The Old Town and the Sea

Many rulers lose their heads. But some do so metaphorically, causing much headache among the ruled; others actually manage to get beheaded by a section of the people. The morality or ethicality or desirability of such an action has seen much debate and personally I have had secret wishes to see certain historical (often hysterical) heads roll, but this post is not about guilty guillotines or necessary nooses, but about a quiet little townlet.

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In case you are wondering about the word townlet, let me assure you it is a completely valid word. While I was writing Word is screaming red, but Google assures me that I can use the word. But living in a city which caters to complete chaos continuously, calling Falmouth even a town seems too much. How can you see a place with a population of around 30,000 (as per 2011 census) anything more than a locality. Our municipality has a population of more than 2,45,000 (2011 census again, just to keep parity). And Falmouth is smaller than the said municipality. But let’s not get too concerned with size. In most cases size is hardly relevant.

Falmouth map

What gives a place its relevance is its present and its past. Commerce is important. But trying not to be commercial is perhaps more significant. In this regard the English always have a lovely view. If there is something that can be sold (history included) then they sell it. Selling it makes it commercially valuable. And you protect only those things that are commercially valuable. So everywhere in England and other parts of Britain (and large parts of Europe) you will find beautifully preserved relics of a near or distant or even a fictional past. 221B Baker Street is duly preserved and the last time I went it had an entry fee of ₤6. Now it is ₤15 for adults. And last time I checked Sherlock Holmes was quite fictional, unlike some myths which are becoming too real for comfort in this part of the world.

Anyway, that is quite enough of digression and pseudo-philosophy. Let me come back to this lovely quiet little nook of the planet. Falmouth gets its name being the confluence of the river Fal. So it is the mouth of the river Fal. Well, in its defence it will say that if a bridge over the river Cam can have all the attention, a river should too. Falmouth gets its historical location from the much famed Pendennis Castle.

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It was built by Henry VIII in 1539, when he had some time off from marrying and discarding women. But the real significance comes from a later period of time. During the Civil War about 1000 loyal Royalists, supporting Charles the First, underwent a siege for three months and gave up when the food ran out.

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Definitely a reconstruction. I am not that old.

Not that it helped Charles in any way. He was soon beheaded.

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As a memorial Falmouth has an inn called King’s Head. Such is British humour!

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Charles the Second fled through Pendennis. Much later when he came back and reclaimed the throne, a Royalist named Sir Peter Killigrew constructed a church and dedicated it to the memory of the late executed king. Quite unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the Church of King Charles the Martyr (simply because we spent a whole lot of time in Pendennis and the rest of the time eating and just lazing about).

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We were on holiday after all. And what is a holiday without a fair bit of rest and a fairer bit of culinary adventure. We were not on a trekking tour, so we avoided hardships as much as we could.

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Pendennis was also vital during the World Wars, particularly the second one. And Falmouth saw a decent amount of bombing and destruction. Pendennis, as always, functioned as an artillery fortress.

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And one should not forget Little Dennis Blockhouse, the small gun tower on the other bank of the river.

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Ayesha was a fantastic host and guide. She took us to most amazing places, they all satisfied our hunger for knowledge and for delicacies. One of the first places we went to was Falmouth Hotel. We had just walked past the serene and colourful pier and walking a little while and a little up we saw this 148 year old magnificent Victorian mansion.

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This was the first hotel built in Falmouth. However, we chose to visit Gyllyngvase Beach first. (Do not ask me how to pronounce Gyllyngvase.)

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On the beach we had our first taste of clotted cream. Cornish Clotted Cream, patented by the people of Cornwall, is just heavenly. The Cornish Pasty (pasty, not pastry or patsy) is something you hear about a lot, but that clotted cream is just too good. The ice cream we had is by far the best I have ever had. I know gelato lovers will object, but why compare. Let each have their glory. And then we walked back to Falmouth Hotel and had tea. When I say tea, it does not just mean tea. You must remember that to the English, tea is different concept. It does not mean one hot cuppa and two biscuits. It is a ritual. So sitting on the open balcony overlooking Castle Beach, we sipped on excellent Darjeeling tea accompanied by scones and jam and clotted cream.

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Life seemed good. The whole affair was very English, very solemn, and very formal.

Of course, the term English may find controversy. Falmouth falls in Cornwall. Cornwall is a part of England. But Cornwall has long demanded a Wales-like sovereignty. The people are all fired up in typical Cornish style. They have detailed discussions, serious sessions and rapt ruminations. Like most wise men they believe that such things are not to be hurried. So they have waited for the right moment. They are still waiting.

Cornwall map

Let me tell you more about Falmouth while they wait. Falmouth is beautiful. It has a lovely little station with lovely little two compartment trains coming from Truro. There is only one platform and this is literally the end of the line.

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You can more or less walk to any destination from the train. For walkers like us it would take no more than 20 minutes to reach any of the extreme points on the town map. And the people here are excellent. They do not believe in hurrying. Life is frantic anyway, so why make it more so?

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The indolent pace does not mean there is no hard work, it just means they know how to live. They know how to look forward and still hold on to the past.

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I will always remember the brilliant fish and chips at The Treehouse. It was so windy that it was difficult holding on to our food. Flight of fat finger chips is not a good thing, particularly when they are delicious.

Falmouth has a pub called Beerwolf. Those who have had a fling with Eng Lit will know that it is a pun on Beowulf. Nowadays we have plenty of cafes displaying books and some actually encouraging reading or buying them. But before all that Beerwolf combined the pub with the library (I am not going to combine the two words, however strong the temptation might be). I had a lovely Elderflower Juice and a brilliant time browsing books. What stopped me from buying was the thought of exceeding my luggage weight limit. They are very strict about such stuff at Heathrow!

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We also went to this amazing restaurant called hunkydory. Those who watch Disney regularly know that Dory is a kind of fish, but we had no idea. The name of the restaurant gave us a whole new perspective to the frequently used phrase.

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Anyway, I won’t pretend I remembered what we had there. But I remembered I posted it on Facebook, so I quote the post I dug up from 2013.

“just back from a delicious dinner of Seared Hake with Cornish potatoes and zucchini with tomato bits, Italian Pinot Grigio, cheese cake with caramelized oranges and chocolate cake with ice-cream made with extra-clotted Cornish cream. A good end to a lovely day.”

According to me on facebook it seems on that trip we also had smoked salmon and smoked sea bass, with iced lemon parfait and lemon sorbet served with lemon cream. There was also oven baked Mackerel with fennel and five beans, accompanied by a fruity Sauvignon Blanc 1966 and chocolate fudge cake with dark chocolate mousse. Most of the recipes were atypically English, but if the food is good why bother with ethnic issues!

Falmouth remains one of our most fond memories. It was literally a sunny break from all the hustle and bustle of big cities.

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It told us that such lovely places still exist everywhere on the globe. They are not overtly touristy, neither are they ultra commercialised, they speak of a life that goes on despite all the pain and fever and fret. They reaffirm life.

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Earlier Posts:

Old Lucknow

Colonial Lucknow

Going Downhill - Versey to Dentam

Going to Garhwal

The Walkers

Palamau

Rishikesh

Kolkata Kolkata

The Roar of the Clouds - Santiniketan

Of Pests and Men - Uttarey

Where Hikers Fear to Tread - Rudranath

Old Times

History in Ruins - Pushpagiri

Once There was a Heaven

Serenity

Pilgrim's Progress - Kedarnath

Unfinished - Gaumukh

Ghatshila

Nothing Important

Manu's Alaya - Manali

Santiniketan

Little Lhasa - Dharamshala

From Varuna to Assi - Varanasi

Tunganath

Transitory Blues

Gurudongmar

The Beginning

Yumesamdong

Bangali in Bangkok

Mukutmanipur

Rasvanti

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