Austen Getaway

22:09 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

While a new baby means I'm not getting as much sleep as I'm accustomed too, it means I get a lot more time to catch up on television and movies during all those late night, early morning, midday, afternoon and evening feedings.

In the first month, I'd watched all of How I Met Your Mother, Call the Midwife, and several movies including Pride and Prejudice (old and new).  It was then I realised it had been almost exactly a year since I had struck out like Elizabeth Bennet in the Peak District of England and I had yet to write about it. Call it baby brain, call it pregnancy fatigue, but either way, I've fallen seriously behind on the blog in the last year!

On to the Peak District though. I've always been an Austen fan, even in high school. I remember curling up on the tiny sofa at my friends house (3 of us on what was surely meant to fit no more than 2 people) and watching the best Pride and Prejudice, the BBC version of course. In those days it was VHS, so we had to get up every hour to pop in each of the five tapes. If we were short on time, we'd skip ahead to the 4th and 5th tapes since that's the best part anyways.

When a friend came to England to visit who is also a Pride and Prejudice fan, we decided to head north to see some of the stately homes for ourselves.

While a car is definitely helpful in the area, we decided to take the train first to Sheffield rather than fight London traffic getting out of town on a Friday afternoon. We stayed in the city and really only had time to hit up the pub, where we couldn't decide if we were insulted or flattered that they didn't consider us to look 18, so had to be IDed.  We were happy to get out the next day and start off in the country.

Our first stop was Chatsworth House, but we had a little drive to get there.  In the films, you see the beautiful, green rolling countryside and it didn't disappoint during our visit.  Whether it was sheep grazing on a hillside, beautiful rock walls along the lanes or oceans of grass, green from the rain, there was something beautiful everywhere we looked.  The lanes were a bit narrow though, so bravo to my friend for navigating the unfamiliar terrain on the other side of the road! She was such a trooper for driving the whole trip.

Chatsworth House dates back to the 16th century (although there was a manor house before that) with the Cavendish family who still reside in the house today as it has been passed down through the generations. It is odd to think of these as family residences, the objects as someone's prviate art collection, rather than the museum associated with historic homes.  The collections inside held everything from rocks, to plates, to the usual sculpture and paintings.

While the insides were lovely, we were excited to check out the gardens, especially since it was a lovely sunny day.  We successfully navigated the maze, past water features and then around to the back for a look down the long lawn at the familiar facade.

Except on this occasion, the facade wasn't so familiar. Chatsworth House is familiar as Pemberley from the BBC Pride & Prejudice, and you probably recall the fountain out on the lawn as you get a beautiful look at the facade.  Except during our visit, there was a temporary contemporary art feature on with rocks and teeny tiny little snakes, rabbits, birds and other creatures spread out amongst the area.  Slightly disappointed, we still circled around looking for the scandolous sculptures of men and women hidden among the rocks.

The next day, we headed further further west just to the outskirts of the Peak District to visit Lyme Park. This is a hunting estate also dating back to the 16th century, owned by the Legh family until it was donated to the National Trust in the 1940's. Can you imagine growing up in a place like one of these?

After seeing Pemberly, we figured this was a perfect way to round out the trip as the setting of the oh so imfamous lake scene from the BBC Pride and Prejudice (so famous in fact they erected a 12 foot statue in the Serpentine in Hyde Park for a short display). The grounds were beautiful and on a sunny day full of everyone with their dogs on walking holidays. We walked around the house, but decided not to trek out to the lake itself, which was a bit further set out from the house.

Then, like most weekend trips, it was over too soon and we were back to London, and like most of 2014, I was heading off somewhere else the next day.  The Peak District has plenty more to offer though, so it may require hauling Paul, Belle and the mini Tart back out there for a visit!

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