Padstow, the little Cornish harbour town, is my favourite place in the whole world.
Yes, it’s busy. Yes, it’s a bit commercialised. Yes, Rick Stein seems to own half the town (and some people call it ‘Pad-stein’). But to me it is still the best place in the world.
We first went to Padstow in 1994 – me, my husband (then my boyfriend), my mum and dad and my sister, who was just 11. I’d never even been to Cornwall before. My parents always thought it was ‘too far’ (despite the fact that we actually live in the South West), so we used to go to Devon. We all fell in love with Padstow.
My husband and I (still my boyfriend) went back in 1997, then we returned with my mum and dad and sister in 1999.
We all went again in 2001, when my baby boy was nine weeks old and I spent most of the week breastfeeding him. And we’ve been every single year since.
Sometimes we go with my mum and dad, sometimes we go alone. We’ve been in March and we’ve been in September. We used to go in June or early July, now we are tied to August and the school holidays. Sometimes my sister and her husband or my brother and his girlfriend drop in for a few days.
We go on two, sometimes three, holidays a year. We are pretty unadventurous – the biggest decision we usually have to make is ‘shall we go to Center Parcs this year?’. But Padstow is a given. Padstow is something we do without question.
There are no surprises there, we don’t do anything different. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Since being tied to the summer holidays, we’ve taken to setting off at 5am,seeing the sun rise on the way, having a second breakfast at McDonalds in Cullompton at 6.30am and arriving in Padstow at 8.30am. There’s nothing to match the excitement of the deserted town, with the reflections of the boats and the shops in the still waters of the harbour. Every year, it takes my breath away. Every year I have to take a photo straight away to try to preserve the memory of that first excitement. Even though it looks exactly the same as the photo I took last year and the year before that.
This year we have done something revolutionary. Not only do we always go to Padstow, but we always stay on the same farm, although we vary which cottage we go for. The cottages are nice enough, but there is no dishwasher and we are always driving backwards and forwards and paying out loads of money on parking.
This year we are going somewhere different!
We are staying right in the centre of Padstow. The cottage looks beautiful and comes with parking. And, most importantly, a dishwasher – no washing up after nine people by hand. Oh, and changeover is on Friday, so no jet-lag inducing 5am starts.
But our decision has been an unpopular one. My mum and dad aren’t coming with us, it was too big a decsion to consider staying somewhere different. I know if we’d booked the same place, they’d have been there like a shot. The kids aren’t happy – they like to play out by the usual cottage and they’re cross with us about Grandma and Grandpa not coming. We’ve sold the new cottage to the boys by saying they can go out on their now. So my daughter is cross because she can’t go out with them.
I’m convinced our decision is the right one, but I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.