The closest to Normal (Illinois) that I've ever been.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Back from Cornwall

At the end of August I went to The University of Exeter in Cornwall to do some work with a colleague. I have actually never been to the UK before. It was a rather difficult trip with two connecting flights in addition to the international flight. (Who knew that they have internal flights within England?) Cornwall was very scenic. It was kind of like Seattle in terms of weather and coastliness. However it was kind of like Cape Cod in terms of sea-side touristy cutesiness. (Both Cornish and corny). Here are some pictures of the trip.

People drive seriously crazy in Cornwall. And the streets are bound by hedgerows, so there is nowhere for pedestrians to go. On the first day I almost got run over and got stung by stinging nettles in the hedgerows. So after that I cut through the cemetery to get to work.

There aren't really hotels in Corwall, so I stayed in two bed and breakfasts. One of them had loads of blackberries growing nearby, so I got to pick fresh blackberries on the way to and from work each day.

We went to Falmouth for dinner and saw The Red Arrows performing. Apparently, in England, these dudes are allowed to perform feats of derring-do over heavily populated areas. Everyone all around town was hanging out of their windows to watch.

My hosts John and Clarissa took me to visit Trebah Gardens. The gardens had awesome plantings, including monstrous rhubarb. There was a lovely beach with a Cornish ice cream shack.

Here are some pictures of Penryn, where the University is. The streets were old and twisty with many little shops.

And there was plenty of sea-side kitsch. Including the shell toilet at the B&B. Also, while eating my English breakfast I read a very interesting book that was (really) about the history of toast and toast racks. What is a toast rack? Well, the British are very particular that their toast (whether white or "granary") not get soggy by touching a plate or other pieces of toast. Mr. B&B owner had a very complete collection of historic toast racks.

This is a very blurry picture of John and his lab. There was a geology museum in the hallway, which was about 1000x better than either UCR or ISU's geology museum. It had both a robot and charismatic fossils.

Final thoughts about England? First, the work went pretty well--mission accomplished. However, I would have enjoyed the trip more if I wasn't so preoccupied with my imminent unemployment and lack of health coverage. Also, I would have liked the kids to be there, although it will be a long time before we can afford to take the kids to Europe. Second, the exchange rate was awful: two dollars to the English pound. Thus even the smallest purchase was crazy expensive. Third, although it was really lovely there, every time I opened my mouth out in public, people looked at me oddly. I suspect that no matter how long I was there it would still be that way--kind of like when Danny and I were living in France.