As millions descend upon London for the Olympics later this week, I cannot help but remember my family’s glorious visit during these very same weeks two years ago. I frequently replay this trip in my mind because a) I am an anglophile, and England is my happy place, and b) we have not gone on vacation since. Last year, we were looking at colleges for my oldest, and this year, we are paying for that college.
We spent five days in London, then set out exploring the countryside through Chawton, Hampshire, of course, to visit Jane Austen’s house and grave (a part of the trip that has been dubbed “the holy pilgrimage”), followed by a stop on the ancient grounds of Stonehenge, Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, through the Peak District in Derbyshire, to York, and into Scotland, where we spent our last four days in and around Edinburgh. My husband’s own pilgrimage took place at St. Andrew’s, the home of golf, and my aforementioned oldest’s was visiting his first of many historical studies — the Wallace Memorial and the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, William Wallace’s defeat of the English in 1297.
Two years ago today, for instance, we drove through the lovely English countryside to explore Chatsworth, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, which has passed down through sixteen generations of the Cavendish family, and allegedly was the inspiration for Jane Austen’s grand Pemberley estate. The Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice was filmed here. Do you remember the sculpture gallery where Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet sees the bust of Matthew Macfayden’s Mr. Darcy? That is a room at Chatsworth. The bust is now on display in the gift shop, not for sale, of course, but as a decoration.
Chatsworth has one of the finest art collections in Europe. You know all of those long halls in estates that have ancestral portraits hanging on both sides with all of the family members seated quite formally, looking very regal? In one such hall, we came upon this painting.
Isn’t it wonderful? If I were a duchess, that is how I would like to be painted.
Yesterday is the second anniversary of the day we paid hommage to Master William Shakespeare at his grave in Holy Trinity Church, in Stratford-upon-Avon, where there are lovely swans on the river. There was no one else in the church when we arrived, so the tour guide allowed my younger son, a huge Shakespeare fan, to go behind the velvet rope and place white and red roses on the Bard’s grave.
Then we ventured to Warwick Castle, where the four of us took turns shooting English longbows (very cool) and climbed the castle ramparts and towers.
Afterward, it was back to Stratford for a performance of As You Like It by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Witnessing Jacques deliver his famous “All the world’s a stage” speech in the town of the Bard’s birth, well, there is nothing like it.
I think I will go look at the pictures for the umpteenth time and plan our next journey, whenever that may be.
What was your favorite summer vacation?