Those of you who follow my Instagram feed (and if you don’t, why not? It’s just there, over to the left, one little click away). Anyhow, I digress… those of you who follow my Instagram feed will know that I’ve sent the past week in Mousehole, Cornwall. It’s been a definite trip down memory lane….
When Princess Diana married King Arthur; a child’s memories of Cornwall.
We used to go to Cornwall when I was a child, to stay in an idyllic rural caravan site near Falmouth. At the time I was a grumpy tweenie but of course, looking back it was the most perfect way to spend those long summer holidays. I remember wandering the tiny lanes down to our beach hut and the drives around the county in our rackety old Beetle, exploring St.Ives or Mount St Michel or Tintagel. Visits here started off a lifelong obsession with King Arthur and by the end of the summer, I’d read all the Arthurian legends.
There were piles of clotted ice cream and endless Cornish cream teas of course (my father’s speciality was adding a bar of Cadburys chocolate). My most poignant memory was of perching on a sweaty Formica bar top in the caravan which was parked under a wide shady tree in a quiet corner, to watch the wild and noisy celebrations of Diana marrying Charles. Even at the time, I thought the crowds looked menacing and had to run outside to sit in the long grass.
But then, in 1982, my parents came over all Scott Fitzgerald and bought a villa in the Med. And I didn’t return to Cornwall for 35 years. Until last week.
Stepping off the night train onto the platform at Penzance station at 8am on a bright sunny morning, was absolutely one of those moments when you feel that your real life has merged with the movie version (the one where I’m played by Naomi Watts and Dominic West is my husband). The Night Riviera train had been superbly glamorous, exceeding expectations. After a week of joyless freezing weather at home, it was a joy to see the bright blue Cornish sky, against which the sharp prickle of palm trees was silhouetted. An elderly lady in a big pink hat and fur coat walked past.
“Lovely isn’t it?” she said, noticing my slack-jawed gaze.
Admittedly, at the end of the week when it was pouring with rain, the skies grey and my second class seat on an ordinary Great Western Train awaited, Penzance station didn’t seem to have quite the same allure. But by then it didn’t matter because by then I already knew I’d be coming back and a lot quicker than last time.
Fallen Angel in Mousehole
Local legend has it that just after the Second World War a glamorous woman rocked up in her Rolls Royce to the harbour at Mousehole. She spotted a gap in the trees above the village which had an incredible view and determined that was where she would build her house. Her name was Pinot Brown* and she did indeed build a modest house above the village and lived there for many years, bringing her cosmopolitan artistic friends to the area in a precursor to the many visitors who flock to the village today, entranced by it’s steep twisting lanes, beautiful stone houses and truly excellent cafes.
And fittingly, Pinot’s home became the site for Fallen Angel, a truly beautiful holiday house built by Jane and Mark Caterer. To build on a sloping site that is only accessible by a steep twisting footpath is not an easy thing to do (I’m amazed Kevin McCloud didn’t sniff them out and film the whole adventure for Grand Designs). But eventually, Fallen Angel arose, bucking the historical stone style of the village in favour of a modern, angular rubber and wood design. It is very different and yet a perfect fit with the luscious sub-tropical surroundings.
The Husband and I were fortunate enough to have been invited to stay at Fallen Angel by Jane. Being an old married couple we’re not the youthful honeymooners and first weekend away types that would find the house utter romantic haven. But when you’re confronted with so much luxury and comfort, all wrapped up with amazing views, the world’s comfiest bed and THAT delicious bath, how can you fail to have a frisson of the old days re-ignite?
Everything is the house has been so perfectly designed. The thing I loved most though was the quality of light – the huge windows gave you unparalleled views, but the skylight above the stairs framed the fluffy clouds scudding across the sky, like a gorgeous, ever-changing painting. The other incredible feature is the Alhambra tiles, in just the most gorgeous soft palette. Which echoes the greys and blues of Mousehole. As the house is bedded down in the landscape, it pulls off the trick of feeling both earthy and glamorous.
We were happy to keep ourselves to ourselves, apart from venturing out on coastal walks, and dinners at the excellent restaurants clogging up the tiny streets (must be the highest proportion of excellent chefs per square mile in the country). However, you could, if you wished, turn a stay at Fallen Angel into your very own spa holiday, as they can provide you with beauty treatments, massages and private chefs to ensure you are fully indulged.
If you’re tempted, take a look at their website and I can assure you, temptation will quickly become reality. Fallen Angel Cornwall.
A Wedding Dress in SkySpace; planning my next wedding in Cornwall
I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t have a wedding dress and that childishly perhaps, I’ve held onto this resentment for far too long. Even when we renewed our vows after The Husband’s initial cancer battle, I still chickened out of the white meringue and wore something dark and ‘chic’. However, the husband put his foot down and said two ceremonies was enough. So that meant no wedding dress for me unless of course, I find another husband?
Thankfully, I think our trip to Mousehole may have jimmied open a crack in his defence though. On chatting with Jane, who owns Fallen Angel, she was telling us about her other role as a wedding services provider specialising in small weddings. Now I’m a great believer in small weddings, as big weddings seem to be nothing but a headache for couple and guests alike. And Jane was describing the venues she uses with such vivid enthusiasm that I couldn’t help looking them up.
I’m a huge fan of the landscape artist James Turrell and when I discovered you could have a ceremony in the SkySpace he created at the Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, I was sold. Whether I’ll manage to convince the husband is another matter but I don’t think there’s any harm in looking at wedding dresses in the meantime. And just in case, is there anyone out there who’d like to marry me?
Meals in Mousehole
I‘ve been amazed at how many of my friends on Instagram have been keeping Mousehole to themselves, especially the fabulous restaurants. It seems most of you agree on the best places to eat, so in the spirit of generosity, I’ll tell everyone else where they are.
The website is a little old fashioned which belies the very warm but contemporary feel of the hotel and restaurant itself. Dog-friendly (in fact so dog-friendly, I was worried we wouldn’t be allowed in without one) it had a really welcoming atmosphere. The service was a little up and down (I’m guessing it was their rather handsome barman’s first night. Although the cocktails looked good on the menu I would have been surprised if he could make any of them…). But this was, without doubt, the best dinner we had. Not to be missed.
We ate early and the atmosphere was a little lacking but I can imagine that in high summer this airy restaurant, right by the harbour, is the place to be. Supper was a delicious risotto that I would have given the accolade of best meal if the Old Coastguard hadn’t been just that extra bit superb.
Obviously a bit of a cult hangout, this is a very fun, cool and welcoming little shack perched on top of the cliffs. I virtually moved in on the second day and we were there long after closing, lingering over the last crumbs of scone and watching out for the seals.
Another one right on the harbour, this serves up perfect veggie breakfasts and vats of orange juice, to restore you after a late night sitting on your balcony, stargazing and drinking too much rum. Not that I did that of course …
Disclaimer: We were hosted by Fallen Angel during our visit. However all opinions are my own and although I’ve done my best to give you the correct facts, please check on the Fallen Angel website for further details. Also look at my Instagram for more photographs of the house.
The Caterers wedding service is Petite Weddings
*I’m guessing this is how Pinot Brown’s name was spelt as she seems to be part of folk history rather than anyone I can check on Wikipedia
Next Sunday I’ll be reviewing some of my other favourite waterside retreats and soon there will be a compendium of Great Train Journeys of Lexiland.