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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Cornish Riviera Tour - September 2013

I'm nearing the end of day 3 of this tour and I've not yet written anything, so I have some catching up to do!

Day 1

We collected all our passengers for this tour on Sunday morning and our first problem arose before we had left the yard. Our company use mini buses to collect passengers from their door and bring them to meet the coach at the depot, and on this occasion, also at Evesham. Our final feeder vehicle arrived on the yard and I overheard one gentleman asking the feeder driver what he had done with his walking stick. One way or another, the stick had been left at the field gate at the end of the gentleman's drive, so he was now having a mild panic about how he would manage all week without it because it was a shooting stick with a seat on the handles so he could sit when he needed to. The gentleman's home was too far away in the wrong direction for us to be able to wait while a car was sent to retrieve it so it was left down to me and my courier to come up with an alternative for him for the week. But the stick has been retrieved and is currently sat in the office. Fat lot of good!

We left the yard with the sun shining on us and by the time we got to Evesham to collect the remainder of our lovely people, it was starting to rain. From then on, the weather got worse until we arrived at our hotel in torrential rain and gales! Because the weather was so awful today, we stopped at a garden centre en route for lunch just east of Plymouth, then continued on over the Tamar Bridge 
into Cornwall and on to our hotel which, for this week, is The Falmouth Hotel. This is a 3* hotel positioned on the beach and looking up to Pendennis Castle high on its peninsula and in the other direction, looking up to the harbour. The hotel is 150 years old this week and there are big celebrations to mark the occasion on Thursday and Friday evenings. The place is looking a little tired and shabby in places which they have plans to refurbish, but it is generally comfortable, the food so far has been good and there is a swimming pool which I've not yet managed to find!

My courier this week, Joan, is one of our company directors so before we came away, I was thinking how I must be on my best behaviour. It didn't last long! Behaving myself isn't something that comes easily to me and I am much better when I'm misbehaving and playing up so it didn't take long for me to just be myself. Joan's claim to fame is that she was the first female coach driver in the UK back in the 50's and one thing she has commented on is how the general perception of female drivers, particularly of large vehicles, hasn't really altered since she was driving 60 years ago. Comments like, "YOU drive that big coach?!", and "you're sooo brave!", but why should it be so surprising to people that women can do the job equally as well, (sometimes better than, in some comparisons!) as a man? Anyway, enough of the 'girl power'!

Day 2

As always when I'm on holiday, I don't rush out of bed! So we left at 10am for today's visit to the Eden Project.

The Eden Project was built in a 160-year-old exhausted china clay quarry near St Austell, in Cornwall. It was established as one of the Landmark Millennium Projects to mark the year 2000. While restoring the Lost Gardens of Heligan in the early '90s, Tim Smit became fascinated with stories that connected plants to people and brought them alive. He enlisted the help of Philip McMillan Browse (former Director of RHS Wisley and Horticultural Director of the Lost Gardens of Heligan) and Peter Thoday (former President of the Institute of Horticulture), to put together a team of expert horticulturalists.

In the first two months of construction it rained every day; 43 million gallons of rainwater drained into the pit. This prompted the engineers to come up with a magnificent subterranean drainage system that now collects all the water coming on to the site. The water is then used to irrigate the plants and flush the loos, while rainwater that falls on the Biomes is used to maintain the humidity inside the Rainforest Biome. Today almost half of their water needs are provided from water harvested on site.

You could fit the Tower of London in the Rainforest Biome. The Guinness Book of Records heralds the Biomes as the biggest conservatories in the world. Building these ‘lean-to greenhouses’ on an uneven surface that changed shape was tricky: ‘bubbles’ were used because they can settle on any shaped surface – the architect got the idea while washing up!

The Eden Project is an exciting attraction where you can explore your relationship with nature, learn new things and get inspiration about the world around you. Trek through the steamy rainforest in the world’s largest conservatory, seeing how chocolate grows, where sugar comes from and what a cola tree looks like. 

Take a colourful, sensory journey through the warmer climes of the world. Enjoy passing lemons trees, olive groves, vines and cork trees on your way.

Eden boasts the world's largest rainforest in captivity, stunning gardens and world-class sculptures.

We were here for 4 1/2 hours which wasn't enough time for me. The admission prices are not cheap but I think it's well worth the money.

We had no real dramas today and everyone thoroughly enjoyed our visit as well as the majority, including myself, enjoying a Cornish Pasty for lunch. Everyone was quite worn out after a busy day with so much to see, but that didn't become apparent until we sat down for dinner and were missing 12 people! We have a large group of 45 this week so trying to figure out who isn't there is not an easy task so we just left it with the receptionist to ring all our rooms! Two people had opted for room service and everyone else arrived in the restaurant apart from 2, who we still haven't identified! The waiter who was seating us hadn't helped by scattering our people all over the large restaurant instead of insisting on them all using our allocated tables. So our 2 missing people may have been in the restaurant but we just missed them, or they may not have been. Who knows?

Day 3

According to our itinerary, today is a free day. So a 9am breakfast for me was quite early enough! We have offered an optional extra for everyone today to drive up to Truro to board the boat and sail back down the River Fal with a full commentary and complimentary tea and coffee, finishing in Falmouth where I would be waiting with the coach to pick them up. Only 14 people took us up on the offer but they all thoroughly enjoyed it.

A trip on an Enterprise boat offers a great chance to relax while enjoying the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a stunning, unspoilt landscape.

This unique sea route will take you past iconic maritime locations, historic houses and landmarks, as well as taking you up close to the array of ocean-going vessels laid up at anchor on the upper reaches of the Fal.

You’ll cross the third deepest natural harbour in the world when you reach Falmouth with its bustling docks overlooked by two Tudor castles.

Another drama free day so far, other than still not identifying the 2 people who were missing from dinner last night but I'm sure we'll manage to locate them this evening! It has been a nice lazy day for me today having worked for only 3 hrs and spending nearly 2 1/2 hrs of that parked up and enjoying another Cornish Pasty! I'm going to have one for lunch every day! :-)