We ended up on England’s prettiest island almost by accident and thanks to “friendly spam”**.
We’d received mails at work from the Tourism Board of Cornwall so often that I finally (in a moment of total expat ignorance) googled the place to find out what we’d be looking at if we eventually wanted to film there.
I was hooked.
(I’m serious. Google Cornwall. It looks like Italy. But it is England’s most South-Westerly point and about a 5-6 hour drive from London depending on the scenic route you take.)
I told my travel-loving Mom about it and before I knew it, we were booked for two nights in lovely Carbis Bay, just up the coast from St Ives.
The highlight of our trip was without any doubt: St Michael’s Mount, just a 25 minute drive south from St Ives. Not even one-square mile of history, cliffs, gorgeous gardens, and stunning views, it makes its French cousin – Le Mont Saint-Michel - look a bit rustic. (But as a colleague of mine pointed out, that’s the difference between France and England – the French keep it religious and make it public and the English give the place to aristocrats ;)
All joking aside, the Mount was founded by the same monks as Mont Saint-Michel after the Norman Conquest of 1066 – it is just fascinating to see how two such similar locations ended up with vastly different histories.
While also serving as a fortification, the Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy has remained a monastery since the 8th century. The Cornish Mount was turned into a fortress under the rule of Henry VIII and then in 1659, was purchased by Colonel John St Aubyn whose descendants still live in the house today.
I took what in old-school terms would amount to some 50 rolls of film up there so this will be turning into a series of posts. But I will entice you with these photos and my favorite tale so you’ll come back for more.
We asked if St Michael’s Mount had ever come under attack and a guide told us that on one particular occasion when the French tried to attack, the English managed to seize the ship and install its 6 small cannons on the battlements as you exit the castle (which can still be seen today). In a lovely little twist, she then mentioned that at Mont Saint-Michel in France, you can also see six small English cannons that the French managed to steal shortly afterwards…
More from our summer holidays to come…
* St Michael’s Mount was a wonderful surprise and one we were surprised not to find more highly promoted in our guide books. Our only conclusion was that they want to keep it a secret. The Mount is open until 2 November, 2014 when it will close for the winter months.
** “Friendly spam” being identified as those e-mail alerts you have knowingly signed up to but which you still never have time to read and which constantly stream into your inbox until you just can’t ignore them anymore. In my case, this means mails from Banana Republic and, apparently, the Tourism Board of Cornwall.