I don’t think that I got around to telling you about Padstow…or Tintagel. It was one of those days that started out as nothing and turned into something. In fact, it turned into one of the more memorable days of the holiday.
We’d been warned by our landlady that it wouldn’t be the best day to be wandering around the estate- it being the annual family pheasant shoot and all. I had opinions on that which would probably not have gone down well, so we removed ourselves for the day (and me from the temptation of my soapbox).
Our destination? Tintagel, where King Arthur was said to have been conceived when Merlin magically changed Arthur’s father’s appearance to that of his mother’s husband, the Duke of Cornwall. Yes, it’s complicated and, ok, a little far-fetched, but after all, that’s what the best myths are!
The myth of King Arthur and Merlin and Camelot is one of those stories that I’d like to think is true. I’d especially like to think that the version in the movie First Knight is true. The one where Sean Connery is King Arthur, and Lancelot is played by Richard Gere, with Julia Ormond being Guinevere. And when Arthur dies, they push him off into the ocean in a raft and shoot burning arrows into it. That version.
I also became fascinated with Tintagel when watching The Buccaneers- the BBC adaptation of that great last book by Edith Wharton (if you haven’t read it, you really must). Anyways, it was while gambolling in the ruins of Tintagel that Nan St George fell in love with the rather insipid Julius, Duke of Trevenick (or Ushant, Duke of Tintagel as he is in the book). If you ask me, she was always going to fall for Guy Thwarte. And not just because he was played in the series by Greg Wise.
There was to be no gambolling in the ruins the day we were there. The castle was closed due to high winds. And high winds they were- a few times there it felt as though we would be tossed off the cliff into the raging waves below.
That said, the raw intensity of the place was exactly as I’d envisaged- even though the town itself may as well have been shut for the winter.
On to Padstow- where the annual Christmas fair and Good Food Show thingie was well under way. The great man himself- Rick Stein- was in town, as were another few famous chefs for demonstrations etc. The all day queue at the tents for the food fair, and the crowds in the streets was testimony to the popularity.
There was even a Santa Fun Run. Yes, it involved people dressed as Santa running…for fun.
Yet for all the crowds, Padstow is at its heart a fishing village- and one that I’d like to spend more time in. Although next time I’ll make sure that it’s mid-week and off-season.
There’s an almost joke about how Padstow could be re-named Padstein as a result of the number of shops and cafes or restaurants in the town Rick Stein actually owns. There’s the posh restaurant, the bistro, the café (and B&B), the cooking school, the deli, the patisserie, the gift shop…I don’t think I’ve missed anything.
Now, I admire Rick Stein, a lot. I’m not the type to be carried away by celebrity, but I guess he, along with Nigella, Jamie Oliver and Annabel Langbein would be my foodie heroes- for their philosophy as much as their food. His cookbooks are arguably the most used books (collectively) in my (extensive) collection. Yet I can’t help but wonder what his fame has done to Padstow. I’m sure there are some who would argue that it’s ruined the town, while others would be grateful for the tourist dollars and putting it on the map. I suppose it’s a perspective thing.
We don’t do a lot of planning ahead, so booking lunch in advance at one of the restaurants was never going to happen. But with all the pubs full to the brim of Christmas fair revellers, hubby marched on into the café and tried his luck. Twenty minutes later we were eating in Stein’s Café.
How was it? Fabulous. Sares and I had the prawns,
Grant had the fish with kale and vermouth sauce (I make this one at home, but it never looks that good),
and Sares and Grant shared a sticky date cake for sweets.
And I bought a cookbook- signed by my hero. The India one. I wrapped it up and put it under the Christmas tree.