July 10, 2019: Pursuing Pirates and Brunch

We woke up, still on the sleeper train, as our car attendant brought us breakfast, consisting of coffee, tea, and pastries. Tiffany ordered the popular British muesli for breakfast, a cross between oatmeal and cereal. We enjoyed the early morning views outside our window as we got ready to arrive at Penzance station. Another benefit of our overnight train cabin was access to the first-class lounge at the station. There, we could shower, use the wifi to look at Google Map, and ask for the locals’ recommendations. They gave us the name of a nearby hotel that would store our bags since we didn’t plan to stay in Penzance overnight and didn’t want to lug them around with us all day.

Now, of course, our time in Penzance meant we had to act like pirates, modeled by the musical, The Pirates of Penzance. My friends and I have a running joke about how pirates invented brunch, so our priority in town became finding a brunch spot. We soon found a cafe called The Front Room where we ordered toast with eggs, hash browns, sausage, and teacakes. The teacakes we ordered purely out of curiosity since this was a British dish that we hadn’t tried. Should you ever see teacakes on a menu, you should expect to be served a sort of bagel with raisins, slightly flatter and without a hole in the center, smothered in melting butter.

Next, we wanted to see standing stones while we were in the UK, much like Stonehenge. Some people shared that when they got to see the famous henge, the mystery was swept away, realizing that they were just stones. Due to not wanting to dedicate an entire day to see them, we made plans to visit two smaller, less popular standing stone sites called the Merry Maidens and the Pipers. Since they were farther out of town, we bought tickets for a hop-on/hop-off bus tour that could take us around the Cornish coast, with a stop just beside the Merry Maidens.

We boarded the bus with about fifty other tourists and found that we were the only passengers under the age of seventy, making it clear that this must be a popular retirement destination. We sat on the open-air upper deck to get the countryside’s best view and enjoy the cool coastal air. There were many beautiful views, but the most marvelous sight was how this double-decker bus operated on such tiny roads. There were times when oncoming traffic would have to halt and back up to allow the bus to pass. To say the turns were tight would be an understatement, but at least we had the optimum viewing spot to witness the mere inches of clearance the driver could navigate. We wanted to clap our hands at the incredible skills of drivers who operate on these roads, but we couldn’t risk distracting them!

About 15 minutes into our bus ride, we arrived at the Merry Maidens. We hopped off and followed the small sign that led us over a short wall and into a field. In the middle of this seemingly random field stood nineteen knee-high stones protruding from the ground. According to local legend, nineteen maidens danced on a Sunday, and as punishment, they were petrified. Tiffany and I figured there was a chance we’d touch the stones and fall back into the past after watching a few Outlander episodes. Thankfully (or maybe sadly), this did not happen! Nearby we located The Pipers.

Confession time. I hoped I would feel a spiritual connection visiting these mysterious ancient sites. However, like some Stonehenge visitors, I found that they were just stones. Maybe Stonehenge would feel differently if I ever make my way there. Maybe.

When the next bus arrived, we continued towards Land’s End, the westernmost point of England. The rocky coast was impressive as it reached out into the sea. Purple flowers carpeted the ground as we made our way to the edge. In the distance, we spotted the Longships Lighthouse. After we had thoroughly walked the coast and had our fill of majestic sights, we boarded our last bus headed back to Penzance.

We arrived at the train station in time to grab our bags and board a train for Plymouth, where we would stay the night. It was our first regular train ride, no more first-class privileges, but we still enjoyed the beautiful English countryside during the few hours we were on the train, arriving just after 6:00 PM.

Now Plymouth was a special stop for us. For our fifth anniversary, we traveled around Massachusetts, ultimately falling in love with Plymouth, MA. When our anniversary trip ended, we made a promise to each other that on our tenth anniversary, we would venture to Plymouth, England, to see where the pilgrims had begun their journey across the sea. When we awoke on our tenth anniversary, July 11th, our journey would take us from Plymouth to the next city, so we planned to drop our bags at the hotel and explore Plymouth before nightfall.

We first headed to the Mayflower Steps, the monument to the pilgrims who left England in 1620 to head to America, now surrounded by modern boat docks. The actual memorial was closed due to renovations for the 400th anniversary the following year. Still, it did offer an excellent view of the ocean, where many settlers had waved goodbye to their homes and loved ones.

At this point, we discovered a flaw in our plans. We struggled to find a place to eat since, by that point, it was close to 9:00 PM. The sunny skies deceived us, so we hadn’t thought to consider our stomachs and the local restaurants’ closing time. Each pub we found had already stopped serving food. We had spotted a coastal restaurant near our hotel. We held on to hope they would be open as we made our way back. On the way, we found a doughnut shop serving fresh doughnuts and ice cream. Since we recognized that this might be our last chance to consume any calories before bed, we ordered what would be the best doughnuts of our lives!

We arrived at the seaside restaurant after they had closed their kitchen, as we had feared. However, the chef came to our rescue. He informed us that the fryer was still on, so we could order anything fried. We ordered prawns and fries and started talking with him. When they brought the food out, he included fried calamari and informed us that the meal would be on the house since it was our anniversary.

I had never eaten calamari before, but after our first delicious bite, Tiffany warned me that calamari is rarely as spectacular as what we ate, crisp on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside. The meal was truly remarkable, and I may never eat another calamari for fear of ruining this memory.

The restaurant was located right on the edge of a cliff. We admired ships as they entered and left the harbor. Delightfully full, we headed back to our hotel room, ready for the next day!