Tuesday, 1 July 2008

10 places to visit in St Ives

No trip to Cornwall is complete without a visit to St Ives. That's the brochure speak anyway. And, just to oblige, we take a day trip to St Ives. And I can recommend these sites...

1. The car park on the hill in the pouring rain. I told you! I told you it would rain! sings Grit gleefully, glad that all her premonitions of gloom, storm and tempest would eventually come to pass. And up here you would get a good view into this little pilchard-fishing town, with its lego-brick grey and brown houses and its little twisty streets, all tumbling down the steep hillsides to the Atlantic ocean, if it weren't for the clouds, drizzle and acres of coach tours pouring millions of tourists down to the harbour ice cream parlours and Cornish pasty shops.

2. The queue outside NatWest bank. Grit is cashless. While in the queue she has a good old moan, tut and grumble, because if there is any argument for banning vehicles during the hours of daylight, it is here, at these crossroads. St Ives town council, what are you doing? Do you have pilchards strapped to your eyeballs? Can you not see that two motor vehicles travelling in opposite directions on a street designed to take one pilchard cart travelling in one direction is a disaster waiting to happen? One driver blithely drives over the pavement, narrowly missing my little Squirrel's toes because there is no room here for cars, tourists and Squirrels. One of them has to go. And I would rather it is not my Squirrel to A&E. Ban those cars now!

3. The tourist information office, because we are lost. This is very usefully marked and I like the sign which is a curvy letter i. Shark says it stands for idiot.

4. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. I have long wanted to come here because I want to fondle those lovely sculptures in her garden. I even feel a need to wear them. Probably because of the arm holes. But it is not those sensuous curves which blow my mind apart today. Did you know that Barbara Hepworth had triplets? I didn't know that. She had triplets. Oh my God. In all the photographs I've ever seen of her she looks the most unmotherly looking woman, thin and alone, smoking herself to death behind slabs of plaster, stone and metal. Triplets. After that, thoughts of destruction and creation dog me all day long.

5. The streets of St Ives. These are definitely built for pilchards. They are tiny and tightly packed. And just in case we have not yet had the full pilchard experience there are some more coach loads of tourists arriving fresh into town. We are barely able to navigate our way through the shoal, and I am sure at one point my feet don't touch the ground as I move on ten yards. The Atlantic ocean tipping down on all our heads helps complete the experience.

6. The Cornish pasty shop. We are foolish. We go to the first one we see. Mostly to escape the tidal wave of rain. Standing inside a Cornish pasty shop at that moment seems the most inviting thing to do. But here, as the vegetarian option, there is just cheese and potato pasty. Walk two paces and we could have moved to the gentrified class and had tomato and basil, or Dolcelatte and cucumber.

7. St Ives Museum. Now if there's anywhere in Cornwall which makes me think we have entered a county of England where we must choose to show our identity papers at the border or have our heads stuck on poles, this place is it. What can I say about this bizarre museum with its eclectic mix of objects? I would show you them, only no photography is allowed. There are several signs to remind me about that. There should be guards patrolling with machine guns and dogs, just in case I feel the urge to snap a photo of a pilchard pressing stone. Or the pneumatic powered drill. Or the Cornish screw press from 1880. I start to wonder what can be the possible reason to deny me a photograph of a treacle dispenser? Perhaps they are all artifacts of some weird Druidy sort of Cornish secret society thing. In fact there is a dummy dressed up in a blue robe round the back of the Cornish kitchen who which looks to me like an effigy of Mrs Big. We are probably lucky to escape with our lives.

8. Sandy patch on the beach. It's raining. No one else is there. But that doesn't stop the Grit and Dig girls. No way. Because this is sand. And we're taking that home. Squirrel is busy stuffing it into her pockets right now.

9. The harbour. This is the strangest sight of all. Believe me about this. I watch a woman who looks like the Queen Mother struggle to get into a rubber dinghy bobbing on the water and held by a man who looks like Captain Pugwash. This woman looks like she has never stepped into a boat before in her life, never mind a rubber dingy. She's wearing a tweed jacket and headscarf and carrying a bag of shopping. At one point, while she's got on foot in the boat, she actually tries to put the shopping bag down on the water. Can you believe that? The dinghy is rocking this way and that and she finally lands on one side of it, more by slipping over and falling into it than any other method, then Captain Pugwash hands her some oars and off she goes. Let not reason stand in the way of determination, ineptitude, and folly. It makes me proud to be British.

10. Not a pizza restaurant. And not because we can't find one. Dig is not in love with St Ives. I can tell. Perhaps he feels like too much of a tourist. Or not enough of one. He thinks the restaurants are too crowded, and noisy, and there are too many young people in them. I tell him it is not as bad as Newquay where I am too old for the beach by some 30 years and there is a curfew out on anyone aged older than 25 by reason of age being way too uncool. We decide to drag our offspring and our geriatric carcases back to the van via a chip shop. Which seems a very suitable thing to do in the pouring rain.


Suburbia said...

Oh dear!

sharon said...

More examples of Sod's Law at work. There are a couple of places in Devon (I think we were in Devon at the time, you'd never guess I passed my Geography GCE) that do not allow private cars etc. Clovelly is one. It is really lovely although best seen outside of 'tourist season'. I can't remember the other place name. It may have been Lynmouth..? I know that they were places we could stop obsessing over our younger son who moved like lightening and was seldom where you wanted him to be.

Elibee said...

Why did you mention St Ives, I had completely blanked out it's existence after a seagull did a runner with the chip I was about to eat and while I was frozen with shock a fierce teenager shouted at me for feeding the seagulls and encouraging them to snatch food from unsuspecting tourists.

Listen to Sharon, go north to Clovelly and stay at the Red Lion, better class of seagull.