Highclere Castle

One of our stops on the Duke of Wellington tour was to Highclere Castle. What does Highclere Castle have to do with Wellington?

Not a thing.

But who could resist visiting the country estate that plays Downton Abbey?

It was every bit as beautiful as in the series.

We could not take photos inside the house, but the grounds made up for that. They were just lovely.

There was a folly, Jackdaws Castle, built in 1743 using Corinthian columns salvaged from Berkeley House in London which burned down in 1733. Its main purpose is to be admired from the Castle.

There were lovely views.
This was through a garden gate archway.

Here’s a picturesque wall.

And another view.

And, finally, some topiary.

Playing Downton Abbey rescued Highclere Castle for the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. The house and estate require much upkeep and the building was facing expensive repairs when this opportunity came for them. Now the house is secure for years.

When I was walking the grounds of Highclere Castle, I imagined living there, taking leisurely walks in the evening. What a life that would be!

Floating on the Thames

On our last day of my England trip we took a boat trip on the Thames. While we waited for the boat, we were entertained by what I assumed were Royal Swans.

We passed by a few houses like this one. Can you imagine living there?

And we passed by Ascot Racecourse, where the Royal Ascot is run.

There were all sorts of boats. People live on some.

And we saw all sorts of dogs. Dogs walking the trails. Dogs riding in boats. Dogs everywhere.
dog on Thames 2014

During the whole trip, I only saw one cat. Kristine Hughes made the coach driver stop and back up so I could see a black cat sitting in a garden. I think the rest of the group thought we were nuts.

Okay. Weigh in. Are you a cat person or a dog person?

A Visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum

Before the Duke of Wellington tour began, my sister and I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum had a special exhibit of wedding dresses, spanning from the 1770s to the present day, which we could not photograph, but after we oohed and ahhed over wedding dresses, we toured as much of the rest of the museum as we had time for.

We looked at the permanent collection of fashions, including these Regency clothes and this lovely turn of the century coat:

We saw a replica of Rome’s Trajan’s column:

And this lovely mosaic:

We looked at jewelry, too. I found some of Princess Charlotte’s (Princess Charlotte was the only daughter of the Prince Regent. She died in childbirth in 1817)

And I even found Wellington there! This miniature from 1808 was by Cosway.

Can you tell I’m not over England yet????

A London Walk

During our England trip, sometimes we just walked around the Mayfair and St. James’s Street area of London, gazing at its streets and buildings. Much of what existed in the Regency is still there and if you erase the cars, the high-rises in the background and the people in short skirts and Docker pants, you can almost image how it was in 1815.

There was construction everywhere in London, as if the whole city was being spruced up. Lots of the construction was behind barricades, but what barricades they were!

No walk in Mayfair would be complete without paying homage to White’s Gentleman’s Club, a place familiar to all readers of Regency Romance and still a gentleman’s club today. Among its members are Prince William and Prince Charles. White’s most famous member may have been Beau Brummell who sat at a table in front of the window and passed judgement on those who passed by.

Across the street was Brooks Club, also in existence during the Regency and favored by the liberal Whigs.

Young gentlemen in the Regency might have taken rooms at the Albany. The building is still there.

One building that did not survive was Almack’s, where exclusive assemblies controlled by the high-society Patronesses were held on Wednesday nights during the Season. The building erected in its place pays homage to it, however. It is called Almack House.

I never get tired of seeing these sights. Can you tell I’m still missing England?

English Flowers

There were flowers everywhere in England. Beautiful plants thick with leaves and blooms. The plants seemed thicker and stronger in England, as if the weather and conditions were perfect for them.

There were flowers on windowsills in London


There were even plants growing on the sides of buildings

There were beautiful gardens at the historic houses and in Reading a short distance from our hotel.

So imagine my shock when next to a London town house with beautiful flowers, I found this–

Back from England, The Land of Shopkeepers

I’m back! I came back from England with a cold and have pretty much been useless for a few days. I didn’t even realize I’d missed Thursday! But I’m feeling better today.

At Risky Regencies this week I talked about our visit to Walmer Castle and its connection to the Duke of Wellington (he died there). But here I thought I would tell you about shopping!

Napoleon famously said, “England is a nation of shopkeepers.” I say, yes, indeed, and I’m glad it is so!

IMG_0716One of the first things my sister and I did in London was walk around Sloane Square where our first hotel was located. We found lots of lovely shops in walking distance, lots of charming boutiques. In one the display in the window caught our eye. My sister fell in love with this outfit and, with much urging on my part, we went in.

She didn’t buy that jacket, but one in the same color and boiled wool that was even prettier and fit her perfectly!

IMG_0260Another day we went to Floris, the fragrance shop on Jermyn Street that has been in existence since the 1700s. Floris is one of the most beautiful shops I have ever seen. It’s mahogany counters and display cabinets were from the Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition of 1851. I purchased a gift for my husband here, a lovely wooden dish and shaving soap set. I am so very pleased that he actually likes the fragrance!

No London shopping trip would be complete without a stop in Hatchard’s Book Shop on Piccadilly, the shop where my Regency characters often go.

IMG_0261Next door is Fortnum & Mason, another shop that has been there for 300 years. I fell in love with this china display. I was bound and determined to purchase something at Fortnum and Mason. I settled on a tea diffuser and tea, of which there were countless blends.

We also did some ordinary, non-Regency shopping in London, like visiting Harrod’s. The food court was mind-boggling, but Harrod’s was way beyond my means. I did find a nice gray and black top in Marks and Spencer that was in my price range!

Of course, in every historic site we visited, we stopped in the gift shop, so I have some lovely little souvenirs (including a small bust of Wellington from Apsley House). At Wellington’s country house, Stratfield Saye, we visited its Farm Shop where there was lovely fresh produce, meats, and cheese to ogle. Too bad we were not cooking for ourselves. I would have loved to try some of the food we found there.

In Windsor we visited a lovely antique shop, a Scottish shop, and several tourist shops for those tacky souvenirs that are irresistible.

I do think I need to go back to England, though. There are so many shops I must have missed!! Anyone have any suggestions for a shopping spree on my next (wished for) England trip?

Gone On Vacation

I’ll be in England for the first two weeks in September (and frantically getting ready only days before). Come back on Sept 18 for my report, What I Did On My (After) Summer Vacation. I promise photos and tales of adventure.

Like what we saw at Buckingham Palace!

I leave you with a lovely quote about England by George Orwell:

George_Orwell_press_photoEngland is not the jewelled isle of Shakespeare’s much-quoted message, nor is it the inferno depicted by Dr Goebbels. More than either it resembles a family, a rather stuffy Victorian family, with not many black sheep in it but with all its cupboards bursting with skeletons. It has rich relations who have to be kow-towed to and poor relations who are horribly sat upon, and there is a deep conspiracy of silence about the source of the family income. It is a family in which the young are generally thwarted and most of the power is in the hands of irresponsible uncles and bedridden aunts. Still, it is a family. It has its private language and its common memories, and at the approach of an enemy it closes its ranks. A family with the wrong members in control – that, perhaps is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase.”