Port Issac (again) and shopping in King Arthur’s shadow

Yesterday, we returned to Cornwall’s Port Issac, otherwise known in the civilized world as Portwenn, home to Doc Martin.   While it is true they were filming an episode of the next season, not being fanatical “fans” of the series, we made no attempt to walk the 1/2 mile to where the filming was taking place, likely due the gusty rain falling sporadically – obviously, our liking for the series only makes us “fair weather fans”.

Port Issac during the rain is still very interesting to visit, and perhaps a little more real feeling, a little less touristy.   By 5 p.m., the streets were all by deserted, and as we walked back to the carpark, it was easier to imagine living there, or what life there is like – pre-Martin Clunes.

port issac surgery 5 18 19.png

As the afternoon approached, the rain showers became more frequent and we took refuge in the Mote restaurant, which, along with the Golden Lion Pub, stands in as the Crab and Lobster in the television series.

the mote port issac 5 18 19

After our excellent crab toast with lobster mayo lunch, we headed up the hill and took the coastal path around to trek back to the car park.  No matter what the weather, if you visit the area, try to get some of the Coastal path on your itinerary.  Even if you’re not a big rambler, the sections that are flat and paved will surely bring you closer in spirit to the ocean that breathes life to the area…and who knows, you may make a friend along the way….this Grey Gull shot was taken from about 4 feet away, not with a telephoto.  Apparently he didn’t want to be out busy in the weather either.


.port issac gull 5 18 19.

Today, after having a “lie in” kind of morning – (I didn’t get up till 0930hrs, which I haven’t done without being in a hospital for lo this many years, we decided to go tourist shopping where King Arthur was first buried…supposedly,…..maybe.

glastonbury tor 5 18 19

Glastonbury Tor is a prominent giant “thumb” of earth rising from the surrounding plain.  The ruins of St. Michael’s church command the top, with only the entry tower still standing.    The Tor seems to have been called Ynys yr Afalon (meaning “The Isle of Avalon”), and identified with King Arthur since the alleged discovery of his and Queen Guinevere’s neatly labeled coffins in 1191, recounted by Gerald of Wales. Subsequently dug up, the coffins were lost….again, supposedly.   Who can tell what really did or did not happen that long ago without cross-verifiable sources?

Whatever the case, the Tor, (Tor simply means, “hill” or “rocky peak”), has had excavations that have revealed some Neolithic flint tools and Roman artifacts, indicating use since ancient times. The terracing on the side of the hill, if man-made, may also date from the Neolithic era.   There is still a lot, or even most of what is seemingly “known” that really may not be.

Right smack dab to the east, the Village of Street, is Clark’s Village – which is a village in name only, since there are no residents, but an outlet shopping mall, more tastefully done that the Tanger Outlets Malls so familiar in the States.   However tastefully ordered, it still cannot escape the feel of Uncle Scrooge’s money bin.   We did some shopping (I walked around mostly while my friends shopped), but I did score a bag of Lindt and Lindor truffles in a number of flavors for 1/2 of what they cost in the U.S…..as they say in Cornwall, ” a right proper job!”

clarks village uk 5 18 19


Pieces of Pisces & Potatos

Ok, so not every day on vacation in a foreign country is loaded with adventure….sometimes it is the familiar and even the items a nation is famous for that re the best and most exciting thing that happens that day- like food!

As regards the U.K., most folks I know think of Fish and Chips as the national dish, probably having been around for centuries, like very many other things over here…….but no!   The pair were probably commercially introduced around 1863 in Lancashire  and caught on like crazy.

Winston Churchill called them “the good companions”. John Lennon smothered his in tomato ketchup. Michael Jackson liked them with mushy peas……(proving that MJ didn’t have ultimate good taste), mushy peas taste, to me, like left over wallpaper paste!

fish and chips

So our big gas for the day was driving from Somerset down to Poole, on the coast,and getting Fish and Chip right on the quay – what could be fresher than that?

Our order was taken a nice, young guy in a Brooklyn, NY tee shirt –

Him:  “whattillbe?                                                                                                                                Me:   “Fish and Chips and a side of fish and a side of fish cakes and two drinks”                    Him:  That’ll be 11 GBP                                                                                                                  Me:   “Great..btw, did you ever live in  Brooklyn?”                                                                Him:  “Nope, but I went on Hols (holidays) to Spain once .”                                                      Me:  So how’d you get the Brooklyn shirt?”                                                                                      Him:   “The booth ’round the corner sold it to me, innit?”                                                            Me:  “How about the next time I come down here, I bring you a shirt from the actual Brooklyn, NY, USA?”                                                                                                                               Him: (pumping fists in air, doing a little booty shaking dance, and chanting like he was at a Soccer game or he was Matthew McConaughey on meth:  “Allright, allright, allrighttttttttt!!!”   “I’m gonna give you a discount – howz bout 8 pounds???”                     Me:   (in my best Matthew Mcanaughey voice), “All right, all right, all right!”

Tomorrow:   Kernow, Cornwall or the Great Southwest


U.K. (Re)Entry

We five, Bart, Carol, Carrolle, Sister Sarah (no mules- just sheep & thankee ma’am), and I landed at Heathrow yesterday, which felt like deja vu’, all over again.  Carrolle and my last visit was a year ago last week with friends, Sir George X and Lady Susan and we are staying in the same lodging as last year, Lois Barn Farms Courtyard.

Our trip got off to a roaring start last year by shredding a tire about four minutes after we left the rental counter.  We improved this year by having no car mishaps for a good 40 minutes after pick up when we pulled into a service area just off the M-4.   The English planners do not allow for as much space in each slot in a car park as the typical lots back home, and I was driving a thoroughly unfamiliar model SUV which sticks out a good bit below the curvature of the hood – which allowed me to ever so gracefully cause an intimate meeting between the next car over and our machine…..much to surprise of the couple seated in their parked car.  They live in Gloucestershire, had just themselves deplaned from a holiday in Orlando and have today to travel to Glasgow for a dog show.  Happy welcome home!

AA scratch

Fortunately, the damage was slight and the British couple were so very gracious and we exchanged details without any obvious animus.

Given all that, we’re very glad to be back and I slept the sleep of the innocent last night and looking forward to new discoveries this trip.

My thoughts, though, are constantly on my Dad, and my family that are caring for him at home, as they do so very well every day and week.  I can’t escape guilt feelings being here and they all at home taking care of him, but I love and appreciate them for being the good people and family that they are!


Sunday morning musing on Capitalism

coffee stirrersBehold the ubiquitous COFFEE STIRRER

Capitalists, among their many reasons and schemes for making a profit – struck gold with the coffee stirrer.  A search through recorded history shows many implements being used to stir things, including the sacred morning coffee.  The idea of a dedicated item being so universally accepted as THE instrument as a coffee stirrer, so incredibly cheap to make, the simplest to design with an incredibly huge profit margin, must warm the ice-cold cockles of any capitalist’s heart.

Like with most things man-made, there has been an evolution.   Perhaps it all started with sticks – mayhaps the ancients discovered using cinnamon sticks to flavor their morning joe and stirring in a dollop of goat’s cream to boot.  If they did, you can be certain that someone immediately started collecting the bark, rolling it and selling the sticks!

Come we now to our day and age.   Those alive during the time when the very icon of American industriousness and  mercantile spirit, McDonalds, switched from handing out a plastic spoon (120 Billion used in the U.S. of A alone each year and over 200,000, 000, 00 in India each year), to the renowned and infamous “McDonald’s coffee stirrer spoon”, or inevitably, “McSpoon”.

mcd spoons “McSpoons”

These have entered the annuls of history, and not quite a few noses as the then cocaine transporter of choice.  This despite the Corporate protest that McSpoon was never used for such a nefarious purpose….but they did stop producing  them, trying first to flatten the spoon part and then abandoning the concept altogether for the flatten’d straw served out today.

No matter the Corporate stance, the legend, and the actual product persist and thrive in popularity – and profit for fortunate few who stockpiled McSpoon, even though presumably, they were at least somewhat re-usable.

Witness, one of the pantheons of commerce, Ebay, from one of the several auctions going on today, including one currently at $142.00 for a pure silver and gold reproduction:

mcd ebay

In our house, we use two implements for stirring, I use an actual metal, or even plastic spoon and my bride carries on the simpler is better tradition by using a drinking straw- which I dutifully gather up and discard every day.  So we are doing our part to carry on the tradition of capitalism, or at least profit for someone else!



An art blog with occasional art

This is not an ego piece – I’ve been asked why my blog captions “Art and Travel”, but there’s so little art on this blog – so as an effort to correct that, here’s five or six pieces I’ve recently completed and one that is in-progress.


“Reflection of Fanny”        An old work trawler converted, and not all that well, to a pleasure craft, moored in a creek just off the ICW near Southport, NC.     This piece is 16X20″, and was created with Acrylic paint and ink on wooden stretched canvas.  Currently available to own from a gallery in Monroe, NC


“Shoreline”      20X16, acylic on wooden stretched canvas – available for purchase.   A piece from a photo taken on the bank of Tampa Bay, near the Town and Country area.


“Southern Storm”….20×16 Acrylic paint and ink on wooden stretched canvas.    Painted from a photo taken during a spring storm near Ft. Caswell, Oak Island, NC.   There are so few rocks in the area and these were likely dumped at their location during some construction project.    Piece is available to own.


“Sailboat Reflections”    18X24, acrylic paint and ink on wooden stretched canvas.    Painted from a photo taken of an unremarkable sailboat tied in South Harbor Marina, Oak Island, NC.   This is a study for a larger piece underway and is available to own.


“Water’s Edge 2”    16X20, acrylic on wooden stretched canvas….this is not a great photo of the piece, but it’s what I have..and as we all know, WHAT YOU HAVE IS WHAT YOU GOT.    Painted from a photo take three feet away from the first “Water’s Edge” and the two pieces are meant to be complimentary without forming a diptych.    It’s also available for purchase.

And finally……a piece being painted from a work of Raymond Gizzi, an excellent French impressionistic painter, and still underway –   a bit of departure for me, basing on another’s work, but Gizzi’s portrayal of a farmhouse in Provence puts me in mind of views in Ybor City, Florida.    I’ve recently taken a number of reference photos for future pieces there, primarily due to, just as in Key West, the chickens run free and prominently (no chickens in this piece, however.     This piece measures approximately 30″ X 18″ and is painted with acrylic paint and ink on some kind of construction board I had laying around in the pottery wheel studio.  Also, I don’t like the bicycle in Gizzi’s piece, so that’s not going to happen….maybe some chickens would be the thing………..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlaying with gross shadows underway here, to be way toned down.   I’ll make some effort to correct the perspective of the windows and wash out the shadow areas, but this is an impressionistic piece of an impressionistic piece….(just amusing myself here!)

…and voila! (which is French for – …..”and then I found out”, painting something to capture the spirit of another artist’s work is taxing – one doesn’t want unkind comparisons, even if it is my fault..<s>.



Provence Farmhouse by Raymond Gizzi




The Road less traveled….again…still

Frost said it, “…and I took the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference..”.    So it was that while driving to Little Rock to pick up some new, old, tandem kayaks, I ended up searching for gas.   The new, old, Suburban, has a new, new, engine and the gas gauge shows a comforting level of gas for a long time – until it doesn’t.  When the gauge falls below 1/4 tank, it literally falls, like off a cliff.

I had been driving West to I-40 with Memphis about 45 minutes behind me when I glanced down and saw the fuel gauge on the bottom of “Empty” – not close, not on “Reserve” but the BIG E.   I checked Google for gas stations near me and the closest was 30 miles behind me, the truck stops on the Pacific side of West Memphis, AR.   Not really having a choice, I got off at the next exit, drove south 3 miles to Route AR-70 where Maps showed some small towns – and this was the road I found…

Not just an isolated mile or two, but miles of this tree-line avenue – swamps and flooded rice fields (?) on both sides and no stores of any kind until I passed through Biscoe and got to DeValls Bluff.     I had passed some scattered homes along the way and was fairly amazed at the, ah, collective passions of the residents, both literally and figuratively.   One house had at least 20 or more defunct toilets sitting in neat rows next the side of the home.   It also had two cars “up on blocks” and two Jon boats.   Two houses down (about a mile from the first, more cars on blocks than I could count were seen both inside and outside the sheet metal fence – and two Jon boats – one up on blocks.   I can confidently say that I didn’t see a single home without a flat-bottomed, square prowed Jon boat- a few with outboards and most with “go-devils” – big motors sitting on boats that look to small for them, and with 6′ long drive shafts projecting out the back to the propeller – handy if you’re running through the cypress in 5″ of water.

Fortunately DeValls Bluff, Pop. 619, had a Breaktime Store – a sort of downsized, decidedly countrifed QT or WaWa.  Three gas pumps, with Hi-Test at $2.49/gallon!!! and Y’all pay inside.  In fact, other than the brightly lit Beer joint downtown, Breaktime was the only store open that didn’t specialize in fishing gear, beer, and duck hunting supplies – with duck season obviously in full swing.


Downtown DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, …the whole of it!


“The Grasshopper” Beer and Social Center.

What DeValls may lack in shopping diversity, it more than made up for it in …Jon boats.   There were more Jon boats to be seen than tow vehicles – Jon boats behind small urban people movers, of course behind pick-up trucks and SUVs of every description – and quite a few sitting around  on unattached trailers and  “up on blocks”.  (How much repair can a jon boat need – unless driven by the less skilled with a fire breathing Go Devil on stern).


Jon Boat duck hunters lined up waiting for their turn at the boat ramp.


DeValls Bluff is also home to the Prairie County Museum and theP1260005.JPG

The Minnow Farm.

What the photo doesn’t show is that this is a BIG operations – dozens of ponds seen along the road, big metal buildings with minnow breeding (?) and rearing containers and several minnow hauling tanker trucks parked in neat rows under canopies.

Having filled ALL the way up on $2.49/gallon, 93 Octane fire breathing fuel, I set off West again and was soon back on I-40 and 40 minutes later in Little Rock.  I picked up my new, old, kayaks the next morning and turned East, back towards home.   I’m a jon boat kind of guy myself, I have two of them at the moment, though none up on blocks and I’m going to come back to DeValls Bluff and for a couple of days, increase the population to 620- explore the Prairie Co. Museum and see if I can get a tour of the Minnow farm.

You never know what you’re going to learn on the road less traveled.




Raven’s Nest Remembrance

Raven’s Nest Dawn

The Bride and I traveled to Virginia to Smith Mountain Lake to visit Sister Sarah, (sorry no mules at all much less 2 for her).  Smith Mountain Lake, predictably, sits at the foot of Smith Mountain which is a survivor of the eon’s long erosion that has rounded and borne off much of the topography around it.   Seen from the bird’s eye view, SML looks like a leaf of False Aralia or maybe some variety of Cannabis.


I wish  I could tell you that the area was named for some interesting reason, like it was the hereditary home of the Blacksmith’s Clan or some other tradesman’s guild, founded in the hollows and valleys of the mountain, but no.      Supposedly the two Smith brothers were wandering around the area in 1740  or so, noticed some really tall areas of rock and earth and came back out to the settlement to announce the find.

Daniel   “Hey y’all, we’uns back!”

Gideon   “You canin’t believe it, we stumbled on a mound-tain!”

Daniel   “Yeah, and it’s real tall and stuff”

Gideon    “We’uns named it,uh,  Smith Mountain!”

The local electrification folks proposed damming up the Roanoke River in the ‘20s, got in done in 1963 and by 1966 the lake was at full pool   The Roanoke River, source for SML was called by the Algonquin inhabitants, “The River of Death”    The beauty of the area might have been greatly enhanced by the mystery had the peak been named, “The Mountain of Death”.    But probably the tourism development folks would have had a much tougher job if the area had become known as “The Mountain of Death Lake”.  Or maybe not…….., adventure tourism being what it is today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                               The view from the Raven’s Nest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                               One of the locals drops by for a bite to eat.

Other than the pure enjoyment of Sarah’s company, our other excuse for visiting is the annual SML Wine Tasting Festival. So, after an excellent breakfast prepared by “Cookie”, Sarah’s nickname by our family, we left the Raven’s Nest, (my name for Sarah’s top level perch, since the dawn area was filled with Ravens and Crows), and off we went to the fete du vin.

I’ve been to wine tastings prior to, we all have pretty much, either at a vineyard or perhaps in a convention center or similar venue – but I’ll have to say, this was my first in a campground.  When Sister Sarah invited us to come up for the event, she mentioned it was being held this year, its 30th anniversary, in a “lakeside campground”.  Sounded good to me, my uniformed mental picture was of all the vintners set up in shaded lanes with perhaps an open meadow where the entertainment stage would be set up……..I was acutely wrong.    The campground was obviously for those of the bovine persuasion.   I suppose the turf, if it hadn’t been trampled by a couple of thousand people, might have made for a good pastoral scene, but as it was, it was just sub-mirey (?).





But what the hey, the Smith Mountain Lake Wine Tasting festival was a hit with the visitors anyway.   After paying the “Tasters” entry fee, one gets the coveted purple festival wrist band and also receives a cute little, emphasis on little, wine glass, nicely embossed with “SML Wine Tasting Festival’.  The glass, which might hold as much as three ounces, full to the brim, was carried from tent to tent to sample the wares   For the math savvy, a little computation might be in order.  On average at each Vineyard’s tent there would be 4-8 wines to taste, with each “taste” measuring perhaps an ounce.  Additionally, at some tents you could get a 6 oz. glass,  a 750 ml bottle or a 96 oz. pitcher, particularly of the very excellent Slushie mixes from three of four of the Vineyards.    Take the above, multiply by, say, 30 Vineyards and the sum total of ounces of wine potentially imbibed is impressive, or disgusting, depending on how many booths one actually visited, even if only visiting one time.   The highly sought, hard to come by, “Tasters” purple band, enabled one to visit, and taste, as many times as one desired/was physically capable of doing so.   Being staunch believers in AGTIM, (all good things in moderation), we sampled a few, bought some wine and slushie mixes to go and departed fairly early in the order of things.  Overall impression of the event:  worth going to, watch out for the heat index and subsequent dehydration brought on by alcohol!   Insider’s tip:  Check out the vintages from the venerable “Peaks of Otter” Vineyard.   The wines taste good, come in pretty cool bottles and have un-boring names like, “Raz Ma Taz Raspberry”.


Back at the Raven’s Nest, our kayaks awaited.

Smith Mountain Lake, at about 32 sq. miles of navigable water, is home to every imaginable type of watercraft on the weekends.  Sister Sarah has her own kayak and the Bride and I brought two more from Charlotte, lashed to the top of the Black Beast.



Air temp was cooling, humidity was very good and a soft breeze was coming across the water from the SE.  In short, a great way to finish off a fun day with a little exercise.  Arriving back at our take out point, we were all saying what an excellent day and afternoon it had been on the water.


The Bride- CB                               Sister Sarah and Carrolle


The Lake thought otherwise.   The Bride, having negotiated several pretty substantial swells in a 10’ craft, fell pray to 2” of water trying to get out of the ‘yak successfully –



It was a weird accident, totally unforeseeable.   Perhaps the lake should have really been named The Mountain of Death Lake after all.


Tomorrow:  Natural Bridge Caverns – a descent into darkness.