My incredible, gallant husband surprised me in June on our tenth anniversary by announcing he‘d be taking me to England this year! The last time I went I was sixteen and spent most of my time in Uppingham, a little village in central England. It was charming, and I did get to visit some castles and such, but I’ve always wanted to go back and see “Jane Austen’s England.” I can hardly believe we are really going! We’ll have the twins with us, so my dear friend Melissa is coming to help with the babies and enjoy all the glories of the English countryside. We are both Jane Austen fanatics, so this is going to be a double treat! We’ve even been sewing new Regency gowns to wear while we’re traipsing about.
Our plans include visiting the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, having a picnic in St. James’s park with pen-pals, seeing Kensington Palace, and taking tea at Harrod’s with an English costumier. We’ll then travel into Hampshire to visit Jane Austen’s house at Chawton, which now contains the JA Museum. From there, it is a short dash to Winchester Cathedral, where Jane is buried. We plan to take some leisurely walks about the countryside if the weather is fine.
From there, we’ll head to Bath for the annual Jane Austen Festival. We’ll be able to see the places Jane visited when she lived in Bath, including the famous Crescent and all the delights of the Pump Room and the Assembly Rooms, which now house the celebrated Costume Museum of Bath! The annual Festival includes a costumed promenade, which we will, unfortunately, miss. However, we’ll be able to do a walking tour of Bath with fellow Janeites, experience a real Georgian tea at the Pump Room, see the places mentioned in novels like Persuasion, and attend a harp concert.
Finally, we’ll head to Derbyshire to spend a couple of refreshing days visiting the Peaks and the great Chatsworth estate, which Jane visited herself. I am looking forward to seeing the amazing vistas, which have also been used in many Jane Austen film adaptations. Haddon Hall is close by, and if we have time to stop there, we will. This is the estate that has been used as Thornfield Hall in several “Jane Eyre” films, including the new one in production by BBC1. There’s so much to do in Derbyshire that we may overextend ourselves, but I’ll try to keep my enthusiasm reined in.
On our way back down to London, we’ll stop in at Chipping-Campden to visit Miss Melissa’s English cousins and see the pub once owned by her great-great-grandfather. It’s always neat to trace genealogy while you’re on a pleasure tour. I hope to track down some of my ancestors while we are in Winchester, which is where the Ethells came from when they migrated to the Colonies in 1746. Before that, they were Scottish (Athol), but I know for sure they were in Winchester prior to leaving for Virginia. I would be so excited to find record of them while there, but, again, I mustn’t let my ambitions outrun our ability to keep up with them on a week-long trip!
We so look forward to this incredible journey, and I hope to share lots of photos and fun insights as we travel!