I don’t’ travel much, so I really enjoy it when I do. For writing my series PATHS TO CAMELOT (to read a piece of Camelot’s Blood, visit www.bookviewcafe.com) I had the opportunity to take a flying visit to Cornwall. The following is, more or less, what happened as I went there and back again:
Sarah’s UK Trip Part One — Getting There is Half the Fun?
From Sarah’s Journal:
Well, I’m on the plane, full now, next to a guy headed home to Romania. Met Comrades (Steven and Kala Piziks) at fountain (the big water sculpture in the new Northwest Terminal at the airport) and shared dinner(in the airport’s Coney Island. Not great, not terrible). Guy next to me has an 8 hr. layover in London and we talked about how he should spend it. So far, so good.
This was before the drama. I got up to use the bathroom. There was an older gentleman in the aisle in front of me, I presumed getting ready to do the same thing. Next thing I know, he’s falling over, on top of me. Everything I know about proper emergancy first aid goes right out of my head, and I’m crouched down beside him, my hand on his cheek, alternately yelling in his ear “Sir? Sir!” and yelling over my shoulder “Somebody get the stewardess!” His eyes were open, but he was NOT responding. I was thinking stroke? Dead?! When, blessedly, a voice shouts behind me. “I’m a nurse! I’m an EMT!” _Right_ I levitate sideways and let the woman through. She’s now down where I was and the stewards are charging up the aisle behind her. She’s down where I was and saying “I can’t find a pulse!”
It ended well, though. Crew swung into action. O2 is brought, feet are elevated, well-meaning gawkers are settled back into their seats, “Just give him some space and air” I’m shuffled back to my seat, which was a bit of an operation, because the emergancy personell were blocking the aisle but we get me out on the other side. I found out later, he had just fainted. The stewardess said, “Oh, yeah. Happens all the time. Sometimes we get 2 or 3 a flight.”
After that, the flight was, thankfully, much more boring. Got into Heathrow on time, found my bag, got to customs. Customs agent was I thought, a little overly concerned that the author in front of him had enough money to be getting on with (you know what a lot of spongers we are), but I was able to assure him I had access to cash and credit, and he let me in. Found the express to Paddington Station and got past with my railpass without problem. Express train duly pulled into Paddington. It was now about 8:30 am local time. I could either grab some fast food and the train due to leave in the next 20 minutes, or I could go outside and have a little walk and get a reasonable breakfast.
Choosing the latter, I went out onto the street and very shortly found an open sandwhich shop, where I got a toasted ham and cheese sandwhich, OJ, and a cup of milky tea. Good tea at a cheap sandwich shop, I’m HOME! Also found cash machine and loaded up on British pounds.
Loaded for bear, I went back to the station, used calling card to contact car hire agent to say when I’d bee there, purchased a cheap mobile phone and kit when the shop opened, bought food for the train, caught the train and was on my way to Cornwall.
I was also exhausted by this time, and slept a large part of the trip. Almost didn’t figure out how to work the door at my stop (they don’t open automatically, you have to open the window, reach through and open the door, AND THERE’S NO NOTICE OF THIS). Fellow traveller came and helped, and I was out on the platform in Cornwall. And there was the car hire agent. A quick inspection and a few signatures later, there I was. Me, and a car, and Cornwall.
No, if you’re wondering, I never had driven in the UK, let alone in Cornwall. I had a map, I had a route, I had a lot of nerve, and I needed every single one of them.
Let me tell you about the roads between Bodmin and Tintagel. There are three kinds: narrow, tight and you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me. There are no shoulders. There aren’t even any ditches. There are hedges. Six-to-eight feet tall living green embankments that are impossible to see over and when the corners and bends are tight, which is frequent, you cannot see where you’re going, or when the next turn it coming, and this turned out to be the land of S curves and hairpin turns. Oh, and did I mention that many of the roads are paved, but not painted? No striping, no center line?
Add to the fun that the signage is poor, and the auto club route was about as complicated as it could possibly get.
Upshot: I got lost, quickly and thoroughly. I got scared, frequently. Like, every single little town where I seemed to have to go through the traffic circle. I went really, really slow. As a result, I did not hit the lamb that was going for a stroll. Nor did I hit Hazel-Rah who was determined to see if he could make it across in front of me. I finally resorted to stopping to ask directions every mile or so.
“Am I on the road to Tintagel?”
“No, but you could be just, go here…”
“Am I on the road to Tintagel?”
“No, but you go up ahead there, and turn right…”
Oh, and incidently, the roads are also STEEP, and there was one moment when, as I was gripping the wheel and chanting “Stay left, stay left, stay left,” I saw through a gap in the hedge that the other SIDE of said hedge was the drop off for a cliff.
It all came to a head when I turned down a really steep one-lane road. And met another car coming up. There was no way to pass. He had to back up until I could creep past him.
Over an hour from my start time, and about at my wits ends, I did finally creep into Tintagel. I parked and WALKED to find my B&B, where they were ready for me, helped me get parked and my gear stowed and brought me a nice cup of tea, which I desperately needed. I called home and let them know I was okay, relatively speaking. I was shaking.
It was now around 4:00. Tintagel castle was only open until six. I had two choices. I could stay here and just, chill and shake, and possibly not have any chance to see the castle at all, given how tight my schedule was, or I could suck it up and get out there.
I sucked it up, put on my hiking boots and got out there.