Despite having to tiptoe into the hall to visit the loo we enjoyed our two nights at the bed and breakfast. We were given a Full English Breakfast: egg, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, potatoes, juice, toast and jam, and lots of tea, and breakfast time was full of conversation with our hosts and fellow guests. One was a shy young man returning to his hometown after finishing a course in Information Technology in Plymouth; the other a fellow from Oxford on holiday. Taken from a hilltop, the view of Truro is dominated by the massive cathedral, surrounded by two- and three-storey buildings View of Truro

Cornwall itself is a tiny county, with less than 500,000 souls, a third of whom live in Plymouth. It's the poorest county in the United Kingdom -- the only county eligible for EU aid -- yet the real estate is priced at California levels as wealthy buyers from London snatch up vacation cottages near the beach, which are then turned over to property managers to let out most of the year. Meanwhile the flower of Cornish youth leaves the county for higher paying jobs in London. The whole situation reminded us of Nova Scotia, where wealthy Germans were buying all the waterfront property, and the young people went to Toronto to work. According to the clerk who sold us sandwiches today, it's sad to be near the deserted beach houses and hotels in the winter.

Genealogists and historians fill the tables in the reading room at the County Record Office. The lady next to us, wearing the required white gloves, delicately inspected tiny scraps that looked at first like shreds of brown paper bags, but were in fact fourteenth century land deeds. We're still doing nineteenth century research, confirming marriages and baptisms from microfiche copies of parish registers. The problem is, which parish? Our ancestors have appeared in various Cornish parishes at different times. No lords of the manor these, but miners and smiths.

Today we moved into our home for twenty-three nights -- a two-bedroom house in back of the Marcorrie Hotel. Mrs. Treseder, the owner-manager of the Marcorrie Hotel, is a mature woman of imposing proportions who appears from a back room in response to the ding of the bell at the hotel desk, long grey hair flying, and wearing an air of perpetual anxiety. She is right out of a Dickens novel, from her bustling, handwaving manner to her habit of uttering short bursts of talk, seeming to address herself as well as us: "Yes, I'm here, I am , I am. The cottage will be ready, yes, when? Yes, soon, in an hour or a day or perhaps at the end of the day." Two large spires flank the central facade with a huge rose window Truro's Victorian cathedral

The cottage itself has seen too many tenants. There are dents in the walls and doors, and no wall decorations with the exception of a map of shipwrecks on the Cornish coast. The sitting room has a sofa, chairs and good-sized table, and is nicely warmed by a gas fireplace heater. The kitchen is well-equipped, with fridge and electric cooker and microwave and even a small washing machine, along with dishes and cutlery for at least a dozen people. There's a patio in back with outdoor table and chairs. Mrs. Treseder has the property up for sale, but was happy to have a February rental. According to the Tourist Information Office there are no flats for short-term let in the city, so we count ourselves lucky.

We're traveling by public transportation and by foot, in order to get some exercise (besides sitting in reading rooms). In Truro this means up and down the hill to the center of town, so we're toughening up fast! We love the solid stone and brick houses which line the streets, often with no space between them.

The language is English, with a British accent. The last woman who spoke Cornish from birth died two years ago, and we haven't recognized any peculiar Cornish words. There is, however, a movement led by academics to reintroduce the language. Some of the politicians want to make the county a special region (for a greater share of public revenue). Finally, some of the locals are resentful of the Scots, who seem to be getting all the political attention lately.