We must have picked about the worst week to go to Cornwall for a break, weather-wise. From the 4th to the 11th July, it rained and rained, and then rained some more. Each time we looked hopefully at the forecast, it seemed that the southwest was the blackest spot in England, with the occasional severe weather warning.
I didn’t get a chance to go and see Bob Lindo at his Camel Valley vineyard, but I can’t imagine he was too thrilled either. It felt more like March, with chilly walks and strong winds, and we didn’t manage to get the children to a sandy beach, not even once.
When the weather broke, the mackerel fishing was fun though and, as well as an overdose of delicious fresh mackerel, we seized the chance to gorge on English breakfasts every day: cumberland sausages, smoked back bacon, baked beans – all the things that are tricky to get in France and would somehow seem out of place at home. And if we ate like this each day, along with all the Cadbury’s and the crisps, we’d all be the size of small chateaux.
We’d stayed at the same delightful house on the Helford River two years ago, having done a ‘house swap’ with some customers who have bought our wine for many years.
With this arrangement, both parties can enjoy each other’s homes without feeling too anxious about everything being perfect. If there’s a leaky tap, it’s not the end of the world, but you wouldn’t want to find one in a holiday house – like our farmhouse – for which you pay a handsome fee. We felt quite at home in borrowing some wellies, waterproof jackets, plenty of firewood, the Scrabble and the Monopoly set. Every day.
For anyone based in the West Country, we’d recommend the Plymouth to Roscoff route with Brittany Ferries to get to western France by car. We travelled on the flagship, the Pont Aven – overnight on the trip to England (8 hours), and by day on the return. The Commodore cabins are first class, and the smarter restaurant is excellent, and good value.
We also made good use of the small cinemas and the children’s play groups. With the 11.30am ferry from Plymouth, arriving 6 hours later or so in Brittany, we were back in Bordeaux by 2am after a 7 hour drive, with stops. Painless, apart from the constant replays of Abba smash hits. (No, I can’t wait for the film, either.) Incidentally, St Malo and Caen, both reached more quickly from Portsmouth, are around 5 to 6 hours from Bordeaux, respectively.
There are no guarantees with the weather, but I would rather grow grapes here. But we’ll stock up on the wellies, the Monopoly and the Scrabble in the farmhouse at Bauduc, just in case.