Thursday, July 18, 2013

Days the Third and Fourth

I'm pretty sure you're going to all of these posts via a massive content dump.  (Upload dump?)  The saga of my Windstar wi-fi has reached a satisfactory conclusion -- in that they're still working on unblocking my site, but seeing as it's taking so damn long, they're refunding me the amount I invested in wi-fi (but letting me keep the 66 MB of access anyway).  I gotta hand it to these folks -- they do screw some stuff up, but they do their best to make it right.

Which explains the free bottle of wine in my cabin today.  Yesterday, we were in Falmouth (which my father turned into Foul Mouth) and took a shore excursion out to a castle.  ("Castle" in the sense of "stately home some dude built in the early 1800s," not "castle" as in "royalty lived here.")  To get to the castle (called something like Caerhays Castle), we took a tour bus.  And it was fairly toasty, weather-wise.  Seriously, we've had gorgeous weather so far -- in the mid- to upper- 70s temperature-wise -- and this made everyone on the bus a bit warm.  The guide on the bus told us how to operate the little air vents above us.  My little air vent cheerfully blew out cold air, as it was supposed to.  Other passengers' apparently did not -- my parents, who sat in the row in front of me, said their vent blew only warm air, which is kind of useless.  When we got back from the excursion, we all had notes in our cabin apologizing for the technical difficulties with the air on the bus.  Today, we all got new notes saying that the local shore excursion company now says there wasn't a damn thing wrong with the bus; it was just a lot hotter than the bus had been designed for; sorry it was toasty in there, but we did nothing wrong.  Windstar felt bad about the whole thing and, in the time-honored tradition of cruises everywhere, decided to make it up to us with free drinks.  Hence, the bottle of wine in my cabin today.  (Drunk passengers are happy passengers.)

I wish I could tell you something about Falmouth, but, honestly, there's something about tour busses from cruise ships which make me sleepy (even though I'm getting much more sleep at night here than I do at home).  With the guide telling us all about Cornwall and the (sorry, everyone else) cool breeze coming out of my air vent, I just dozed off.  Three times.  And I wasn't subtle about it, either.  I kept waking up realizing I had my head back and my mouth open,

Things I managed to learn about Falmouth:  It's part of Cornwall.  Its original industry had to do with the harbor.  It is one of the deepest harbors on the planet (3rd deepest -- after Rio and Sydney); however, the old harbor area, during low tide, gets so dry that we saw boats just sitting there in the mud.

Cornwall is famous for Cornish pasties.  Also Cornish cream (which comes from Cornish moo-cows). 

At the castle (I have a picture of its exterior someplace, but we weren't allowed photos inside as someone still lives there),

 we had a Cornish Cream Tea, with some seriously yummy Cornish Clotted Cream to put upon our scones.  I also have the answer to a question which has been bothering me ever since I first had a proper British cream tea back in my college days:  do you put the preserves on your scone first or the cream on your scone first?  I could make an argument for going either way -- if the cream is first, it's like the butter which goes under the jam; if the jam is first, it's like the cream on top of the sundae.  Well, guess what -- if you're from Devon, you put the cream first; if you're from Cornwall, you put the preserves first.  (It's the sort of dispute which I imagine has led to some drunken bar fights, if not knights actually going against each other in mortal combat.  "Thou vile knave, putting cream first upon thy scone, when all the world knows that the preserves must be applied first!  Have at ye!")  We were in Cornwall, so we had the cream on top.  Holy crap, that was some good cream.  (As with most clotted cream, my arteries yelled, "no! no!" when I started to eat it, but my taste buds overruled their objection.)  Seriously, though, I tipped my hat to the Cornish moo-cows on the way out, because damn.

Today, we went to the Scilly Isles (the "c" is silent), which are technically part of the Duchy of Cornwall... (although our tour guide told us that the islands are often competitive with mainland Cornwall, on such varied topics as sailing and who makes the best ice cream -- we very much wanted to try Scillian ice cream so as to help resolve the dispute, but our guide didn't know of anywhere on our particular island where it could be found.  I fear Scilly is going to lose this competition by defaulting, if they can't get their yummy ice cream out to the judges).

There were a couple of tours being offered, none of which interested us, so we hired our own guide.  (A very nice archaeologist named Katharine, who runs a website called ScillyWalks.  Ha.)  Katharine runs public walks for a couple pounds per person, but you could hire her yourself for something like 50 pounds for a half day, which (even when you throw in what we paid for a taxi) is cheaper than it would have cost for one of us to go on one of Windstar's shore excursions.  And, this way, we got ourselves a tour at our own pace, with someone who could tell us all about the bronze age burial mound we saw (dating back to, say, 1800 BC) and the Iron Age village (which was a lot younger -- I think she said more like 700 BC, but I've forgotten already).  Scilly's history (or, more precisely, its prehistoric history) shows no evidence of wars or invaders (the Romans knew about the place, and may have stopped in on their way to other places, but didn't try to take it), so you've just got some very straightforward evidence of how people lived thousands of years ago, and how their homes and tools evolved.  Cool shit, really.  After my father was all pre-historied out, Katharine took us up to an unfinished fort buillt in 1551.  (Well, not exactly built then, as they never finished it.)  It was intended to guard the place (in Tudor times) from war from Spain and/or France.  There were, however, two problems with it.  First, it was built in the wrong place -- you couldn't see ships approaching the harbor from this particular hilltop.

Second, they ran out of money partway through.  (Apparently unfinished construction 500 years ago was somewhat similar to unfinished construction today.  Although I imagine that then, there was a much greater risk of being beheaded for drawing up the wrong plans.)  After the fort, Katharine walked us back into town, where we partook of Cornish Ice Cream (and, lo, it was good), and then came back to the ship.

The fog has rolled in.  I'm sitting out on deck in that sort of dangerous weather where you can get a serious sunburn even though you can't see the sun.  <Ed. Note:  I so totally got sunburned.  And it isn't like I didn't see it coming.>  But it's quite pleasant (not too hot) and there's just a vague sense of creepy to it, which works nicely with the zombie novel I've been reading.  There were some crazy beautiful views from Scilly (Scilly's main industry is tourism; its second-largest is flower export) -- I shot a couple pictures of the views.  I'd intended to get a few more later, but the fog rolled in while we were eating ice cream.  Seriously -- at first, you could see our ship anchored just outside the harbor, as pretty as a postcard; twenty minutes later, there was a bank of fog with a few masts barely visible.  So, I came to sit out on deck of the "ghost ship," reading about zombies.  Good times.

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