With a gap in the rain, today we took les mères on a bit of a north Cornwall coastal drive. First we plunged down one steep and twisting road into Port Gaverne before we immediately drove up another steep road out of Port Gaverne to cover the mere half mile or so to Port Isaac.
The “main” road into Port Isaac, a.k.a. Port Wenn in the Doc Martin TV series, was being comprehensively blocked by a tag team consisting of a coach disgorging swarms of tourists, and a builders truck attempting to exit. Well done, team! Port Isaac, being extremely picturesque, was always a great tourist destination in it’s own right but now, as Port Wenn in the successful Doc Martin series, this schizophrenic Cornish coastal village is even more popular. Knowing a little of the local road layout, we found a sneaky side road by which to circumnavigate the bouchon [traffic jam]. With a couple of passengers that can neither handle steps nor steepish slopes, stopping in Port Isaac was always going to be pointless so we contented ourselves with an “ooh, ah” drive through.
After another steeply climbing exit, we plunged down another 20% (1 in 5) descent into the diminutive harbour of Port Quinn. There used to be a free National trust car park in Port Quinn; the car park is still there but it is no longer free. Were we able to admire a view of the bay/harbour from the car park, there would have been a point in stopping but, as it was, no view presented itself. This is something of a pattern in Cornwall, there are car parks around but you generally have to walk from them to see anything. Whilst this is no problem, indeed it’s enjoyable, for Francine and I, it is not ideal for our elderly charges armed with non-4WD rollators. Port Quinn to Port Isaac is a stunning British coastal path walk, a favourite of mine.
After climbing another 20% hill to leave Port Quinn, it was on to Polzeath where we finally found a car park atop the cliffs with a panoramic view: Polzeath Bay. We sat in the shelter of the car admiring the panorama, under our now all-too-familiar grey skies, and watching a handful of surfers sitting on their boards for ages before struggling to paddle them out against the breakers to ride a few metres back again. Curious sport.
Next stop was Rock, summer playground of the irritatingly rich, upwardly mobile bright young things and, much more importantly, home of an excellent wet fish shop, Rock Fish, where we purchased a fine 3+ pound Brill large enough to feed four.
On our homeward bound route, in Pendoggett Francine spotted the Cornish Arms, a 16th C. coaching Inn with a car park and an entrance that looked accessible to our matched pair of non-4WD rollators. I did a deft U-turn and we returned. We parked, mounted the rollators and entered. Bingo! The barman wisely sold Cornish Rattler and the menu boasted yet another Cornish gastronomic classic: fresh crab sandwiches. Les deux mères had been salivating over such a find. Francine and vielle mère #1 decided to share one so, after Mr. Barkeep checked availability, we ordered three. I swear this was the finest fresh crab I have ever tasted, and I did not hesitate to tell mein host so. It’s too easy to complain when things are substandard without praising when they are very good.
Now it was just up to me to transform our magnificent Brill into a substitute version of one of the eminent Mr. Stein’s early classics, Ragoût of Turbot and Scallops, but sans the scallops – that would have been too much for a couple of aging, delicate digestive systems.