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St. Ives and surrounding area, England


Spending 3 days in St. Ives allowed us to explore the town, by foot, a number of times.  Walking the steep grades (up to 25%) throughout town allowed us to consume the rich Cornish ice cream, at least once at day, without concern for packing on any extra pounds.  Cliff walks extending out of town to the island, topped with the St. Nicholas chapel, or in the opposite direction to Zennor (a 3 hour walk) provide gorgeous views of the coastline.  Having secured a studio apartment a stone's thrown from the main beach road, we had convenient access to everything in this small community.  Typical for us, we spent most of our time along the harbor, at Wharf Road, and near most of the restaurants.  Tate St. Ives Museum offers primarily modern art exhibits, which we bypassed, but we did peruse the Barbara Hepworth Gardens.  Several of her sculptures were scattered through the gardens.  Her studio and a small museum detailing the history of her life are also at the location.  A number of small galleries are also dotted through the town.

Driving across the peninsula, we visited Penzance, Mousehole (pronounced mow-zel), and Mount St. Micheal.  Penzance's economy was formerly based on tin mining, fishing and agriculture but with the closing of the tin mines (across Cornwall) and the decline of fishing and agriculture, the community has suffered, but tourism is now becoming an important income source.  Penlee House, an art gallery and museum, offers works from the nearby Newlyn School of artists with their Post Impressionistic works, and is a popular destination in town. Most of the works feature the landscape and seascapes of the area. Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera, Pirates of Penzance, was written in the 1800's but is still popular today and plays around the world.  There is no basis in history for the story's placement here, the waters near here were known more for smuggling than piracy.  But, pirate souvenirs are widely available; and there is even a pirate ship in the harbor.  

Nearby, Mousehole, is easily assessible from Penzance with a wide walkway overlooking the water.  Due to windy, chilly weather (in the low 50's), we drove, parking half mile outside the tiny hamlet.  Very narrow streets and little public parking make it a challenge to drive into the area.  Dylan Thomas referred to Mousehole as the "loveliest town in England."  It is a beautiful little town, and we enjoyed our Cornish pasties (gluten free, surprisingly) while sitting on the seawall overlooking the harbor.  Pasties were first developed as a hearty lunch for tin miners.  Meat and vegetables in a gravy are encased in semi circle pastry with a wide crimped edge.  The edge was intended as a handle for the meal, which was disposed of down mine shafts to feed mythical creatures living there to ward off mine cave-ins.

Mount St. Michael, a home, monastery and castle are located a short drive away.  At high tide a boat is required to reach the spot, but luckily we arrived at low tide, so walked across the wide sandbar to reach the island. 

St. Ives was our favorite village in Cornwall.  A combination of multiple beaches, offering diverse experiences, numerous quality restaurants, the artist's influence and presence, and the phenomenal views from the cliffs, all totaled to be a great experience.  Now it is time to head north in preparation for our departure from England.  Our next stop is Bath.  

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