Great British Staycation; Fairy Cottage Weekend

If you are looking for a staycation in Britain and want to discover some less-travelled parts of the realm, I found an appealing alternative to holiday camps and hotels.

My usual accommodation preference is luxury boutique hotels but I wanted to try something new.

As for holiday camps and villages in the UK, like Butlins and Center Parcs, marketed to families as domestic vacation destinations, a definite no. Maybe they are strange to me because they don’t exist in the US; the closest equivalent would be timeshares, resorts with activities and entertainment available on-site. Or maybe strange because I’m not a packaged holiday enthusiast and always choose to do-it-myself over manufactured, seemingly generic experiences.

In searching for something different and wanting to combine local exploration with a comfortable weekend break, I happened upon Unique Home StaysLike many travel secrets, bountiful once discovered, I had no idea there are an infinite array of rental properties in all shapes and sizes, scattered across the country. I chose a cottage in Cornwalland so began my journey.

Destination: The civil parish of Warleggan on the southern edge of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England. Population: 203

Getting there, on the roads less travelled:

 Accommodation: The Fairy Cottage

Officially named Pixie Nook, this one-bedroom cottage whimsically decorated in floral pastels has a cozy fireplace and a private cedar hot tub. Whether you enjoy cooking your own meals in the quiet country kitchen, or prefer to patronise a local pub, there’s a perfect balance of accessibly secluded. 

Locale: Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

Explore this amazing, picture-perfect landscape and create an adventure of your own. Take a walk in the woodlands, cycle the countryside or drive to the Cornwall coast. Other activities, culture and entertainment include: Bodmin and Wenford Steam Locomotive, an old slate mine and subterranean lake at Carnglaze Slate Caverns, Bronze Age stone circles known as the Cheesewring and the Hurlers, grand houses at Lanhydrock (National Trust) and the Georgian house of Pencarrow, plus miles and miles of footpaths and trails for both serious walkers and amateur hikers.

In short, private home rentals, luxury self-catering accommodation, regional local colour. I’m hooked.

To view properties and plot your own close-to-home escape, visit Unique Home Stays

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Cornwall ~ Britain’s surf capital

I road tripped to Cornwall in September 2010 to surf in Polzeath and dine in Padstow. Just one hour from congested London and you’re driving into countryside and patchworks of variable green fields. Breathing easier and gazing towards evergreen and leafy oak trimmed pastures bespeckled with grazing sheep and cows.

Let me start with this, I lived in Los Angeles for eight years so where else but England would one learn to surf. A short walk from my hillside B&B to the Surf’s Up Surf School van and in minutes I’m screeching myself into a damp-chilled-tightly-fitted-full-body wetsuit like some sort of human sausage link. The staff is friendly, relaxed, and helpful and the group lessons are cheap and cheerful. A few on-land techniques and in no time you’re off to ride the waves. I am not sure if my favourite part of the day was thinking I had hypothermia in my left big toe or the fact that after hours of ingesting sea water, chattering teeth and exhausted muscles, it started to rain, rain hard. We are still in England after all.

Do you know what happens when you mix sand with water? Yes, mud. That constant state of muddy-dirt is my impression of Polzeath beach life. I now understand the concept of Wellingtons aka “wellies” because of course in London they don’t actually make sense. I’ve yet to be in anything ankle-or-more deep inside Regents Park. With pruned, frozen fingers and rain-soaked knotted hair, I nearly quit the surf lesson. When you’re tired and cold at some point you’ve simply had enough. Sheer determination made me stay, and at the bitter end I got-up on the board and rode a wave, dude. I even have photos where I appear to be smiling although I don’t remember doing that even once.

After an amble through Polzeath, I know where the other half lives and what they do; they live in this state of chillaxation. The beach vibes from Polzeath to Padstow are polar-type opposite, much like Venice to Malibu in California.

I cleaned up with a party dress and sea-water mangled hair (hey, it’s a look) for dinner at Padstow’s quintessential restaurant, Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant. I would have eaten anything to be fair after a five hour drive and two and a half hours of mastering or rather being schooled by the Cornwallian waves. From the round stainless steel seafood bar centerpiece of the room, you can watch merry fellow diners and the expert fish preparation while surrounded by cool and bright tones, reflective glass, and sunlit rooms. It is a striking ambiance and work from local artists’ adorns the walls. The early dinner scene on Saturday night hosts a variety of clientele from posh locals to up-market holiday makers. I am seated next to a pig’s foot secured in a vice, attached to the rest of the pig-leg which is “making” prosciutto. The hoof is kind of dirty and scuffed up like it had been running, perhaps. The tasting menu is tempting, and considered despite the wave of exhaustion at only 7:15pm. Instead my thick slate placemat anticipates the full-monty of starter, main, dessert, and coffee to come.To begin, lobster salad with avocado and foie-gras (wait, I’m a vegetarian I internally protest, and it’s very wrong). What to say but holy-h-e-double-el-batman, that melts in your mouth. Halibut is perfection. Can’t say no to strawberry pavlova with crème chantilly and vincotto, yum. An aside yet must mention, Moulton Brown’s Rose Granti soap and lotion is so nice in the loo. Not bothered to leave, so a chat with the chef closes our show. Finally headed back through tiny towns where stone houses have living rooms pushing into the road path; driving towards a destination called blissful sleep.

Twelve hours later and I groggily awaken with unsurprisingly sore arms and injured pinky fingers, more accurately red, raw, shriveled digits. The B&B has a corner-window table to enjoy a beach view with a bit of breakfast and the high octane coffee served in Cornwall. Yesterday surfing on day two seemed impossible and although it is physically possible, the happier course is to avoid being battered by the surf again. Instead a walk on the beach past surf school. A toe-tip dipped in the sea touches morning fresh and arctic cold water; dry and warm decision confirmed. Walking on and thinking, strange how the earth feels like it is moving out from under your feet as the tide sweeps in and out. This feeling is even more surreal when you are pulling against water laden gravity trying to egress the ocean with a long-board in tow. Is the earth itself working against you at odds with your person? This and other pondering followed on a beautiful day in Cornwall while breathing in the sun-rays and stroking the sea air.

Note to self: please buy a beach house.

Now at the end of another British summer, surf’s up dude.

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