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October 14, 2009

Charming Lacock Village

102_1333We gathered after breakfast Monday morning, missing a bunch of ladies who had either left the night before or who were staying on longer in England. Our coach driver loaded up our bags, and those of us heading back to London settled into our seats. All of us flying out that afternoon had enough time to stop through Lacock Village on the way, and we looked forward to seeing the site of favorite costume dramas like “Cranford” and A&E’s “Pride & Prejudice.” The morning was sunny, promising a pretty drive through Wiltshire. After a very short drive, we pulled into the parking area outside the village. Everyone was eager to hop out and see what lay beyond the trees shielding Lacock from view. We took the footpath and soon arrived next to the gate for magnificent Lacock Abbey. After pausing to snap some shots, we wended our way through this wonderful medieval village, enjoying all the cozy cottages and lovely inns and shops. This really is a fabulous location! There’s even a cottage you can rent for vacations–dreamy. [The first seven pictures below come from Lindsay’s camera–thanks, Linds! The rest are my snapshots.]

Lacock Abbey

Lacock Abbey

Looking down the main street, with the Red Lion Inn on the left (Recognize it? Picture Mr. Darcy gazing at in disgust by torchlight--the Meryton Assembly Rooms!)

Looking down the main street, with the Red Lion Inn on the left (Recognize it? Picture Mr. Darcy gazing at in disgust by torchlight--the Meryton Assembly Rooms!)

My husband stands in front of King John's Hunting Lodge, one of the oldest inns in Lacock.

My husband stands in front of King John's Hunting Lodge, one of the oldest inns in Lacock.

Miss Molly poses for a snap in costume, looking right at home!

Miss Molly poses for a snap in costume, looking right at home!

Gazing out across the fields of Wiltshire surrounding the village.

Gazing out across the fields of Wiltshire surrounding the village.

The parish church in Lacock

The parish church in Lacock

An ornate iron fence surrounds a tomb in the churchyard.

An ornate iron fence surrounds a tomb in the churchyard.

Looking down the nave of the church. I loved all the light streaming in from the leaded glass windows.

Looking down the nave of the church. I loved all the light streaming in from the leaded glass windows.

A look up at the timbered ceiling--beautiful!

A look up at the timbered ceiling--beautiful!

Ornate leaded glass windows down the side of the church...

Ornate leaded glass windows down the side of the church...

Windows above with the sun streaming down...

Windows above with the sun streaming down...

And the beautiful stained glass window...

And the beautiful stained glass window...

The lectern up at the front...

The lectern up at the front...

Looking through the front door out toward the graveyard...

Looking through the front door out toward the graveyard...

Side view of the church with my son walking amongst the tombs...

Side view of the church with my son walking amongst the tombs...

One of many beautiful half-timbered cottages.

One of many beautiful half-timbered cottages.

I love this one!

I love this one!

Looking through the gate toward the memorial chapel and graveyard...

Looking through the gate toward the memorial chapel and graveyard...

The town's war memorial for those lost in WWI and WWII. For a village this small, there was a surprisingly high number of losses in WWI.

The town's war memorial for those lost in WWI and WWII. For a village this small, there was a surprisingly high number of losses in WWI.

Looking up the alleyway next to The George Inn towards the woolen shop.

Looking up the alleyway next to The George Inn towards the woolen shop.

The George Inn itself.

The George Inn itself.

And we must showcase the flowers around the doorway!

And we must showcase the flowers around the doorway!

Looking 'round the corner from The George...

Looking 'round the corner from The George...

A charming stone cottage

A charming stone cottage

The Sign of the Angel -- inn and pub.

The Sign of the Angel -- inn and pub.

A closer view of King John's Hunting Lodge

A closer view of King John's Hunting Lodge

The shopkeeper across the street mentioned that a lot of the houses on this street had their upper rooms bumped out over the lower to fit large looms for weaving, which was a staple trade in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The shopkeeper across the street mentioned that a lot of the houses on this street had their upper rooms bumped out over the lower to fit large looms for weaving, which was a staple trade in the 15th and 16th centuries.

After doing some shopping in the National Trust store and enjoying a light lunch in the village, we re-boarded our bus for the drive to Heathrow. It was so hard to believe our time in England had at last come to an end! We gazed out over the countryside to drink in all we could before our flight homeward. We can never say a final “goodbye” to England, as it really feels like home after all our visits. We say “au revoir” instead and hope we’ll see it again soon!

Now, I have a few goodies from the Jane Austen Festival to give away in my final blog post, so prepare yourself for a trivia contest! I’m going to post questions about the things we saw and did while in the UK, and the first four readers to send in correct answers will win the goodies. Stay tuned!

October 12, 2009

Sunday in Bath

chapelSeveral of us headed to Bradford-on-Avon to attend the Old Baptist Chapel there, where we know the pastor’s family and have visited before. It was a beautiful morning. Unfortunately, the train line was down, so we had to hop the bus, which took a while wending its way through the tiny streets of this adorable village. However, we made it on time and enjoyed a lovely service. At the end, a man from the congregation offered to find out when the return bus headed back to Bath, as our driver hadn’t been able to tell us. He came rushing back to say the bus was leaving in five minutes! We said hurried farewells, then dashed back across the street, only to see the bus pulling out. There wouldn’t be another for several hours. A family from the church was kind enough to immediately offer us transportation back to Bath–much faster by car than by bus! We arrived in time to make a couple of stops before our group was scheduled to meet at the Pump Room and Roman Baths.

img_2386Several street performers were in the Abbey yard next to the Pump Room, including a one-man band, two “living statues,” and a gent doing stunts with a unicycle and juggling flaming torches! We watched for a while as we waited for our group to gather. At the last minute, my husband realized he’d left his hat in a vintage clothing shop several blocks away, so I offered to go back for it while everyone else went through the Roman Baths (I got to see them in March). Here you see our group gathered in the upper hall next to the Pump Room, which affords a bird’s-eye view of the Baths. Several opted to take the audio tour, which is fascinating to listen to. Below are Lindsay’s shots from the tour:

Looking down into the main Bath (the water is bubbling and warm).

Looking down into the main Bath (the water is bubbling and warm).

Ana is enjoying herself!

Ana is enjoying herself!

Looking up at the Abbey from inside the Roman Baths

Looking up at the Abbey from inside the Roman Baths

Two of the historical interpreters wanted my mother-in-law, who is a Latin tutor, to teach them some useful Roman phrases to use on the job!

Two of the historical interpreters wanted my mother-in-law, who is a Latin tutor, to teach them some useful Roman phrases to use on the job!

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What a glorious day!

What a glorious day!

Someone managed to snap our photographer in front of the main bath.

Someone managed to snap our photographer in front of the main bath.

Beautiful Miss Cassie...

Beautiful Miss Cassie...

After retrieving the hat, I treated myself to tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves in the elegant Pump Room. Ah, bliss!

After retrieving the hat, I treated myself to tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves in the elegant Pump Room. Ah, bliss!

Lovely Miss Molly joins me at my table to drink in the trio's music.

Lovely Miss Molly joins me at my table to drink in the trio's music.

Master Chancey decides to "take the waters" in the Pump Room. (Hint: the water tastes like sulfur and iron and comes out of the fountain warm. Not my cup of tea, thanks!)

Master Chancey decides to "take the waters" in the Pump Room. (Hint: the water tastes like sulfur and iron and comes out of the fountain warm. Not my cup of tea, thanks!)

We had time after the Baths to stroll around some more and get some last shots of beautiful places:

Looking into the River Avon from above. That's Pultney Bridge on the far left.

Looking into the River Avon from above. That's Pultney Bridge on the far left.

A flower stall on Pultney Bridge. Heavenly!

A flower stall on Pultney Bridge. Heavenly!

Several ladies decided to attend the Baroque Dance demonstration at the Pavilion later that night, and I’ll share photos from that next time!

October 8, 2009

Friday Trip to Bath – Part II

102_1283thAfter our delightful tour of Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, we boarded our coach for the short drive to Winchester, where Jane is buried in the cathedral. The sky still looked fairly ominous, but no rain fell as we pulled into town. At left you see the imposing town hall with its central clock tower and Gothic architecture. The cathedral is directly behind this building, and just a short walk up the street, the bustling shops of Winchester await. Because we were already behind schedule, we asked everyone to grab a quick lunch at meet back at the cathedral by 2:30. It was really hard to just rush through the town center, though! Winchester is charming and really fun to browse. There are antiques shops, bookstores, cute boutiques, and all kinds of goodies. But we tried to hustle. My son and I grabbed a quick sandwich at a coffee shop and  began our walk toward the cathedral, meeting up with my husband and mother-in-law on the way. I couldn’t resist popping into one more shop before heading to the church, so they went on without me to wait for the rest of our group. We finally had everyone together around 2:40 and entered the cathedral.

Winchester Cathedral towers above us.

Winchester Cathedral towers above us.

Looking down the side of the cathedral toward the tower.

Looking down the side of the cathedral toward the tower.

A head-on view of the cathedral with its massive stained glass window.

A head-on view of the cathedral with its massive stained glass window.

The stained glass window seen from the inside.

The stained glass window seen from the inside.

From the nave, looking down toward the altar.

From the nave, looking down toward the altar.

Karen and Lily take a closer look into one of the side chambers.

Karen and Lily take a closer look into one of the side chambers.

Looking up at some very early frescoes adorning the ceiling of one of the side chambers.

Looking up at some very early frescoes adorning the ceiling of one of the side chambers.

And a close-up...

And a close-up...

And we find Jane's grave beneath her memorial window...

And we find Jane's grave beneath her memorial window...

Here’s the text of Jane’s Grave in case you can’t read the photo:

In memory of
JANE AUSTEN,
youngest daughter of the late
Revd. GEORGE AUSTEN,
formerly Rector of Steventon in this County.
She departed this Life on the 18th July 1817,
aged 41, after a long illness supported with
the patience and the hopes of a Christian.

The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temper, and
the extraordinary endowments of her mind
obtained the regard of all who knew her, and
the warmest love of her intimate connections.

Their grief is in proportion to their affection
they know their loss to be irreparable,
but in the deepest affliction they are consoled
by a firm though humble hope that her charity,
devotion, faith and purity have rendered
her soul acceptable in the sight of her
REDEEMER.

Plaque beneath the memorial window...

Plaque beneath the memorial window...

102_1281We spent quite a bit of time in the cathedral, as it has a lot to see. I only wished the choir had been singing during our time there so everyone could enjoy the amazing acoustics in this place. They are incredible. The cathedral is well worth seeing if you are a history buff. King Alfred the Great (he of the English Common Law) ordered the building of the original Winchester Cathedral (the foundations of which you can see right next to this cathedral). He is buried a short distance away in another spot. My son got the children’s map guide to do a scavenger hunt around the whole cathedral, finding out-of-the-way things you wouldn’t notice unless someone pointed them out. We finally tore ourselves away to re-board our coach and get underway for Bath. I snapped the pictures below of the Abbey Gardens, which are so lovely.

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Final view of the town hall...

Final view of the town hall...

We drove off toward Somerset, passing Stonehenge on the way. Unfortunately, they now charge you ten pounds just to stop and park, so we didn’t stop. Everyone with cameras pulled them out and took flying snaps as we passed by!

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My husband tests our group with Jane Austen film trivia questions as we make our way to Bath. It was a close contest!

My husband tests our group with Jane Austen trivia questions as we make our way to Bath. It was a close contest!

img_2154At last we pulled into Bath, two hours behind schedule but glad to have made it. We were already late for our supper reservations, so we just dumped our bags at our beautiful B&B before jumping into taxis to head for Tilley’s Bistro and Sally Lunn’s. The proprietors at Tilley’s were kind enough to give us our special “early dinner” rate, even though we were five minutes past the cut-off time. At left you see half our group “below stairs” at Tilley’s. One of our group decided to go to the pre-festival gathering at the Jane Austen Centre, while the rest opted to eat at the wonderful Sally Lunn’s next door to Tilley’s:

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We all enjoyed a leisurely (and delicious) dinner before heading back to Brooks Guest House for the night. We had much to anticipate, as the Grand Costumed Promenade would kick off the Jane Austen Festival on the morrow! Next time I’ll share photos from our Saturday in Bath!

Bath Abbey, its splendor gloriously lit up at night.

Bath Abbey, its splendor gloriously lit up at night.

September 17, 2009

What I love about "hidden" London…

Lindsay is still formatting photos for me (bless her!), so I’m going to share some snaps I took today in the High Street Kensington area. I absolutely love to get off the main thoroughfares and just “poke” around to see what I can find. There’s a tiny alleyway called Kensington Church Walk that you’d miss if you sneezed, but it is well worth finding. It’s right off the main High Street and meanders back in such a way that all the busy hustle and bustle of the busy street is completely hushed. Around the first corner you find this beautiful church:

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There is a beautiful gated garden all around this church with a quiet, shaded courtyard filled with roses. I didn’t manage to snap that, as there was a police van temporarily parked in front of the gate–rats. So I wended my way around the church and up a tiny alley filled with shops. At the end was this adorable house, the upper balcony just packed with flowers:

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I turned to the left and followed the street down to the next alleyway, where I discovered a hidden garden (public access, but you’d never know it was there unless you stumbled upon it like I did!):

This spot was so quiet you'd never believe you were in the middle of a metropolis.

This spot was so quiet you'd never believe you were in the middle of a metropolis.

I finally turned down a “Mews” (which is where stables of horses and carriages were kept in prior centuries):

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It really was a delightful way to eat up an hour’s time before lunch today. I had hoped to stumble into an antique bookstore that used to be here, but I never found it. I lunched on caprese salad and mushroom soup instead, then headed back to our hotel. Lovely!

September 14, 2009

Sunday's Refreshment

mettabWe had a very leisurely Sunday, enjoying a late-ish breakfast before 18 of us attended the 11 o’clock service at the Metropolitan Tabernacle (home to the famous 19th-century “prince of preachers,” Charles Spurgeon). We were able to meet our dear friends who live in Dulwich and meet others we’d hoped to say “hello” to while in London, which was lovely. We had a light lunch, then I took a nap before we met up with several other ladies to go to the Royal Academy of Arts, which had a special exhibit of Pre-Raphaelite artist William Waterhouse’s paintings on display only through Sunday. Unfortunately, we arrived to find a two-hour line to wait for tickets!  We debated the merits of having one person stand in line to wait for tickets but finally decided we just wouldn’t have time enough to tour the exhibit.

The windows are painted F&M's signature robin's egg blue, which is also used for their boxes and bags and exclusive items.

The windows are painted F&M's signature robin's egg blue, which is also used for their boxes and bags and exclusive items.

We thought about heading back uphill towards the National Portrait Gallery, but the call of Fortnum & Mason just across the street lured us in for tea time and delighted browsing. If you’ve never heard of the famous F&M, then you are really missing one of London’s high points. This is the most elegant, refined department store around, complete with richly detailed wood paneling, crystal chandeliers, mirrored elevators, and seven theme restaurants. Not to be missed!

This is the confectionary hall, which is wall-to-wall sweets, teas, and coffees!

This is the confectionary hall, which is wall-to-wall sweets, teas, and coffees!

We made our way upstairs to The Parlor, which serves ice cream, coffee, and afternoon tea. Here is a selection of tempting photographs to show you what various members of our group enjoyed!

Two scones, clotted cream, strawberry preserves, and Darjeeling - yummy!

Two scones, clotted cream, strawberry preserves, and Darjeeling - yummy!

Three scoops of sorbet in a cut-glass bowl with a biscuit on top!

Three scoops of sorbet in a cut-glass bowl with a biscuit on top!

Mochacinno with whipped cream and toffee sauce with a miniature ice cream cone on the side. Decadence!

Mochacinno with whipped cream and toffee sauce with a miniature ice cream cone on the side. Decadence!

Enjoying good conversation at our table...

Enjoying good conversation at our table...

And someone captures our photographer for the memory book...

And someone captures our photographer for the memory book...

toepartyAfter a wonderfully refreshing time of conversation and good teatime food, we all browsed through the bookstore on the third floor (picking up more than a few wonderful books and stationery items!). Then we headed up to Piccadilly Circus to catch our tube back to the hotel. After a light supper, a bunch of us gals capped off the evening with a pedicure party–too much fun! Here you see Courtney giving me glamorous, glittery toenails (I call them my “Ruby Slipper” toenails!). We talked about what costumes we plan to wear Wednesday for our day in Greenwich, and several ladies shows theirs off. It was a great ending to a super day. Next time I’ll tell you about our Monday with Suzi at the V&A!

September 18, 2006

Beautiful Sunday…

I’m typing as we drive northward to Derbyshire. It has been a wonderful day thus far, but I want to recap Sunday before I cover today’s delights!

We breakfasted at Leighton House Sunday morning, then drove to Bradford on Avon for church. The scenery there was beautiful, as you can see. Everything in this part of the country is particularly green and lush from the regular rainfall. The drive to church was so nice, and Matt’s GPS was working again (it started working once we got out of the area immediately surrounding London, oddly enough!). The only difficulty was that the GPS didn’t have a street number for the church, so we ended up driving right past it (and none of us saw it). We turned around and found the railway station, which has a car park. After parking, we walked up the hill into Bradford proper, and the church was directly in front of us! Here’s a picture I took afterwards when we left Bradford:

The Old Baptist Chapel started in the 1600s with a group of dissenters who broke from the Anglican church. They had to meet in the woods near the river Avon at first, since their activities were considered illegal. For a time, they did not even sing hymns fo fear of being caught and persecuted. The little church building itself was put up in the 1700s and remodeled in the 18th century. It is very simple–much like an American colonial church with elevated pulpit. The minister was out this week, as was his son (who is co-minister), so a guest preacher was in from another county. We thoroughly enjoyed his sermon, which exhorted us to remember the charge given to the Israelites in Joshua 22:5 (“But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul”). The minister encouraged us to keep five steps of the Christian walk in mind: love, walk, obey, hold fast, and serve. It was a wonderful sermon, and we felt at home in the congregation.

Immediately after the service, the minister’s daughter introduced herself to us and invited us to lunch. We were delighted to accept and walked up the hill from the church to a tiny alleyway next to St. Margaret’s Place. I wish I had photographed the beautiful enclosed garden opposite the house. It was a small paradise full of flowers, butterflies, and birds. The house itself was, as our hostess told us, “older than your Constitution!” Built in the 17th century, it featured foot-thick walls and exposed beams. The low ceilings gave everything such a cozy feel. Back in the 1600s, only the Royal Navy was allowed to use fresh-cut oak. All new timber was needed to outfit ships, so houses were built of lumber from dismantled ships! The beams in the house came from ships that had sailed all over (possibly even to America and back). It was fun to speculate about where the house had “traveled” before it was built!

Our lunch consisted of a savory cottage pie (what we Americans mistakenly call “shepherd’s pie”–but that is made from mutton rather than beef in England), vegetables, and a marvelous fruit and rice pudding made from raspberries, black currants, and apples all from the garden next to the house. Naomi apologized for serving us what they call “poor food,” but we thought it rich, indeed! I’ve requested the recipes and hope to reproduce these dishes at home. I know the children will love them! But better than the food was the warm fellowship we enjoyed with our lovely hostess. It never ceases to amaze me how you can find a kindred spirit all the way across the globe within the Body of Christ! We shared so many things in common, and our conversation flowed as naturally as if we’d known each other for years. What a precious gift! Two hours flew by as we relaxed and talked and laughed at the babies’ antics.

Matt thoroughly enjoyed Naomi’s father’s study, which contained many rare books and even several volumes we have in our library. Best of all were two rare Bibles–one a Geneva Bible from 1608 and one a Tyndale Bible from 1569. The first book is rare enough, but the second is like finding gold. The minister actually found it in a cow shed, bound between two boards! Matt was thrilled to be able to hold these in his hands–testaments to the faithfulness of Christians to keep God’s Word in spite of persecution and even death. We truly take so much for granted. It was sobering to hear that many ministers in Great Britain are now in jail for preaching the gospel. We saw two articles at the church that showed how far Britain has strayed from its Christian civilization. “Tolerance” is lauded all over the place, yet they jail men for preaching God’s word! Sobering. But we didn’t dwell entirely on such things. There is much going on that is exciting and encouraging in Britain, and being with Naomi was a great breath of fresh air.

As the clock chimed out 2:30, we gathered our things and walked back down the hill to our car and headed back to Bath. It looked like it would rain, but the weather really does shift moment by moment, so we weren’t concerned about it. Late in the afternoon, we headed to the Pump Room for a Pride and Prejudice Tea, put on in honor of the Jane Austen Festival. We walked up the street to the Pump Room in full Regency Dress–even Matt in his tailcoat! Crowds of people filled the street, and we got a lot of laughs and funny comments from passersby. One pointed to our modern stroller and said, “Mixing up the eras a bit, aren’t we?” Matt replied, “It’s the latest thing in Bath!” The Pump Room is every bit as thrilling as you’d imagine (well, if you’re a Janeite like some of us!). It looks much as it did in Jane’s day with the exception of the tables and chairs, which are cleared away on some occasions. There is a gent who mans the fountain and hands out the “healthful waters” of Bath to those brave enough to try them. He lives in period dress five days a week and really acts his part. You can tell he loves his job! He gave me a glass of the warm water, which tastes like sulphur mixed with metal and a dash of salt! Not at all pleasant, but certainly worth a try if you want the full experience! Here he is in his glory, manning his station:

And here is the pump itself:

You can look down from the Pump Room windows directly into the Roman baths. The water level has been changed in recent years when the floor o
f the baths began to give way. You can see the original water line, which is a rusty red all the way around the baths.

We thoroughly enjoyed the tea and found another table of ladies in Regency dress in attendance as well. They were in Bath for the festival and planned to dress up every day for various events. One lady told me they sew all year for this festival and create new gowns for every occasion! I also had the privilege of meeting one of my long-time customers from Germany, who was in Bath with her mother. She hadn’t dressed up for the tea but said she planned to make more outfits next year and dress for everything. It’s so much more fun to go when you are dressed for the era! Speaking of which, here we are at our tea table, enjoying delicious scones with clotted cream and jam:

When we first arrived, Patrick promptly fell asleep, but Tucker was a bit fussy–so Matt gave him his first taste of sugar!

As you can see, Tucker really enjoyed his sweet treat!

Here I am with Tucker just after finishing tea:

And here is Patrick, finally awake and happy, with Miss Melissa:

At the end of our tea, we strolled out into the side street, which is home to the great Bath Abbey. The carvings on the exterior are amazing and include Jacob’s Ladder with angels ascending and descending–each one unique. We didn’t get to go inside the Abbey, which was closed to visitors in the afternoon. This cathedral is fairly new–only 500 years old. ;-) The square in front of the Abbey is beautiful and includes the side entrance to the pump room and lots of hanging flowers:

And here I am with Melissa in front of the main Pump Room entrance:

We strolled around the sunlit streets of Bath for a time, enjoying all the lovely sights of a tranquil Sunday afternoon. I have to say, when you first arrive in Bath, you feel quite a bit like Catherine Moreland from Northanger Abbey. Everything is big and bright and wondrous. The whole town sets you agog with its golden glow. Each new street or alleyway holds an adventure, with quaint shops like this one in abundance:

What is even more amazing is that I discovered our inn is on the very hill mentioned by Jane Austen in the book as the one Henry Tilney walks upon with Catherine to show her the view of Bath! So our view is the exact one Jane meant when she described Bath in the book. Now the hill is filled with houses built in the late 1800s, but back then, it was all wide open. Here are some pictures of Leighton House and its wonderful garden:

We enjoyed our stay at the inn very much with its close proximity to the city center and its marvelous view. If you’re ever in Bath, I’d highly recommend a stay there! Breakfast is top-notch, too! Tomorrow (if I have time!), I’ll fill you in on the rest of our time in Bath. We left around 2pm after visiting the Jane Austen Centre (fantastic!), the Assembly Rooms (exquisite!), and the Museum of Costume (WOW!). We took so many pictures we filled the camera’s memory card and had to download to continue! I think the only way to share all the costume photos will be to upload them to PhotoBucket and share the link. Lots and lots of yummy gowns! Same with the JA Centre, which has its own collection of original and reproduction outfits. First rate!

But for now, I must turn in. We are in Bakewell, Derbyshire, right in the heart of the Peak National Park. Tomorrow we see the peaks and Chatsworth!