And now, over 40 years since I read her books, I found myself at Jamaica Inn. Our way there, as with all of this trip, took us through winding roads and narrow lanes for much longer than we expected it to take, until sddenly, like a ground mole coming out of its tunnel we found ourselves dropped practically into the inn's parking lot.
I am not sure what I expected. Most travel information cautioned that the inn wasn't much any more, to stop in maybe for a cup of coffee and then be on our way. My husband had seen the movie but knew no more than that about the place so he was puzzled as to why I wanted to see it, especially with all the ho-hum reviews.
It was quiet as we pulled in, just a few people loading their cars and preparing to leave. But we arrived just in front of a busload of tourists, and soon the place was full of people. Inside, we found that it was a tourist mecca, lots of pirate and Daphne Du Maurier hype, a gift shop, brochures for events at the inn like ghost hunts and so on.
Which is all right, I guess. It brings in business to an admittedly out-of-the-way location and that's a good thing. I would have been happier, I guiltily admit, to have found it run down and abandoned or at least mostly empty, but it was a bustling place on a sunny morning. Good for the local economy anyway.
We'd eaten a make-do breakfast of bananas, doughnuts, tea and coffee, but by now it was 10am and we were hungry again. Maybe it's that moor air. The inn had a buffet-style full brekfast on offer so we hurried to get in front of the bus tourists and were soon chowing down. If there was one thing I'd missed, it was eggs for breakfast over the past few days.
The inn is quite large, with lots of old beams and stone. It truly is an old place, and it is where Du Maurier got the inspiration for her book. I tried to imagine it as it must have been when she stayed there in the 1930's.
It must have been a wild country then, with the moors sweeping away, the fogs and the winding little roads. I can see her in her room, looking out as a storm raged, pounding away on her mnual typewriter or perhaps writing page after page by hand, pirates and brigands running amuck in her mind. Talk about a writer's retreat!
But today that mystique is largely gone, at least at Jamaica Inn. Still the owners can capitalize on the story as long as visitors want to come. The old squire will still be there to greet them.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.