Cornwall: please gorge generously   Leave a comment

Feelin’ hot, hot, hot.

On Monday morning we commuted from Plymouth to Cornwall, over quite a pretty bridge and then through a tunnel (they like their land lumpy down south, for some reason. Everything’s squashed together on hillsides, rather than sprawling over nice, wide, flat ground), to reach the Eden Project.

Once upon a time, the area was the surface of Magrathea. Before that, it was a clay pit. Then, in 1999, the Eden Project turned up, and decided it should look like:

Bubbles!

Which isn’t bad going for ten years’ work. Certainly puts my efforts at renovation and gardening in perspective.

The two multi-geodesic greenhouse-domes – Biomes, they call them – are the largest greenhouses in the world, filled with plants that can’t cope with British weather (not even the balmy climes of Cornwall). The background one on the left is the tropical/rainforest biome, and the foreground one on the right is the Meditteranean biome, although that also includes South Africa and California. How’s that for climatalogical imperialism. The grassy patch between the two is actually a two-story block linking the domes, with shops and information on the top, mezzanine-like floor, and a great big eatery on the ground floor.

After avoiding a sudden downpour by hiding in the entrance cafe, drinking a nice cup of coffee through a straw (they didn’t have any stirrers handy, so I used a straw for that, but then figured – why not?), we wandered down to the biomes, and decided to do the rainforest one first.

I’d brought shorts with me, but the day so far hadn’t been uncomfortable in my jeans, so I didn’t think to change into them before entering the Jungle Zone. I also didn’t realise that there was nowhere to change inside. Or quite how long the walk was.

You start out at the bottom, where it’s quite pleasant. As you roam the winding pathways, you gradually get higher in the dome, and it slowly gets hotter, and slowly more humid. There are hundreds of plants to look at, quite a few with little signs with some interesting snippet about them. Many were flowering or had some sort of fruit or berry on, and my mother and sister inspected each of those in minute detail.

Not very far in, there’s a sign saying your remaining journey time is about thirty minutes. I was beginning to find it hard work by that point, but thought: thirty minutes? Yeah, that should be fine.

Whoever wrote that sign hadn’t taken my mother and sister into account. And from there, it got even hotter, and even more humid. Eventually we reached the top, where there’s a waterfall (thank goodness!), and the entrance to the viewing platform right at the very top of the dome.

The only way is up

My sister was very upset that it was closed due to the overbearing temperatures up in the roof. I was not. I was well past the point of just wanting out of that damned hothouse. Happily, there was a very quick descent from the top, down a big flight of steps, so the remainder was less horrible. A bit further around there’s a smoothie stall, its wares made from a variety of uncommon foreign fruits. Eventually, thankfully, we escaped, over two hours after entering.

The next bit of the day was the best bit: lunch. The main food place, “The Bakery”, sells massive portions of nosh. Even better, massive portions of cake. After a giant chunk of cheese, pesto, pepper and salad-filled foccacia, a huge slice of coffee and walnut cake that would rival many whole cakes in a supermarket, half a (chunky) portion of gloriously sweet and chocolatey rocky road cake, and packing away a two-inch-thick oat and raisin cookie for later, I’d perked up nicely.

Omnomnom

Look, it wasn’t greed; the Eden Project is a charity. That food was funding a charity, how can it be greedy? Still, even with infinite juice, it was only about fourteen quid. Definitely reasonable.

The Bakery works in an unusual way; you queue up, grab a big slab of wood, shove what you like on it and stuff yourself stupid. You then go up to a till, tell them what you had, and they charge you accordingly. Clearly it works for them; the prices are quite reasonable, and the portions are huge. If they were losing money they’d have to cut back on one or the other. Also, everything sold in there is vegetarian (which might put some people off, but trust me, it shouldn’t. Think of the cakes!) and, I think, prepared on-site. Colthor recommends!

After lunch I put my shorts on, and we wandered around the Meditteranean Zone. This one was far cooler and more pleasant, more open (apparently there are few large trees in that kind of habitat, markedly different to the rainforest) and intertwining rather than being almost a single route, and has its own little Meditteranean-style cafe in the entrance. It also seemed to be growing far more foody plants; the Jungle Zone had a few coffee, coca (I’d not realised coke was made from plant leaves. Edumacational!), cocoa, chilli, pineapple, and suchlike plants, but the Meditteranean had a great big area with dozens of types of chillies, as well as olives, oranges and so on. It also had a section dedicated to flowers (of the giving-someone-flowers type) and quite a bit of aloe.

Eventually, it was closing time, so we set off for a drive around Cornwall, hoping to find either a pastie or fish and chips on the way home. There was a quick stop at the nearest beach, which had very gritty sand, lots of molluscs, and excitingly collapsible-sounding cliffs. We stopped at Restormel Castle, which was closed for the night, and a pub. We decided not to eat there, but we each had half a pint of Cornish cider, which was nice, and didn’t even make me feel ill.

Here be Camels

We wound our way back to the A38 towards Plymouth, and came across the first instance of something that would become a habit: being rescued by Google Woman and the Sat-Navs. We were driving along the A38, went over the bridge, and somehow missed Plymouth. Quite an impressive feat, in a wood-for-the-trees kind of way. About twenty minutes later (and fifteen minutes too far along), I decided it was time to try the GPS, and we turned around. There were arguments.

Happily, there was also a fish and chip shop open just down the road from the university, and very tasty it was too.

 
As usual, click for Big-O-Vision™. More photographs can be found in this photoset on Flickr.

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