June 4, 2010 - Falmouth, United Kingdom

On Friday, June 4th, we entered the third deepest harbor in the world in Falmouth, England. (Sydney and Rio de Janeiro command the leads.) Falmouth stands at the point where seven rivers flow into a long stretch of water called, the Carrick Roads. The drowned river valley is so deep that huge ocean-going ships can sail north, almost as far as Truro, another town in the large county of Cornwall. When in Falmouth, one is never more than 18 miles from the sea, making it the second most tourist-visited city in England, other than London, of course! The excursion I was on, St. Michael’s Mount, Jewel in Cornwall’s Crown, would find me just southwest from Falmouth, at St. Michael’s Mount, located in the waters of Mount Bay, opposite the small village of Marazion.

According to ancient Roman historians, the mount was the Island of Ictis, an important center for the Cornish tin trade during the Iron Age. It is dedicated to the archangel St. Michael who, according to legend, appeared there in 495. When the Normans conquered England in 1066, they were struck by the island’s resemblance to their own Mont-St-Michel, whose Benedictine monks were invited to build a small abbey there. The abbey was absorbed into a fortress at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, when Henry VIII set up a chain of coastal defenses to counter an expected attack from France. In 1659 St. Michael’s Mount was purchased by Sir John St. Aubyn, whose descendants subsequently turned the fortress into a magnificent house.

-Eyewitness Travel Guide’s GREAT BRITAIN, by Michael Leapman-

To use the word magnificent is spot on, but to use the word house is a dramatic understatement. The stately, medieval castle stands grandly atop the floating island. It is an out of the ordinary, yet beautiful backdrop to the cute seaside town and white sandy beaches full of tourists, situated just yards away. Today, St. Michael’s Mount is the ancestral home of Lord St. Levan. Although much of the Mount is open to public, his family still resides there in private quarters.

There are two ways to get to the island from Marazion. One is by boat, which is the way we transported across. The other can only be taken only if the tide is low enough, and that is by walking the cobblestoned causeway which stretches from the mainland, all the way out to the harbor-side village on the island. Once we arrived to the island, after we got our tickets from the guide, we were pretty much on our own until we needed to re-board the busses to head back. Not wanting to waste a moment of time, I started the ascent.

Now, I consider myself to be a pretty fit individual, but the steep stone stairs leading up to the castle even made me a little winded. I was surprised how some of the other, elder passengers were going to manage. Sure enough, as I kept climbing the treacherous boulder-like steps, I ran into many who had stopped for a breather.

When I finally reached the top, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Everything was absolutely stunning. The view back towards Marazion was gorgeous! The view of the endless royal blue ocean waters was breathtaking! The view of the cobblestone causeway, which you could still make out, even under the high tide, was striking! And then, of course, there was the castle itself, which was just incredibly magical!

First off, it is huge! Its humongous stone walls and fortresses rise out of the ground creating the most intricately pleasing ancient architecture. Old cannons still line the walls pointing in every which direction away from the castle. My camera never stopped clicking! It seemed that everywhere I turned was an even better, prettier photo opportunity. I wished Nic had been along for the tour, that way; we could’ve taken pictures for each other. Instead, I had to keep bugging people all day! Oh well!

Inside the castle, I basically followed the seemingly laid out path, visiting many rooms along the way. The Blue Drawing Room was formed from the Lady Chapel in the mid-18th century and is decorated in charming Rococo Gothic Style. It contains fine plaster work, furniture and paintings by Gainsborough and Thomas Hudson.  The Armory displays sporting weapons and military trophies brought back by the St. Aubyn family from various wars. The Chevy Chase Room takes its name from a plaster frieze (1641) representing hunting scenes. And finally, The Priory Church, rebuilt in the late 14th century, forms the summit of the island and beautiful rose windows are found at both ends.

Every part of the castle was definitely captivating and intriguing, but my favorite part was the South Terrace, which forms the roof of the large Victorian wing. Beneath it are five floors of private quarters, along with my other favorite part of the grounds – the rocky slopes, which are gardens that were planted with sub-tropical trees and shrubs by the St. Aubyn family. It all looked as though it were off the page of a fairytale. And standing atop the South Terrace, looking over at the ocean water hitting off the jagged rocks several feet below, I couldn’t help but pretend it was all mine!

Descending the island, back towards the harbor-side village below, was almost harder than climbing up. I had to be very careful to watch my footing; otherwise I may twist an ankle, or worse. Luckily, I made it down, unscathed, and continued to walk around, discovering the sights. There were a few restaurants and a couple little gift shops, but other than that, due to construction on the island’s harbor, there wasn’t much more to see. What I did make sure to do, however, was walk down and get a closer look at the causeway. It was still underwater mostly, but it was still very interesting to see. I remember overhearing someone up at the castle say that it was made with “sin stones”. Apparently, when someone committed a sin, the ruler at that time would make them pay for it. And with the money, he’d buy stones to build the causeway. Therefore, the path from Marazion to St. Michael’s Mount has been paid for and created by sinners.

Once I took the boat back to the mainland, I still had a little bit of time to spare, so I ventured around town window shopping and occasionally stopping in a few of the many art galleries that filled the streets. I ended up, however, at a small café, where I ordered a light lunch for myself (panini, salad, & coke) and sat down behind a picture window with a magnificent view of the castle. It was a great way to stop and reflect on what I had just experienced.

As I strolled parallel to the sandy beaches, heading back towards my bus that would bring me back to the ship, I stopped, yet again, to look out across the water and capture a few more shots of St. Michael’s Mount. The weather was beautiful! The island was beautiful! And the day was beautiful!





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vera kniss:
June 20, 2010
Dearest Erich
It is amazing that you can take all those pictures and share them , that would have never been possible years ago, they are beautiful. Even
George is impressed. Thank you so much for letting us be part of it all.
Love and kisses Vera
June 23, 2010
Sounds breathtaking and the pcitures certainly are. It is amazing to think of these areas during the time of King Henry VII and such...I just got done watching the showtime series "the Tudors" all about that time in history and Henry VII etc. I actually feel like some of these pictures were in that miniseries, I love reading these posts. Interesting facts (such as the sin stones) to learn about and I may never have known without your posts and information you give to us all. I am, as always, so thankful you got to do this adventure and can't wait to share all of the stories and events of this trip with you when you come home. Love MOM
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