I recently returned from a holiday in Somerset. I have a friend who comes from the area and when he asked me how I found it and what I got up to, I smiled and cut straight to the chase, ‘the caves at Chedder Gorge are fantastic!’ At this point he began to smile. ‘Is it really?’ He replied. ‘I’ve never been, it’s for the tourists really.’
Consequently, this got me thinking. I’ve lived in Cornwall for 6 years now and I really haven’t made the most of the county being the prime holiday destination that it is. Take the Eden Project for example; it wasn’t until 2007 that I ventured the 20 miles to the eighth wonder of the world. And even then I have to admit that the draw for me was less than honourable.
I went for the ice skating.
My reasons for this are hard to pin down. One could presume that I am some kind of tourist-related anthropophobe, who simply can’t bear to mingle with those out-of-towners, all dawdling about, licking our ice-creams, and fuelling our economy with reckless zeal. Of course, this is not true. In fact, I believe the reason for mine – and my Somerset pal’s – inability to view our locality through a tourist’s eyes is due to two factors. One is quite simply to do with association, or familiarity to be precise. We associate the surrounding area with what we know well, and so there is a very little inherent excitement at the thought of playing in our own backyard.
But there are plenty of things to do in Cornwall. I know full well that the differences between a Somerset holiday and a Cornwall holiday are so slight (maybe the air temperature’s a little cooler?) yet I’m still subconsciously drawn to such aspects as the different place-names, the higher population, and the unmistakeable feeling of being a visitor.
Maybe my experiences of family holidays as a child have some bearing on this too? When I was nine I visited Disneyworld and wondered what it would be like to live next door. I could come here everyday, I thought to myself as we drove through Miami spilling pretzel crumbs onto the floor of our rented RV. But of course, once you’ve been on the Jaws ride four times it doesn’t take the novelty does begin to wear off.
Therefore I have decided to rediscover my own county. Even a quick browse of Cornwall tourist information highlights some starting points such as Tate St Ives, the National Maritime Museum at Falmouth and The Lost Gardens of Heligan. Cornwall deserves this old-friend status, like a schoolmate who reminds you of how you were the wittiest in Geography class. After all, what could be better than being surprised by what’s on your very own doorstep?