“Faraway places with their strange-sounding names” have been calling to me since I was a young child, mesmerized by magic carpet stories that flew me regularly in and out of exciting experiences. How fortunate to be able to play out some of these adventures in real life, and with an equally dedicated Travel Companion (TC), my husband who shares the journeying.”– DFK
Down at the southwest tip of England near Lizard’s Point lies Penzance, Cornwall. Not quite halfway around the globe, situated looking over the Atlantic Ocean toward the Americas, the Lizard Peninsula is about as far a place as any to head, a desirable destination to my way of thinking. Our home area on Kauai lies thousands of miles away. Interestingly, we share similarities beyond being part of an island.
First, it seems we have the name lizard in common (Kuamoo, and the breathing-lizard stories to explain Spouting Horn). Second, the Penzance area enjoys a temperate climate, warmer than the rest of Britain. The visitor draw of the giant biodomes of the Eden Project exist there (www.visitcornwall.com/things-to-do/attractions/south-coast/st-austell/eden-project) to house tropical plants, many of them familiar ones.
An Eden director came to serve at our National Tropical Botanical Gardens some years ago. Further comparison can be made between our forest and coastal trails, since like Kauai, Cornwall is famous for walking paths with spectacular views. The ancient people of Cornwall and their origins pose a mystery, much like our Menehunes.
Cornishmen (and women) are said to stand small but strong and possess a noticeable “look” transmitted via their DNA. Stories abound suggesting that the Cornish arrived as workers, much like our early small people, in craft that originated in the Mediterranean Sea, instead of the Pacific; they worked the tin mines rather than building stone walls and waterways.
Penzance in the USA is usually known through the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, “Pirates of Penzance,” which presents via a comedic libretto the very serious business of ships being set upon by pirates of that area in history.
We set our sights for this seaside holiday town because, in researching a trip throughout the United Kingdom, I was intrigued by photographs of an open air amphitheater and its summer productions by Cambridge thespians located in a nearby area of Penzance — a true land’s end.
The spectacular site of the Minack Theatre was carved out of granite cliffs of Porthcurno in the 1930s through the creative vision of the late Rowena Cade, an American woman. I became more fascinated as I read that careful planning had ensured that although the theater draws crowds, the nature of the place remains unspoiled.
I thought of our own land’s end at Mahaulepu. Having been thrice beguiled by the production of “‘Ulalena” in Lahaina, Maui, I brainstormed, Why not do something similar at Mahaulepu? Something new in hula and music reflecting the Hawaiian culture, and equally well-planned and implemented to preserve the stunning beauty of the area? (This idea is on hold until a proposed dairy issue is settled.)
We jumped to reserve a VirginAir flight-plus-hotel special arriving in London. We planned to get around using an economical VirginRail pass we bought ahead of time in the U.S. This allowed us to hop on and off trains freely according to on-the-spot travel decisions. The passes covered ScotRail connectors, too; using them, we could go anywhere in the system, from the “Hielands” where I was to track my Scottish roots, and by various rail routes around England.
The heart of our United Kingdom trip was to meet a group of my cousins whom circumstances had flung around the globe after the Great Diaspora from India and Burma following World War II. The main family reunion was centered in and around the village of Mere, near Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge.
It was easy to track a route southwest to Cornwall through Bath and the Roman ruins, and Glastonbury, home to King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, additional sights we wanted to see. My TC and I decided to tack this junket on to the very last of our U.K. exploration.
Via the Internet, we reserved a room at a Victorian bed-and-breakfast we liked within blocks of the center of Penzance. We felt lucky because we learned the town vacation lodging is booked well in advance of summer sunshine and swimming. We could stroll around Penzance to enjoy various eateries, the spectacular seaside path to “Mouse Hole” (pronounced “Mozzell”) Harbor, which brought our very lovely Kauai Path to mind.
Close by was a handy bus stop we used for further transport, including pre-arranged coach to Porthcurno to be dropped off with other visitors (and later picked up) near the Minack Theatre (no big parking lot to mar the natural cliff side scenery).
Synchronistically, the Cambridge group presented Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Utopia” within our time frame. What a kick, I thought, since this operetta spoofs the outcome of Cook’s Pacific explorations and allows us a window to the earlier English view of Polynesian peoples and culture.
Also, in 1893, the year “Utopia” premiered, Princess Kaiulani became the talk of English society, arriving as a private school student and royal from the independent monarchy of Hawaii. It was reported that there was “much speculation as to the influence English ‘civilization’ would have on the princess and eventually her homeland” — possibly the loam for the seed of the new operetta.
In Cornwall, we found so much more of the unexpected, along with sights that reminded us of home — part of the joys of travel. February’s “FarAway Places” will focus on two other major surprises we discovered on this land’s end journey.
Poet and author Dawn Fraser Kawahara, a rooted Kauai transplant has, since her birth in British India, called India, Burma, Australia as well as California, Illinois, Ohio and Colorado “home” at various times. Kawahara for many years led and instructed travel groups to Hawaii and Pacific nations. She pens “The Green Flash” column published every other week in The Garden Island. Further information about the writer and her work may be found through www.kauaiweddingsandbooks.com