How a Week Doing Not a Whole Lot Was One of the Best Weeks of our 14 Months on the Road in Europe – Part 1
This past week has been one of the highlights of our entire trip. We didn’t see any grand sites or explore any exotic locations. We spent a leisurely week with the lovely Daniel and Shakti. Daniel’s an old friend of Mike’s — they went to primary and high school together — and he visited with his charming partner Shakti, who we took an instant liking to.
This was our third-or-so attempt at meeting up — we originally thought we’d meet in Italy and visit the Alps together, but we couldn’t make the timing work with our visas. Another couple of plans later – one involving Greece, another France – we’d found one that would work.
We had booked a nearby site that would serve as our base for the week, a mere ten minute drive from the site we’d been staying at for the last few months. It was bleak — mouldering caravan on one side of the tiny square of grass that was the site, bounded by a heap of rubble and a decrepit portable on the other side which we suspected was the bathroom. I could smell the musty, mouldy interiors just looking at them. The site was infested with rabbits. Usually I find rabbits cute. Turns out, when they congregate en masse they begin to take on a decidedly vermin air. As we sat contemplating bringing our friends back to this depressing wasteland for their weeklong get-away in the Cornish countryside, Mike, ever the optimist, immediately called up the other site that was our first choice, but which was originally booked out. We were thrilled to find that they’d had some cancellations. We sped out of there, hoping no one had seen us come, freak out, and go.
Our second attempt was much more successful — the site was one of the nicest we’d seen and near-deserted, the owners friendly, and we got the best spot in the whole place, amongst a few birch trees with a view over rolling hills and verdant crops.
We drove out at midnight, along the dark roads, peering through tendrils of mist, and found Daniel and Shakti at the nearby Rudruth train station. We stayed up until about 3 or 4 catching up after our 2 and a bit year separation. Mike found it remarkable to think it had been that long and that it was like no time had passed at all.
Over the course of the week we all commented on how nice it was to travel with people we have so much in common with. We are all night owls, happily staying up until 3am and getting up at 12pm. We’d all eagerly anticipate the next meal even before the one we’d be in the middle of was done. Most importantly, we’re all about the slow travel and they had no intention of doing a whirlwind tour of Cornwall to cram in as much as possible. We went for walks, weather permitting, through the little country lanes:
…and picked blackberries, which Daniel and Shakti had big plans for — homemade jam and chutney!
We indulged in the products of their culinary genius (Daniel and Shakti have both served stints as cooks at an ashram near New York). We eagerly took notes on their creation and learnt how to make chai tea, jam, chutney, vegetable soup, chipatis (except, it turns out what we thought was flour that we bought in Italy was tapioca starch — such is the result of the permanent bewilderment we experience while on the road) and Thai red curry, which had always turned out as slightly red water every time we tried to make it. They even made things that we’ve both been cooking for years that tasted like I was eating them for the first time – pasta with a Napoli sauce, burritos, scrambled eggs with creme fraiche and cheese and an Indian style curry.
We played canasta on rainy days, much to Daniel’s delight.
Some canasta butt was gleefully kicked.
Although some gloated more than others:
On the rare nights we weren’t up until all hours cooking, eating and talking we watched movies (aptly, the foodie movie “Julie & Julia”) and Flight of the Concords episodes.
My thorough enjoyment of this week reminds me of the Clare Bowditch song, “Between the Tea and the Toast”, which goes:
“Of all the days we’ve ever had, it’s these quiet days that leave me satisfied the most. When our holy ghosts have room to dance between the tea and the toast”.
We are quite the paradox. Two home-bodies travelling the world. I mentioned this to Shakti and an idea for a painting, maybe even a children’s book, was born: “Snavelling Trails” – a journey by snail.
Amongst all of this we somehow still managed to find the time to see some beautiful Cornish sites. Our first excursion was to the beautiful Kennall Vale Mills; the site of an old gunpowder mill that was shut down in 1914 and has been reclaimed by the woods around it. The walk takes about an hour; we took around four, taking lots of pictures and leisurely ambling along.
I like how they look like intrepid explorers in this photo. I think they’re tracking the movements of a rare and endangered species of frog in a remote forest somewhere exotic:
I came across some colourful autumnal leaves in a little pool of water being fed by a constant stream of little waterfalls and rivulets running down a stone wall. I collected a few and spent a good long while getting splashed by said waterfall as I arranged the leaves for photos.
I felt like a little kid exploring the forest. I sacrificed a couple of the leaves for a ‘leaf floating down the stream’ shot and we all got in on the action with me on leaf drop, Mike on camera 1, Shakti on leaf rescue and Daniel on camera 2. Good job team.
I wonder how many people have the best time in a faraway land when they’re just hanging out with kindred spirits and taking it slow – is there anything better?