Lucky Joe Biden. Not only does he have a trip abroad to look forward to at a time when for most of us locked down in London going to the supermarket now counts as an exciting plan, but he is about to go to one of the most beautiful places in the world.
In June, the US President will make his first foreign trip, to Carbis Bay in Cornwall for the G7 Summit. Biden and the leaders of the G7 nations will spend three days discussing how to “build back better after Covid” (in the words of Boris Johnson), along with other representatives from the European Union.
To be fair it’s a working trip, not a jolly, but still, if you are going to have to spend the day in meetings, Carbis Bay is a wonderful place to do it, with views of the Atlantic Ocean and captivating light (Cornwall also has some of the lowest Covid rates in the country).
The US President will be staying at the four star Carbis Bay Hotel, which is on a 125-estate and has an award-winning restaurant, spa and access to a sandy bay where dolphins were spotted last week. It is the only British hotel with access to a Blue Flag certified beach. Prices start at £280 and go up to £2,500.
The town behind it is known as the subtropical suburbs of St Ives - the path leading to the bay is densely wooded and has unusual subtropical plants growing. It is small - just 3,482 people live in Carbis Bay and nearby Lelant - and quieter than nearby tourist hotspot St Ives. The beach is north facing and doesn’t get big waves, which means it is more tranquil than many surfer dominated beaches nearby.
It is also a long way from the White House, or indeed most places, which makes it a controversial choice for a summit that will be mainly focussed on green policies. You can either drive there – it takes around seven hours from London (but you can stop for lunch at Hauser & Wirth art gallery and restaurant in Bruton, where Mariella Frostrup lives) or take the train from Paddington and change at St Erth onto a tiny local train service.
But it is likely that lots of the G7 contingent will fly – it takes 50 minutes to get from London Gatwick to Newquay Airport and there is a chartered helicopter service from there to Carbis Bay. Or if Biden wants to be really green he could sail or kayak in. At least it’s a safe distance from Tintagel, where Donald Trump supporter John Mappin, the owner of Camelot Castle hotel is promoting QAnon theories.
Boris Johnson said Cornwall was “the perfect location for such a crucial summit” because of its history of tin and copper mines and their role in the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps he has also been watching Devon and Cornwall on Channel 4 or repeats of Rick Stein - beautiful lockdown escapism.
He has high hopes for the summit and how it will impact the area, saying: “This summer Cornwall will again be the nucleus of great global change and advancement.” Already the summit has brought development to Carbis Bay- plans to build 37 ocean view apartments above the beach have just been announced.
Carbis Bay residents are excited about the President’s visit - as long as he puts jam on his scones before cream as is the local etiquette. If he has time after thrashing out politics, there’s the Tate St Ives to visit, Barbara Hepworth’s haven of a sculpture garden, Bernard Leach’s pottery studio (where he could buy a gift for Dr. Jill) and plenty of walks - he should stock up on pasties from St Ives Bakery beforehand. Let’s hope the weather holds up.
If Biden wants to get into the mood, he could watch the fifth series of Poldark, which was filmed here. Or read To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, which although set in the Hebrides was inspired by the author’s stay at Carbis Bay in 1914 and the views of Godrevy Lighthouse. Woolf’s signature in the hotel guest book is framed. Russian-born Constructivist Naum Gabo lived in the town during the Second World War, near his friends Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth who were in St Ives. He volunteered as an air-raid warden and kept watch over the rocky cliffs at night. More recent past visitors include Nick Knowles and Dawn French - the atmosphere here is low key.
Inspired by the G7’s choice? If you can’t get a room at Carbis Bay, the Boskerris hotel also has sea views, as well as a mighty breakfast made with local produce. Biden will certainly be well-fed on his trip. The best restaurant in the area is The Porthminster Beach Cafe just around the headland. It serves seasonal food (think fresh fish and locally grown vegetables) with a clever, Asian spin, right on the sand.
Try to get a table at sunset. Walking in you feel instantly relaxed, whether you have spent the day walking, surfing or wrestling with knotty global problems at the G7.