Salt House – even the name of the boutique bed and breakfast makes the promise of sea air palpable. Sand between our toes, skin kissed with sea salt, the scent of lingering sunscreen… We’re swooning with such thoughts as we alight our First Great Western sleeper train to Cornwall. Delirious, we arrive super early at St Ives. A cheery taxi driver wends us through the quaint, flower-lined roads whistling all the way, asking cheerily how our journey down from London was.
Symmetrical, gentle and uninterrupted – these are the words that jump into my head as our eyes rest upon our final destination, a symmetrical house set against a calm cobalt sea. Modernist and perfectly rectangular, our boutique retreat is a contemporary sculpture of simplicity. A man waves from the kitchen. We wave back. He slides across a glass door and two chocolate labradors bound out onto the wooden deck, and head over to give us a friendly sniff.
Softly spoken and smiling, Alan, comes out to greet us. One half of the couple behind Salt House, he parks our luggage in his minimalist kitchen where a homemade breakfast on the counter awaits delivery to one of the two pairs of guests. As our room isn’t ready yet, he thoughtfully gives us a map of the area and marks spots for a great breakfast and dinner later, and points out where the much-lauded south-west outpost of the Tate is. Alan and his wife take care of every aspect of the hospitality offered from their chic private home.
We stroll into town, flip-flopping along for 10 minutes, until our feet hit soft sand. Flinging off our shoes, we gallop towards the water. Oh – the first feel of beach and then sea after a long winter! Instead of following the coastal road back for brunch, we dart into St Ives' side streets, meandering along a cobblestone path lined with art galleries, cafés and cosy restaurants.
Porthgwidden Beach Café, overlooking the sea, provides a hearty late English breakfast – especially comforting after on-board grazing on cold train sandwiches. As we take a post-prandial wander around the bay, Mr Smith remarks how saturated the colours all seem. It’s like a PhotoShopped picture where the happy families and kids playing badminton on the beach look posed and ultra-enhanced. But this is how it is in Cornwall. The colours are that luminous, the sea is that turquoise, the sand really looks golden and the sky is that bright blue! And the people are honestly smiling that much.
By early afternoon we’re peckish again and we sieze our chance to enjoy that most famous Cornish comestible: the pasty. Sinking our teeth into flaky St Ives Bakery pastries, we hear someone shout ‘Mind the seagulls!’ with a chuckle. Baffled, we perch beachside with our snacks. Soon enough, two gulls land in front of us. They watch… wait… stare… pace. We feel saved by the bell when Alan rings to tell us our room is ready!
What a boudoir after our long journey. A sliding glass door leads to balcony overlooking a neat manicured garden backdropped by soothing sea views beyond. The bedroom is huge too – we could do a Viennese waltz and not hit anything. Oat biscuits in Alessi jars area are decadently buttery and soon all that’s left of them is a few crumbs on the White Company linen-clad perfumed duvet. In the palatial bathroom there’s a freestanding white porcelain bathtub big enough for a family. The rainshower is the size of a walk-in closet. If we’d headed to Cornwall just to experience the bathroom at Salt House, it might have been worth it.
Eager not to lose sunshine time, we squeeze pasty bodies into bathing suits and head down the stairs, out onto the path into town, clutching freshly perfumed towels. A postcard-perfect coastal scene awaits of scampering children, sandcastle-building parents and dogs shaking water from their fur. The sun is warm, the air just refreshing enough, and the water the right side of bracing. Soon it segues into evening and into another delicious cliché: fish and chips for supper. Splattered with tartar sauce and a wincing amount of vinegar we wash them down with a glass of house white at St Andrew’s Street Bistro. Content, tipsy and tired, we slosh back to our boutique B&B haven and sink into bed.
We awake the next day with the remote control still in our hands. Over fluffy yet gooey chocolate croissants and poached eggs with bacon, we ponder the drizzle and hovering clouds and debate where to go. Alan pops our breakfast on a table inside but we call the clouds’ bluff and sneak out onto the balcony with our coffees. Mr Smith says with a wink he wouldn’t mind it raining, seeking an excuse for a duvet and DVD day. But out peeks the sun and we head to the Hepworth Gallery. The iconic artist’s garden was transformed into a 10-minute walking tour of her work. It is just enough culture to feel like we’ve done something educational, considering we our fleeting Tate drive-by the day before.
Idly making our way along cobblestones, the next stop on our culinary tour of Cornwall is Madeline’s Tea Shop for crab sandwiches. Legs dangling from the pier, we wolf rye bread packed with pure crabmeat and laced with fresh lemon juice. Iced clotted cream from Willy Wallers is dessert, followed astonishingly 20 minutes later, by more ice-cream from the Moomaid. Well, it is our duty to research everything thoroughly.
If there’s one eatery visitors must try it’s Porthminster Restaurant – our date for an early dinner. Situated smack on the beach, glorious views of beige sand and blue water accompany couldn’t-be-fresher seafood. And no pretentious portions here – these servings are suited to hungry people who’ve been outdoors all day.
By 8pm the Salt House has lured us home. Cocooned in our boutique B&B corner, we savour the home-from-home feel to Alan and Sharon’s stay. There’s just enough privacy to feel it’s our own space, and sufficient interaction with genial hosts to have a holiday vibe. All that’s left is to hop into a Molton Browny bubble bath and watch the light disappear behind hills. Mr Smith – cue up that DVD player…