A seaside holiday in Cornwall with kids

Kids in Fowey

The kids in Fowey, home to Daphne du Maurier

Prior to having children, a holiday would entail a weekend break somewhere exotic. We’d eat, drink and sightsee. There’d be downtime, moments when all we’d do is sit at a café and watch the world go by. Perhaps we’d even drink wine at lunchtime. What rebels we were.

A holiday today means not having to cook meals for anyone.

So we just came back from a week in freezing Cornwall – and I didn’t make any food or have to shop for it. This made me reasonably happy. The sun was out most days, although there wasn’t much standing around on beaches. Even contemplating such a thing would be pure folly or the undertaking of someone masochistic.

Cornwall is beautiful – ports, quaint villages, whitewashed cottages and plenty of locally caught fish.

The beaches are stunning, although not all are sandy. There are craggy cliffs that skirt the sea and dramatically fall away into the azure water. You could be at the end of the earth. It does feel desolate in parts, surrounded by rolling English fields and plenty of sheep.

We had a beautiful ocean view from our room. I could even pretend it was warm, so long as I didn’t open any doors or windows.

Shell gas pumps

Even the gas pumps in St Mawes were quaint

There was quite a lot of looking at the beach from windows, so it was a typical English holiday in spring. The kids, however, seemed to take hypothermia in its stride and dealt with it better than I did.

We stayed near Newquay, a down-at-heel city with plenty of bars but not that much charm. I think it might have once been good for a night out, but it’s all a bit tatty nowadays. Many English seaside towns have this feeling of faded glory.

Ordinary people on a budget used to have no choice but to holiday in England. But budget airlines have made it possible for people to travel abroad. Not surprisingly, many Brits choose to go to Spain, where they know they are guaranteed a bit of warm sun at this time of the year. It affects the tourist economy, which many of these places rely on to make money. Sadly, the lack of money does show – but some places have escaped from it.

The highlight of the trip was Fowey, a beautiful village that sits perched at the mouth of the sea. This picture-perfect place is the former home of Daphne du Maurier, who is famed for writing Rebecca. She also wrote several books – Fisherman’s Creek and Jamaica’s Inn – that are set in her home of Cornwall. She was apparently very fond of the place and one can see why.

We got very lucky that day with the weather and did actually enjoy a little wander around the upscale shops of Fowey.

sunset in Newquay

A rare sight in London – a spectacular sunset

Another highlight was visiting St Mawes, another hilly village on the other side of the coast from Newquay. It’s smaller than Fowey, but you will find a hotel, one pub, a general store and two very old Shell gas pumps that resemble something from the Art Deco period. There is also one very nice gallery, where you will find artwork by local artists – and there are plenty of them in Cornwall. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them were ex-Londoners keen to escape the polluted city.

Amusements

I’m not sure when motherhood turned me into a hardened drinker, but the holiday wasn’t a vacation from booze. Every night, at the hotel bar, I’d be having a pre-dinner drink, two dinner drinks and then another after-dinner drink. I’m trying to wean myself off this habit, but I usually hit some kind of wall by 6pm, about the time the children start to give me high blood pressure.

I read an article on the holiday, ironically, which said that drinking wine daily will do incredible damage to your face by the time you hit your 40s. Among the things listed were a saggy chin, grey complexion, bags under the eyes, uneven skin tone and broken blood vessels. What this journalist failed to realize is that motherhood appears to do the same thing – so perhaps I’m now aging at double the pace.

Bob, a Tawny owl

Bob: not quite as amusing as fecal matter

To be fair to the children, they were fairly well behaved. They dealt with the car journey – an excruciating six hours – incredibly well. They were most amused by owls at a sanctuary. We saw them fly and they told us about their diets (little fluffy baby chicks, which they were fed as snacks). I was worried they would try to land on the hood of my parka, which is trimmed with fur – but it was far too cold to take the jacket off.

Bob was the star of the show – he was apparently looking for a bit of love so didn’t perform very well for the crowd.

Bob took second place in the amusement category to a bit of human baby poo, which closed the indoor hotel pool one afternoon. This seemed to give the children no end of fascination. Nothing like a bit of floating fecal matter to give the kids something to talk about.

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