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You Can’t Beat It

Posted on 20th February 2010. No Comment

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Jonathan Burton bloody loves Cornwall…
“For many people the utterance of the words ‘family holiday’ will produce a violent shudder…”
At the beginning of last year I remember reading several articles suggesting holidays at home rather than abroad on account of the recession. Now that we have, for the time being, crawled our way out of the longest and deepest recession since the Second World War, we are being told that we can once again venture abroad for our holidays. But I say you can’t beat a British summer holiday…
For many people the utterance of the words ‘family holiday’ will produce a violent shudder and a groan from deep within. It occasionally has that effect on me too as nightmare journeys and horrible weather tend to shatter any illusion of  a ‘relaxing time’, whatever the hell that means. Then there’s always the shame of being seen with your parents, something which was far more acutely humiliating in the teenage years of my grumpy youth. There’s nothing that will cramp your style more than being seen next to an old person wearing tight shorts, a sandal-and-tartan-sock combo, and, I cringe to even think about it, the emetic pair of Speedos. While I have managed to veto the Speedos, I cannot quash the emergence of the bumbag; I read a recent article in the Telegraphabout how bumbags will be making a big comeback this summer. I wonder if the fashionistas were inspired by my dad ‘working the look’ on a recent holiday?
For as long as I can remember Cornwall has been the destination of choice for our summer holidays, with a smattering of foreign, slightly more exotic trips thrown in every few years. Anyone with energetic parents will know exactly what an ‘active’ holiday entails: long cliff walks followed by long cliff walks back home, often twice daily. Actually calling it a walk would be a great understatement – I think trek or hike is more fitting. As much as I enjoy moaning about going on walks, secretly I love the winding cliff paths which follow the arc of the bays below, and the beautiful red sunsets over the choppy cerulean waves, the stuff of desktop backgrounds.
There is something very calming about sitting on the cliff tops, looking out to sea at the breathtaking landscapes and hearing the crash of waves on the rocks beneath: an awesome display of nature.
“It was decided that we should go to Newquay, that bastion of raucousness and underage drinking…”
The journey to Cornwall takes about four hours for us. At the best of times my father struggles with maps and road signs, so just imagine our apprehension at the thought of him trying to tackle the narrow, pot-holed lanes of the deepest, darkest West Country, stuck behind sluggish tractors for the best part of a mile before we can overtake.
Dreadful journeys aside, the worst thing about holidays is often the other people you encounter. We normally have the good sense to avoid those places frequented by louts and ‘lads on tour’ chanting about their drinking prowess and smashing empty cans of Stella on their foreheads. But this year for some reason it was decided – that means I had no say in the matter – that we should go to Newquay, that bastion of raucousness and underage drinking for school kids who have finished their GCSEs. Thankfully the celebrations had long since subsided, but part of me wished they were still there, just so something could distract me from the gloom that oozed out of the coastal town. Maybe the weather was partly to blame but the whole place really was miserable. The only redeeming factor was that I had spotted a beachside café that had won some award for ‘Cornwall’s best pasty’.  After consuming said savoury,  I walked further along and  realised I’d been conned, recognising similar claims in the windows of pretty much all other cafés within a ten mile radius. It was still a nice pasty though.
“I have only the fondest memories of Cornwall, the north coast in particular, with its quaint fishing ports and pretty villages.”
The best pasty I had that summer, and indeed have ever had, was in Padstow, a delightful town about half an hour’sdrive from our cottage. I was now naturally wary about erroneous boasts to pasty prominence, but I was drawn to Stein’s Patisserie, owned, along with most of Padstow’s eateries, it seems, by Rick Stein and his ex-wife Jill. The chef has put his name to anything and everything. The famous Seafood Restaurant, St Petroc’s Bistro, Stein’s Fish and Chips, Rick Stein’s Café, a Patisserie, and a Deli, are all in small Padstow, as well as a pub, cookery school, gift shop, and several places offering lodgings. After two decades of dominating the restaurant scene in Padstow it is hardly surprising that the fishing port has been nicknamed Padstein!
I have only the fondest memories of Cornwall, the north coast in particular, with its quaint fishing ports and pretty villages. Despite the long car journey, which is thankfully nowhere near as hellish as having to negotiate an airport, and the indecisive weather, there is something special about the holidays in Cornwall. I love the beaches, with their golden brown sand and rocky cliffs as a backdrop. And you’re bound to enjoy at least one of the many award-winning pasties.
Jonathan Burton

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