I was in Saltash, Cornwall, from 12.27pm on Wednesday to 6.35pm on Thursday (train times innit) to pay tribute to a very special person.
Here’s what I learned about the town, and myself during my 30 hours and eight minute trip:
1. The kindness of strangers
I was thinking about everything that had happened and where I was going and was getting very emotional.
But then I heard a voice on the fairly empty Fore Street which I didn’t think was talking to me, but it was.
An elderly gentleman saw my flowers and said something about how did I know he was going to be there and said I didn’t have to go to that effort.
When I said I’d got them because he was a lovely man, he proclaimed me to be a thoroughly nice chap.
And in doing so he stopped my tears and put a smile on my face.
I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers and the ones in Saltash are very kind indeed.
Special mentions to the people on the Saltash Online Facebook page who recommended things for me to see and do.
And I’m also grateful to everyone who listened to me and helped me when I told them why I was in their town – especially the taxi driver, the staff at the restaurant, the women in the blondies shop, and the florist.
2. Eating on my own
I managed to snag myself a Cornish pasty within 15 minutes of getting to the town because a)I’m a legend b)I’m capable of queuing up at a counter and asking for food.
But, until Wednesday night (May 25), I’d never been able to sit at a table at a restaurant on my own and order food from a menu.
Why? Because I always thought people would judge me and although I’m happy to judge myself harshly I don’t like to be judged by others.
But, after a discussion with my boss at work, I was convinced that if I stayed over in the town I would have to find some kind of evening meal and if I could do it in Saltash then maybe I could do it in other parts of the world and so be able to travel by myself.
I was so nervous about going in to a restaurant on my own but, as the next section explains, I did it twice.
3. Foreign Muck
Usually when a server in a restaurant asks you how was your food you say “It’s good, thanks” and you get on with eating it.
But when the waitress (who I believe was called Hollie) in Foreign Muck* asked me how my burger was I had to say it was the best one I’d ever had in the United Kingdom – and is definitely up there alongside the amazing one I had in Miami Beach years ago.
Why did I say this? I said it because it’s true. It was simply incredible.
I had the Django, thanks to her recommendation, and what came was a succulent meaty burger in a homemade bun with housemade onion rings, mayonnaise, bacon, slightly spiced barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato.
Did I mention the cocktails? To accompany my meaty feast I had the exquisite Saturn cocktail, which was made from local Saltash gin Magical Djinn Alembic, almond, passion fruit, orgeat and lemon juice.
I was sat at the bar which initially made me feel like a naughty child sat at the front of the class but it did mean I could have a nice chat with the barman – in an American stylee – about why I was in Saltash and how he had moved there from Sussex.
Being too full for anything else I declared that Foreign Muck and I had unfinished business so went back the next day before my train home.
Declaring to the server that I had no food allergies but wanted all the yummy food I could stuff in my face, this time I enjoyed some succulent chicken quesadillas and a White Russian, which reminded me of my days at the University of Maryland in College Park.
I then finished off with a delicious plum, blueberry and lemon crumble with an exceptional sweet and crunchy topping.
It was absolutely food heaven with amazing staff who made me feel a lot less alone in their town – especially during my second time there when they asked how my trip to church had gone.
*So why is the restaurant called Foreign Muck if the food is so good? Well, when the owners were growing up in Saltash in the 1980s when they went out for meals their dad was scared of trying anything new and would only go if there was chicken and chips on the ‘English menu’.
But before long he was stealing from their plates and realising what he’d been missing.
4. Taxis in Saltash
My best advice for travellers coming from London, or other cities where there are lots of cabs available at all times, is to book taxis like you would a haircut.
I was distraught on Wednesday afternoon when I discovered that, even after phoning all the cab companies in town, there weren’t any available to take me anywhere.
So, reassessing my plans, I booked one for the next day and it turned out okay in the end.
The cab driver who took me to Landulph Church explained that there just aren’t that many and they usually get booked up super far in advance.
I’m assuming most holidaymakers to Cornwall drive and so won’t have this problem but it’s something to bear in mind.
It’s important to say a special thank you to the cabbie from Saltash Taxis who talked to me about why I was going to a church with a bunch of flowers and then asked me how I was feeling and how it went when he picked me up later on.
Hopefully someone in Saltash picked up the bunch of Co-Op flowers I’d left in Fore Street on Thursday morning, with a note which said “Please, Take Me”. Hopefully it made them happy and I’m now not going to be fined for flytipping.
I left them there because they just weren’t good enough for the person I had bought them for and, with the delay in my taxi journey meaning the florist was open, I had a way of getting some much nicer ones.
6. Churchtown Farm Community Nature Reserve
My photos, hopefully, show you the beauty of the area located on the outskirts of Saltash.
After a very emotional morning it was a great restorative place to reflect and remember.
7. The Blondie Bar
I believe I discovered this place by using ye olde Google to search for Saltash and cake.
While explaining to the two owners why I was so emotional (I’d come straight from the church and I thank them for listening to me) another woman loaded me up a box with some sumptuous blondies and divine brownies to take with me back to London when I visited a friend the next day.
They were all absolutely astounding and I reckon if I ever moved to Saltash I’d accidentally choose a place near that shop so I could have a blondie or a brownie for breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, early dinner, dinner and supper.
I bumped into the woman who served me while I was on my way to the station and I’m hoping she’ll post some sweet treats to her son in North London so he can then post them to me in South London.
Alternatively, I’d be very happy to set up a petition to try and encourage the owners to do UK-wide delivery.
8. Other sites to see
The Waterside is a good place to get a view of the Tamar Bridge, and to watch the little boats bobbing up and down on the river, while crossing off some of the points of the Saltash Heritage Trail.
There’s a pub there called The Union and also a place to get teas, coffees etc.
Don’t be too sad though if the button on the Ann Glanville figure does not work.
You’re supposed to press it and she tells you her story but there is always Google to fill in the gaps where other technology fails.
9. Places to stay
I stayed in The Brunel Inn because it was right in the middle of Fore Street and, not having a car (see point four), I wanted somewhere central instead of having to walk for miles from the other higher rated accommodation.
It may be the only time I’ll ever be tempted to write a TripAdvisor review because it was much nicer than other reviews had suggested it would be.
They had made me nervous but what I got was a clean, fresh room which was decorated nicely with a comfortable bed.
If I ever come back to Saltash (and I’d say there is a definite chance) I will stay there again.
10. What have I learned?
I can do solo travel but only if I’m not completely on my own.
There were times of solitude, like in the nature reserve where I could think about things, but I’m mostly especially grateful to the people of Saltash who made my solo trip feel less lonely by being there for me and welcoming me to their town.
And, maybe now I know I can eat dinner on my own, maybe one day I’ll venture further afield.
Stay safe for another week!