So. England. Now, where was I? Better settle in with your coffee or a glass of wine, depending on which time zone you live in, folks. This is going to be a long one.
Our UK trip continued apace after Bath. To Stratford-Upon-Avon, and then north to the Peak District. On our day out with Jules in Bath, he'd offered to drive us to Stratford, and show us the Cotswolds at the same time. But we demurred. We were tempted, believe me, but really couldn't justify the extra cost, especially since we had rail passes. So on the Saturday morning, we were up early, packed, breakfasted, caffeinated, and boarding the train along with a myriad of other passengers all seemingly out for a weekend of fun and... well... not to put too fine a point on it... drinking.
Everyone, it seemed, was breaking out the pints, or the wine, or even the champagne. A group of what looked to be three middle-aged sisters and their mum, further up the coach, had brought breakfast snacks, balloons announcing that one of their party was enjoying a fiftieth birthday.... and champagne. A party of young men were well into their pints by the time we pulled into Oxford at mid-morning. And across the aisle from me, sat a wonderfully voluble young woman who sipped mini-bottles of Chenin Blanc the entire trip, and entertained her dad with family stories, and memories of what she and her friends had got up to in their teens. After a few minutes, I gave up even trying to focus on my book, and shamelessly eavesdropped. At one point, she pulled a fresh bottle of wine from her capacious handbag, and announced, "Now then, Dad, time for a swallow. It's the start of me holiday." Her dad chuckled, but wisely stuck to his tea. The better to be able to handle both their luggage when they reached wherever they were going, I suspect. I haven't been on such an entertaining journey for ages. Not since Hubby and I took a bus in New Lanark, near Glasgow, years ago. And listened to an elderly woman in the front seat as she greeted every single person who boarded, asked after their family, and eventually gave Hubby and me specific directions to our destination once she had ascertained who we were, where we were from, and where we were going. We still laugh at that memory.
|Anne Hathaway's Cottage|
|I love how the house was set up to show the life of the cottage across the centuries.|
I must admit that despite teaching English for decades, I'm not much of a Shakespeare devotee. What I found most interesting were the guides' stories of how the mythology of the man has built up over the centuries. Aided and abetted by generations of Hathaways, whose fortunes having declined, took full advantage of having a celebrated in-law to make some much needed cash from gullible tourists. One can hardly blame them, eh?
|Mary Baker, an enterprising descendant of Anne Hathaway|
|The much "whittled" settle, where Shakespeare and his bride did NOT sit courting.|
|The garden was equally interesting.|
|This sign had my name on it... literally.|
|How can you NOT love a garden with a "hedgehog campsite?"|
|Holy Trinity Church. Shakespeare's grave is inside.|
|The village of Broadway, in the Cotswolds|
|Rosie and at The Broadway Deli. As you can see, I was still talking when the picture was taken.|
Then it was time to head north. Through Birmingham, Derby, and Chesterfield to our accommodation near Chatsworth, the Devonshire Arms in the tiny village of Beeley in the Peak District. I have long wanted to visit this area, to see the countryside which I've read so much about and, of course, Chatsworth House itself.
|A cosy table near the fire at The Devonshire Arms|
|Our room was not in the inn itself, but nearby, alongside this small stream|
|The view while we waited for the bus to Chatsworth House|
The next morning after breakfast when we picked up our tickets we discovered that the answer to our question about the best way to get where we were going depended on whom we asked. The girl who gave us our tickets to Chatsworth, pointed us in the direction of the footpath (no maps? nope), and assured us it would be dry (maybe, she thought.) Then another staff member, who stood nearby, interrupted. She said the trail was underwater in places where it ran close to the river, that we'd be up to our ankles before we knew it. Then she took us outside, pointed out where to catch the bus that could take us to Chatsworth, when it was likely to arrive, and wished us a great day. Phew. Now why, oh why, didn't everyone who worked there know that? Or, since some of the girls were waitresses, and gamely doing double duty checking in guests, why didn't The Devonshire Arms provide a little information sheet, with a map of how to get to Chatsworth House, and include bus times etc for those who didn't have a car? Wouldn't that be an easy fix? Ah well, never mind, we found out about the bus in time to catch the next one to Chatsworth House, my boots were saved, and it was a fabulously sunny, crisp day. And I was going to finally see the home of one of the Mitford sisters. I may not be an expert on Shakespeare, people, but Mitford-mania is something I do know about.
|Chatsworth House from the bus window.|
|From inside the beautiful grounds.|
|A shot taken by a kindly student, after I did the same for her|
|We were not alone here, folks.|
|The dress Debo wore to Queen Elizabeth II's coronation|
|The former duke had a quirky sense of humour|
We had one more stop to make before we headed back down south to London, Heathrow, and then home. Bakewell is a village which came highly recommended, by guide books and friends alike. A short taxi ride from Beeley, we had time to explore before my luncheon date. This is a small street of cottages that I wandered down on my way to our hotel. The cottage on this end is the one I picked out for myself. If I had to move here tomorrow... this would be the place for me. As I stood there taking the shot, I committed the name of the cottage to memory... but... well, that's not a very safe place to store things these days. Ha. Was it Dove Cottage? Surely not. That name's already taken. Let's just call it Sue's Place, shall we?
|Wendy and me at the Lavender Tea Rooms|
You know, this trip did not turn out to be the trip of my dreams. I struggled many days, with fatigue, with sadness over my brother's death. I had a couple of melt downs. Maybe it was too soon to travel. Maybe I should have delayed the trip. But that was a tough call to make. Especially when everything happened so close to our departure. The stressful, anxious weeks leading up to my brother's death, Hubby's and my flying trip home for the funeral, my back problems three days before we were due to leave. I was so busy just getting on with things that I never had time to process. To really grieve. But it's pointless to second guess myself, now. It's all water under the bridge. And as a wise woman from York said to me, think of all the wonderful things I've seen that I will store away, and reflect on later. And I'd add to that, the friends (like Rosie and Wendy) who I've been able to meet up with, and get to know in real life. My friend Frances recently wrote a post on her blog about friendship. I've been thinking about it quite a bit as I've been writing this post. How wonderful this weird world of blogging can be when on-line acquaintances cross over to become real life friends.
|The platform at Matlock Bath, where our train never arrived|
Before I end, I just want to say a word or two about the kindness of strangers. In strange places. This is the platform where we stood in Matlock Bath our last morning, waiting for a train that never showed up. Finally seeing the announcement that it had been cancelled, we stood there on the empty platform, at an unmanned station, wondering what to do. When the driver of a bus parked on the other side of the parking lot that was gearing up to leave, jumped off, ran down to where we stood, and explained how he was the driver of the "replacement bus." Huh? We didn't even know there was such a thing as a replacement bus. He just had to drive down into Matlock, he said, but he'd be back to pick us up in no time, and would take us all the way into Derby. Now wasn't that nice? He could have driven off, no doubt wondering why those two ladies just stood on the platform, too stupid to get on the bus. But, instead, he went out of his way to be kind.
I loved that. Made me feel all warm inside.
Now that I've wrapped up my trip, I really must wrap up this post. It's gone on far too long. If any of you are still reading, I'll say good night. Next week, it's back to fashion and books, folks. Enough about travel for now.