skylight over the bed for stargazing, and even two cats. Esther and William are 22 and 16 years old and would like nothing more than to share their presence with us. :-) Our hosts even provided fresh farm eggs (their own chickens), milk, apple juice pressed from their own trees, a loaf of ciabatta, and butter. This is a perfect little hideaway.
But there was no wifi service, so we were ‘dead’ when home. Which wasn’t too much of a problem, we weren’t missing checking email, or reddit . . . but was a nuisance when we wanted to research the next day’s plans.
On recommendation, we drove to nearby Lifton for dinner at the Arundell Arms, a nice hotel with a bar and restaurant. We ate in the bar, apparently for less than the restaurant would have cost, but with the same menu. J. had the xx, I had the mixed grill, and was slightly disappointed that the fish was pan-cooked instead. Overall the meal was good, although not outstanding, and we felt it was a good start to this leg of our adventures. (Meal cost = 60 pounds for water 2 cokes, 2 lg glasses of chardonnay, 2 mains, and a dessert.)