0:30 in the morning. We’d just arrived. A guy comes up on a super-hero costume and we can hear, around the corner, people cheering in fun. 7:30 in the morning. The first reaction after yawning and stretching ourselves was to open the big but delicate blue curtains in the living room, where we spent the first night. It wasn’t sunny… shame. Focusing on that fact, it took me a while to realise that, across the street, just a few meters from the house, there it was… a tiny bit of the Atlantic Ocean. I took a deep breath and could smell that miraculous mix of sand, water, salt, fishes, plankton, seaweeds, seashells, sweat, heat… beach! That’s how Newquay welcomed us, on 23rd of April. I was thrilled!
We’ve been planning this trip since 21st of January. Actually, that was when we decided “Yeah! We’re going to Cornwall!”, a bit out of nowhere. One month later, we started searching for places to go (finally deciding for Newquay and Penzance – but we never made it to the second one), cheap train or bus tickets (finally choosing for the legendary Megabus, not as bad as I thought it would be) and hostels (and ended up decided to try the cheapest, but doubtful, option ever: couch surfing – and it turned out to be the best choice!). We agreed it would be a relaxed trip: not much planning or expectations. Just a date, a ticket and an address. Anything in between would go with the flow.
For me – methodical as I am, queen of lists and “do’s and don’ts” and pros and cons –, this idea of trip represented a huge challenge. And I accepted it with open heart and mind. I confess, there were some lists involved (places to go, surf schools available and so on), but I gave up on them half way. And even left behind the TimeOut travel guide I got from Walthamstow Library the day before my departure from London. I was all in that idea of getting away with no schedule at all. And it felt great.
As if I didn’t have much to expect, that bit of Cornwall I was able to visit was a great and pleasant surprise. Beautiful sandy beaches, with clear water (sometimes in a shade between grey and green, others deep blue or even in a lovely shade of turquoise). Big cliffs and a mix of grass and low height bushes sprinkled with tiny flowers in white, yellow and pink. Seagulls everywhere emitting that sound I’ve only heard in American movies located in San Francisco. And, more surprising, people in flip flops and casual jumpers, a bit tanned, laid back and smiling at you while crossing each others path. I haven’t heard that many good morning’s and hi’s from strangers for ages! It felt so homey, still with a taste of England. That vibe got me.
We usually decided during the morning what to do with the rest of the day. And we ended up experiencing all kinds of things, expected and unexpected, simple but amazing… Such as surfing. I couldn’t stand on the board, but who cares? I had a lot of fun. Mini-golf. I lost for only four points on my first attempt to play it! haha Riding a bike along the coast, up and down the hill. I had to stop every five minutes to catch my breath and, until the end of the trip, didn’t understand how to change the gear, but I made it! One day, I had the cheapest meal with chips and, the other, ordered a fancy big prawn dish in a pub that offered us a lovely view to the sea. Had ice cream everyday and a taste of Cornish treats: pasty, cider, cream tea… Watched the sunset on the beach twice. The sunrise, once. Rolled on the grass like a teenager. Collected seashells (they now adorn my windowsill). Had my feet frozen by delicate waves that were 12 degrees. Climbed rocks even being “scared to death” to do so. Travelled from village to village in a double deck bus speeding up on narrow winding roads, crossing the countryside to reach the coast. Even got a ride with a bus driver (our first unofficial hitchhiking) . Among other experiences and moments that words cannot describe (or even shouldn’t).
Back to London, after five amazing days, I felt I’d left my soul on the top of a cliff, watching the sunset, having a laugh. And now, that we’re already back to the “real world”, it actually hasn’t taken off the flip flops and the fleece jumper. The cheeks are still a bit blushed by the sun heat. And my soul feels a bit wiser than before, more humble than before, more lively and a bigger believer in the power of encounters. Life is a stumbling but great spectacle.