Tag Archives: 2010
September 24, 2010

Last Day in London…

This has been a week to be remembered! I am especially pleased that my mother got to come along on this year’s tour. She hadn’t been back to England since 1994, and we were able to visit dear friends on Tuesday. First we had a nice visit with my friend Sarah in Dulwich:

Sarah and I have corresponded for years and love to meet up whenever we can…

My girls loved playing with new friends as “Grammie” looked on…

We even cajoled Jenny into coming along for the visit. Here she entertains my littlest one…

After returning to our hotel, we met up Tuesday evening with my late father’s British co-author and his wife, whom I haven’t seen since I was 16 years old! It was a wonderful reunion. So our visit drew to a close at last. Wednesday morning I tied up loose ends by running a few errands nearby. This area of London feels like a second home to me now. The streets are so familiar, and it’s fun to know what is around each corner. It’s like visiting an old and well-loved neighborhood from childhood and finding it just as inviting as ever. I do love Kensington!

Six of us shared a taxi to Heathrow Wednesday morning (which is a real deal if you have a group of people traveling together–cheaper than using the express from Paddington). Because of Mom’s knee surgeries, she got the royal treatment from Heathrow staff, riding in her own “chariot” and enjoying the use of the comfortable Special Assistance Lounge while we waited for our gate to open:

Mom entertains the baby as we wait for our flight…

Heathrow’s refurbished Terminal 4 is like a palatial mall filled with shops, restaurants, and bookish corners. Our wait went by so swiftly, and we were boarding before we knew it. The flight back to the US was uneventful, and we’re glad to be back home and recovering from jet-lag. I came home to find six emails from people wanting to go on a future tour, and several of this year’s participants already say they’d like to go again. We’ll just have to wait and see how things work out! I’ll be sure to post here if we plan another jaunt across the Pond.

Thanks so much for following this year’s trip and leaving fun comments. It has been lovely to share this journey with you!

September 23, 2010

Monday in London

We were once again greeted by the sun as we rose to meet the day. Truly, the weather this trip was nothing short of spectacular. The temperature was neither too warm nor too chilly, and we had a lovely breeze all day. After a yummy breakfast at our hotel, we headed to the Gloucester Road underground station for our journey to St. Paul’s and walk to the Museum of London. Just as the tube was pulling into Holborne station where we’d change lines for St. Paul’s, the loudspeaker announced that Holborne had just been closed! So I did some rapid rethinking and decided we’d switch to another line at the next stop to disembark at Barbican. It would be an equal distance to the museum from that point, but we’d be a tad bit later due to the longer tube ride. Ah, the joys of the London Underground! We did manage to arrive just a few minutes past ten a.m. to find Suzi awaiting us in the museum’s main hall with curator Hilary Davidson on her way upstairs. Dividing our group in half, we sent a bunch downstairs with Hilary while the rest of us toured the new ground-floor exhibit hall. It is absolutely incredible–better, I think, than the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History (the MoL’s displays are far more child-friendly and so nicely laid out). Here’s my photo tour:

18th-century court dress on display. A screen next to it showed a video of a woman wearing all the proper underpinnings of the era and moving gracefully about to demonstrate "courtly" movement. It was lovely!

Close-up of the court dress bodice--stunning!

18th- and 19th-century shoes on display in a floor case. There were several floor cases in the exhibit, many showing things that have been dug up during excavations around London.

Close-up of another floor case--this one filled with China that has been dug up at various London sites.

Another gorgeous 18th-century dress on display...

And a close-up of the bodice and sleeves...

18th-century officer's "red coat" uniform. The embroidery work was so intricate.

Off the gallery’s opening display is a room dedicated to fashion. It is a recreation of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, a famous place where social climbers and royally connected people once mingled and showed off their taste. The historical clothing is behind glass and rather difficult to photograph due to the low lighting designed to protect the garments. The lighting does cycle up to brighter several times a day, but, unfortunately, we were shoo’ed out to make way for a school group before we got the good lighting. You’ll just have to put up with my attempt at low-light photography here! Later in the morning I saw some photographs in the costume workroom that showed how this exhibit was designed. Live people were put into costume (reproduction–not the real thing) and “blocked” just as though they were in a stage play. After trying out several arrangements of people, the final display model was photographed from several angles so those setting up the final exhibit would know where to place mannequins. It was really fascinating to see how this was done.

1780s gown in the display...

Close-up of the gown...

Amazing embroidered man's suit...

Outside the glass cases were several reproduction outfits for up-close inspection. This girl's dress could easily be reproduced with my new 1780s Girls' Portrait Dress pattern!

Original boy's "skeleton" suit.

1780s gown with unique inverted "V" front lacing.

And a close-up...

1780s court dress with unbelievable amounts of trim...

Lovely 1780s gown with sash. My new womens' pattern (coming soon!) will easily reproduce this one...

Close-up of the gown...

Sorry this is so blurry; the lighting was just so low. Gorgeous 1770s gown with long elbow ruffles...

Here's another angle. The underskirt was so ornate with ruffles and embroidery (white on white).

A reproduction costume with an amusing display angle!

And a close-up...

This reproduction is really a fantasy dress when it comes to the fabric, but it was a lot of fun to study up close. The antlered head-dress is one of many outlandish hats designed for this exhibit by the famous milliner, Philip Treacy...

After leaving this exhibit, we went back to the rest of the displays to finish out the hour before our meeting with Hilary. The MoL is extremely child-friendly with hands-on things to do around every corner. My girls had a wonderful time opening secret doors, pressing buttons to turn on lights, trying on hats, and playing with train sets. Well done, MoL!

Peeping into doors and windows in the Georgian London exhibit.

Looking into the London Underground model...

Yet another children's area filled with antique toys and surprises...

An 18th-century bodice on display in another case. Gorgeous fabric!

One entire section of the new gallery is devoted to Victorian storefronts. Here you see my older girls gazing into a London toy shop. They only wished it was open for business!

My 2009 group saw this same lavender dress down in the costume storeroom last year when it was being restored for this display...

A beautiful antique automobile on display in the early 20th-century section...

A selection of Victorian, Edwardian, and 1920s garments on display...

A detail shot of the center dress from that case. The embroidery on the skirt was simply stunning.

A darling 1940s girl's dress on display...

There are several interactive displays like this one in the new gallery. If you touch areas of the table, they come to life with illustrations and descriptions. This table was a map of things near the Thames. My girls loved it!

A lit-up model of St. Paul's on the table...

And the famous London Eye...

We made it through the new gallery in time to enjoy a short refreshment break in the cafe’. Then we traded places with the other half of our group, heading into the treasure room that is the MoL costume storehouse with Hilary. As before, I am not allowed to share any photographs of what we saw, but I can tell you everything was drool-worthy. We enjoyed seeing an unusual 1730s corset, a pair of Queen Victoria’s ball slippers, three 1820s bonnets, a lovely 19-teens evening gown, an 1890s evening gown bodice, and an absolutely breathtaking 1880s evening gown that looked brand new, it was so well-preserved. There were lots of “oohs” and “ahhhs!” as Hilary removed the protective coverings and held things up for our admiration.

After finishing our visit at the MoL, we walked a short distance to the nearby El Vino Alban Gate restaurant for lunch. Joining us was Cathy Hay of Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, who had brought several vintage pieces for hands-on study. We passed opera cloaks and an 1850s dress around the table while waiting for our meals. El Vino did a fantastic job with our food, which was oh-so-delicious and provided in a timely manner (no small feat for a group this large!). Hilary joined us, so we all got in a delightful visit, sharing costume stories and swapping history. It was wonderful fun. Cathy didn’t bring anything for dress-up this time, as we didn’t have room enough for trying anything on. Maybe next time…!

Cathy shows off one of her beautiful opera cloaks...

After lunch, our group divided up once again, some ladies going with Suzi to the Museum of Childhood to meet with Noreen, the curator of the costume collection there. The rest of us had tickets for the special Grace Kelly exhibit at the V&A, so we said good-bye to Suzi and dashed back to the tube at St. Paul’s, glad to find that Holborne station was open once again so we could take a shorter trip to the museum. The Grace Kelly exhibit contained several of her film costumes but focused mainly on her life as Princess of Monaco. I was disappointed that the Philadelphia Museum of Art had not loaned Grace Kelly’s wedding gown to the exhibit, as I’ve always wanted to see it. I also wished there had been a wider representation of her film costumes, but it was still delightful to see what was on display:

An outfit from "To Catch a Thief"

Another beautiful film dress...

I believe this dress is from Grace Kelly's trousseau, but I'll have to double-check my book to be sure...

Low lighting made it very difficult to photograph much in this exhibit–especially the hats and accessories. It was also crowded to the gills with visitors, so I didn’t get a whole lot of good pictures. Oh, well! After finishing up at the V&A, I took my daughters back to the hotel to await the rest of the group. They began to trickle in around 5:30, most of them ready for an evening’s performance of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at Shakespeare’s Globe. Because my mother had never seen the Globe or attended a performance, I got a ticket for her this year. I was sorry to miss out on the performance, which is a yearly highlight, but I am tickled pink Mom got to go. Christopher Benjamin (who played Sir William Lucas in the A&E “Pride & Prejudice”) performed as Falstaff to great critical acclaim. With everyone off to the Globe or out to eat, I took my girls on a little jaunt to Fortnum & Mason, where I knew they’d be astonished at the beauty of the displays (chandeliers in a grocery store?!). We’d hoped to grab supper at the delightful Parlour, but they’d closed up early that night. Instead, we walked down Piccadilly, looking for an interesting place to stop. My middle daughter stopped me suddenly with a “Mommy, look!” so I turned to see what she was pointing at. Next to us was an adorable restaurant called “Cilantro,” just begging us to come in and take a seat:

Colorful and comfy--my kind of eatery!

As we walked through the door, we were immediately greeted by someone at the counter. I asked if they were closing up (it was already 7:30), but he said they didn’t close until 8pm and invited us to come and take a seat. A huge selection of sandwiches and drinks awaited us behind the counter, but the waiter urged us to get comfortable so he could show us menus and take care of us. We were waited upon with such friendly service that we felt right at home and knew this was going to be a real treat. My girls ordered spaghetti bolognese, while I got a chicken and tomato panini.

Mmmmm!

Baby Girl is obviously enjoying her supper!

The whole atmosphere of Cilantro is cheerful and restful with lots of books around that customers are free to browse while they wait. We dove into our food, which was delicious and inexpensive (another plus!). After finishing up, an obliging waiter told us about the dessert selections, leaving our mouths watering in anticipation.

Can she eat the entire fudge cake alone? Oh, yes, she can!

A splendid hazelnut chocolate mini-cake for me. Heavenly!

Looking back toward the front of the cafe' with its cases full of tempting food.

It is always a delight to find a new favorite place in London. I thanked my daughter for pointing this one out. If you’re anywhere near 193 Piccadilly, be sure to stop by. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The food is fantastic, the prices are right, and the staff is incomparable. We left satisfied and happy with our special evening out. After returning to our hotel, I put the girls to bed and waited up for the group from the Globe. They came back bubbling over with excitement at the evening’s performance, leaving me quite envious. It is something not to be missed if you ever have the chance.

And so the 2010 England Tour officially ended. We couldn’t believe how quickly our week had gone by. I said good-byes to several ladies Monday night, as they had early flights. We departed friends, and I know we’ll all stay in touch. I’ll finish up later with one last post to tie everything together. So many good memories!

September 23, 2010

Sunday Night’s London “Dash!”

We drove from Lacock Village straight to our hotel in Kensington, encountering a bit of traffic on the last few miles into the city. That put us at Gloucester Street around ten ’til 6pm. We quickly unloaded the coach and bade farewell to our excellent driver, who had spoiled us all week with his expert driving and amazing ability to get our entire group into tiny places. We knew we were going to miss him! We also said a short good-bye to Suzi, who headed home for the evening. She would rejoin us the next morning at the Museum of London.

Westminster in the twilight--my favorite hour in London!

I had promised to do an evening “dash” around my favorite places in London with any ladies willing to get their walking shoes out and keep up the pace. So after checking in and stowing our bags, a group of us headed out of the hotel for the Gloucester Road tube station to commence our little expedition. Our first stop was the St. James’s Park underground station. We hopped out and walked the short distance down to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, stopping just long enough to take a few pictures. You will have to forgive mine here — they are definitely “impressionist” views of evening London, as I am no expert with this new-fangled camera and all its settings…nor do I have the ability to hold my breath through long shutter exposures! ;-) As you can see, the sun had set, and the amazing blue of the evening sky made a breathtaking backdrop for the cathedral.

A closer view of Westminster....

Another view around the side of Westminster Abbey...

The clock tower across the way -- home to the "Big Ben" bell...

The tallest tower above the Houses of Parliament...

We continued down past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I missed my first turn back up toward St. James’s Park and took us on a two-block “detour” (oops!), but we enjoyed navigating through some pretty and quiet side streets before once again hitting St. James’s Park and turning north towards Buckingham Palace. At this point, Jenny, Nancy, and Stephanie had to bid us adieu and rush back down to Westminster Bridge to cross over to the London Eye, as they had tickets for a ride at 8:30pm. The rest of us forged onwards, skipping walking through the darkening park and instead skirting ’round it to reach the palace.

Buckingham Palace by night with the Victoria Memorial all lit up in front...

Just to prove they'd been there! Five of my seven ladies pose in front of the palace...

We now turned our steps eastwards, walking down the Mall along the perimeter of St. James’s Park, passing the Horse Guards, then going through Marble Arch to reach Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately, I never managed to get a clear photo of the famous Nelson Memorial in the dark! We walked across the street to grab a bite to eat at Pret a’ Manger before continuing towards Charing Cross Station. After passing the station, we turned right to head back downhill towards Embankment. There we turned northeast to follow the Thames around to St. Paul’s. With the dome in sight, dear Karen decided her feet had had enough and asked directions back to our hotel. I pointed back to Westminster and explained how to grab the tube at Westminster station for Gloucester Road. So now we were whittled down to six ladies and yours truly. The walk along the Thames to St. Paul’s is a long one, but it affords a marvelous view of the London skyline, the Eye, the Tate Modern, and Shakespeare’s Globe.

The skyline along the Thames with the London Eye...

So we kept putting one foot in front of the other, headed towards the goal of the beautiful domed cathedral in the distance. It was a fun walk as we chatted and shared tid-bits about London’s history. We ended at the foot of the Millennium Bridge, where we climbed up the stairs to finish the walk uphill to St. Paul’s:

Part of my group walking up towards St. Paul's...

The front of St. Paul's all lit up at night...

The majestic front of St. Paul's with the statue of Queen Anne looking over the city...

We walked around the front of the church to head back toward the St. Paul’s underground station, stopping for a moment to snap some pictures of Temple Bar, one of the older entrance gates into the city of London. It was dismantled in the 19th century and sold when it became impractical for modern vehicular traffic. It ended up languishing in a forgotten garden before the City of London purchased it back and erected on this spot in 2004:

Temple Bar at the entrance to Paternoster Square...

After boarding the tube at St. Paul’s station, we disembarked once again at Piccadilly Circus. I wanted the ladies to be able to say they had seen it at night. To me, it’s more of a very scaled-down Times Square and meant for tourists, but it’s still fun to see. We then boarded the tube for our home station at Gloucester Street, where I snapped the final photo of the night:

Time to rest our feet!

It was such a fun “dash” — nearly two hours of walking a good part of London in good company. Let’s do it again sometime! I promised the ladies I’d create a map to show all the ground we covered, so here it is:

The solid blue lines represent our walking path; the dashed lines show where we traveled underground on the tube.

Next time I’ll talk about our last day together in London on Monday. So hard to believe how quickly the week flew by!

September 20, 2010

Let’s all move to Lacock!

Passing briefly through Lacock Village at the end of last year’s tour only whetted my appetite. I knew immediately that I’d love to stay there or in the vicinity, and I figured my tour guests would enjoy seeing “Meryton” and “Cranford” as much as I did. So after packing up and checking out Sunday, we met the rest of our group in Lacock at their B&B, loaded all the suitcases on the coach, then gave ourselves four hours to thoroughly explore and enjoy this lovely medieval village. Every nook and cranny in Lacock is charming. Inns that have existed since the 15th century sit nestled next to woolen shops and bakeries. On this day we happened upon a craft fair and a local art show, much to the delight of several artisans in our group. Here’s a little walking tour of some of my favorite spots:

Approaching Lacock from the car park behind the Red Lion Inn (which is on the left)...

The garden patio behind the Red Lion...

One of the famous half-timbered houses in the village (recognize it from "Cranford?").

I do love all the multi-paned windows, painted doors, and flower pots!

An abundant garden spills over the wall of one cottage.

The Stable House Tea Room behind the Red Lion. Delicious food and great atmosphere!

Love the Dutch door and window box overflowing with blooms. Ah!

One shop behind The George carries all kinds of hand-made furniture and other English goodies. I adore the hutches!

My girls were absolutely thrilled to find a children’s play area tucked behind a fence across the street from Lacock Abbey (thank you, Trish, for pointing that out!). They played and played until we were ready for lunch:

Wheee!

Around she goes!

After a yummy luncheon in the Stable House Tea Room, my mother, my girls, and I made our way to Lacock Abbey, which I’d never been able to tour. Our National Trust family cards got us in for free (this was a great investment, by the way, as it got us into Killerton and Berrington Hall free as well!). The Abbey is quite an imposing building from a distance, built over 800 years ago by monks and used as a monastery for centuries. But it also has some inviting nooks and little surprises, as you’ll see:

The Abbey from across the fields...

Rounding the side of the Abbey to reach the entrance...

Close-up near the front entrance...

My daughter finds a hidden door just her size at the base of the tower!

Beautiful leaded glass windows...

The cloisters are breathtaking.

Looking through the cloister windows into the courtyard...

I'd love to take the library home with me!

Can't you just picture a Georgian or Regency lady seated at this beautiful harp?

It was hard to get a clear shot of the wonderful music room because of the lighting (no flash allowed!)...

Looking through the doorway into the long gallery....

The Abbey is absolutely crammed with portraits--lots of historical clothing to study here!

I can't believe I managed to pull off a clear shot of the dining room, as it was so dark. The ambiance is absolutely amazing.

This is the last room in the house, filled with sculptures in niches and an amazing carved ceiling.

I could just curl up here with a good book on a winter's night!

My oldest daughter really enjoyed all the trees and shady nooks on the grounds of the Abbey.

Both my daughters loved all the "forts" under the trees. They kept wishing their brothers could be here to join in the fun!

Cyclamen beneath the trees...

The Abbey garden is beautiful, filled with fragrant flowers and herbs...

Down the garden path toward the greenhouse -- heavenly fragrances and colors!

I have to say that Lacock Abbey is one of the most child-friendly “great houses” you can visit. Our girls found an “I-Spy” game card that took them through the house looking for hidden objects in each room. It was a blast! One of the docents told me they love having school groups and children come with parents, and I could tell. Photos are now allowed inside (no flash, of course),  because the Abbey changed its no-photo policy earlier this year after realizing they couldn’t stop all the surreptitious mobile-phone camera shots people were taking and posting online. As the docent told me in a conspiratorial whisper, “We’ve just decided to ‘go with the flow,’ as they say!” I am glad, as it allows me to share what’s inside this beautiful National Trust property with you! If you ever have a chance to visit, I can recommend it highly. One more bonus we enjoyed: a men’s choir group was traveling around singing in famous abbeys and churches and happened to be at Lacock at the same time we were. When I re-entered the cloisters to retrieve our stroller, they were singing a beautiful hymn in harmony. The acoustics made it an incredible experience.

All in all, it was a marvelous day in Lacock. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves before heading back to London to check in at our Kensington hotel. Later I’ll post about Sunday night’s “London Dash!”

September 20, 2010

Beautiful Bath…

I turned on the weather forecast Friday night after someone in our hotel mentioned “frost,” and there I found predictions for chilly weather, intermittent rain, and wind. We always pray for good weather, especially for the days we’ll be outdoors, so we sure did pray this time! We awoke Saturday morning to a slight overcast haze but no frost and no rain. So far, so good! Some of us had still been sewing the night before to complete bonnets and accessories, but we all managed to be at the coach pick-up point on time and ready to go. Above you see the group of us staying at Rudloe. We were ready for our day!

Thirty minutes after joining the rest of our group on the coach, we arrived in Bath. We drove in an hour early to give people the chance to wander around a bit and see things before the Grand Costumed Promenade. Dozens and dozens of costumed participants began to trickle in as we walked around. Before long, the entire Abbey churchyard was crammed with ladies and gents ready to walk up to the Crescent! During this time, the sun came out in full and began to warm everything up for a perfect day in Bath. Here is a little photo journal of the Promenade:

Part of our group walking through the churchyard to the Pump Room...

Ladies entering the Pump Room

My mother with my youngest daughter, waiting for the Promenade...

Some of our ladies at the front of the Pump Room.

It's almost time to start!

Isn't she adorable? Expectant Regency mama in a maternity pelisse!

Looking back along the column as we march up toward the Crescent...

Jenny and Karen look splendid!

Here I am with my girls, all decked out for Bath...

Stephanie and Nancy pause on the way for a quick snap...

We've arrived at the Royal Crescent!

A dance demonstation by Steps in Time -- and this year they have a boy!

Folks watching the dancing...

So many beautiful outfits to admire!

This gent was willing to pose for us in his Naval uniform...

Don't Carol and Elisabeth look amazing?

Dawn just radiates authenticity. I love, love, love her ensemble!

I couldn't resist begging a shot of the back of this gal's Spencer. Such beautiful lines!

After the Promenade, we all walked back down to the city center for lunch. A few of us ran back to the coach to grab things we couldn’t carry during our walk, then divided up to eat. I had the amazing joy of meeting a friend I haven’t seen in 15 years for lunch in Bath. She and I happened to be in England at the same time and found out through Facebook! It was really great to catch up and see how the years have treated us. :) I spent the rest of the afternoon just window shopping with my girls, looking in on several favorite spots (Cath Kidston, anyone?), and, of course, snapping lots of photos of flowers and other lovelies in the gorgeous sunshine.

Five o’clock rolled around to find us back at the coach and ready to head “home” for the night. It was a simply amazing day–from the weather to all the costumes and everything in between. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did! I thought it was just ideal, especially with such great company to be had! After arriving back at our hotel, I asked at the desk if Box Hill was within walking distance. The chap at the desk informed me it was a “goodish stretch” up the road and to the right. So three other ladies and I set out with my two oldest daughters, determined to find Emma Woodhouse’s beautiful Box Hill. Well, I can tell you it was more than a “goodish stretch!” We went at least two miles before coming to a view that looked like Box Hill…but we weren’t sure, so we walked a bit further and stopped to ask a couple where Box Hill might be. They smiled and said, “You’re standing on it!” So we ran back to photograph the view with us in it!

From this vantage point, you can see all the way to Bath...

Two sisters and a friend enjoying Box Hill...

These two benches were placed here by the Great Western Railway, which built a tunnel through Box Hill--the longest tunnel in the UK.

Here I am with my daughter on Box Hill -- in Emma land!

All in all, it was a fantastic Saturday. Sunday we checked out of our B&Bs and headed to Lacock Village for the afternoon before pushing on to London. I’ll write about that soon!

September 18, 2010

Saturday Preview

Well, readers, it has been an absolutely stellar day in Bath. We are all done in from a day of walking, so I am going to turn in early. But I’ll share a couple of photos to give you a taste of things to come!

Loaded up on the coach, dressed for the promenade, and ready for Bath!

Gathered as a group at the end of the day...and we still look fabulous--LOL!

I’ll share more tomorrow. Suffice it to say, we got utterly gorgeous weather (despite forecasts for frost and drizzles), and we all enjoyed the delights of the golden city of Bath. Until later, good night!

September 17, 2010

Friday in Bath

Our faithful driver, Jon, waits for us as we make a quick stop on a street in Bath. We have come to love our blue coach!

We didn’t have to get such an early start today, as Bath is only 30-40 minutes away from us, so we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and sauntered down the drive to meet our coach. To our surprise, our driver and everyone else from Lacock were already there. They beat us this morning and seemed very proud of having done so (they have to get going 15 minutes earlier than the rest of us!). We made it to Bath in record time and were a tad early for our appointment at the Jane Austen Centre. We listened to the introductory talk about Jane in Bath, then browsed through the exhibit downstairs. Here are some highlights:

Lovely silhouettes like these grace the walls of the waiting room outside the exhibition and contain witty sayings about Jane Austen.

A jaunty naval officer on display with some military paraphernalia.

My daughter admires the doll in the "Dressing Elizabeth Bennet" display, which you can enjoy at http://www.janeausten.co.uk/magazine/page.ihtml?pid=170&step=4!

Our ladies begin to settle in for the delightful "Tea with Mr. Darcy" in the Jane Austen Centre's Tea Rooms.

A happy quartet of ladies awaits the delicious repast...

Here I am with my younger daughter, who was very excited about "high" tea--three storeys up!

Beautiful Claverton Hall...

After tea, we boarded our coach for the short drive to Claverton Hall, which is home to the American Museum in Britain. This museum was designed by two American businessmen in the 1950s who wanted to provide a true history of the Colonies for Brits. ;) The museum is made up of rooms set up to replicate American homes from the 1690s through 1860s and has thousands of artifacts, including furniture, silverware, historical clothing, and one of the premier collections of American quilts in the world. Many of the quilts are displayed in the rooms as they would have been used during the time. There is also a second building with quilts hanging on all the walls (art gallery style!), plus a quilted 18th-century petticoat and quilted 19th-century stays. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph anything inside the museum buildings, but I took a lot of pictures outside, as the grounds are simply breathtaking. Our ladies enjoyed wandering through the perfectly manicured “Mount Vernon” garden, exploring the walking trail, and just sitting on the terrace to take in the incredible view:

My girls especially appreciated the children’s play area and all the wonderful overhanging trees and secret nooks just begging to be explored. This is an ideal outing for families, and I have to say the museum displays were just as authentic as anything I’ve seen in Massachusetts, Colonial Williamsburg, or the Smithsonian. The docents very obviously enjoy talking about American history and showing off what each room holds. It was such fun to walk through. I wish I could have photographed an 18th-century gown on display, as it was nearly identical to my new Ladies’ 1780s’ Portrait Dress pattern (coming soon!), down to the armholes, seam lines and neckline. I was tickled pink to see it!

Here is a little visual tour of our afternoon:

Plenty of space for little folks to run!

Another view of the mansion, this one from the side facing the garden...

Miss Elisabeth takes in the gorgeous scenery...

The "Mount Vernon" Garden

The adorable summer house. If you look hard, you can see an English robin perched on the top corner of the left door. He sang his heart out to us!

My oldest daughter enjoyed the allee of trees above the garden...

Roses climbed the wall next to the Orangery...

Herbs and flowers for sale at the Claverton Herb shop...

We had such a lovely, leisurely afternoon at Claverton–a nice break from the pace we’ve been keeping all week! We made our way back to our B&Bs around 4:30, and lots of us spent our afternoon trying to finish up trimming bonnets or ironing things for tomorrow’s Regency Promenade to kick off the Jane Austen Festival. I couldn’t resist taking a few more shots of our lovely inn, Rudloe Hall:

This is the back of the inn, covered in ivy....

Looking out from beneath the grape arbor next to the dining room...

Peeking in at the dining room window -- looks like everything's laid out for supper!

I can't resist hydrangeas! These are massed beneath the dining room windows. Ahhh!

Walking back into the Lounge, I found my mother playing marbles with my daughter. Fun!

My other daughter decided to cut out paper dolls Suzi gave her today....

A drowsy corner of the lounge, just begging for someone to come and sit...

It’s now bedtime, so I’ll sign off. We start for Bath around 9:15 in the morning, all dressed up for the Grand Costumed Promenade and hoping there’s no morning frost! I’ll report back tomorrow evening if all goes well. Cheers!

September 16, 2010

Thursday in Exeter

We wended our way southward today to Devon, enjoying beautiful scenery all the way there and cheering the warming temperature. Arriving at Killerton House was like entering an enchanting dream. I’ve seen many fine manor houses in England, but I have to say that Killerton now ranks as my absolute favorite. The exterior slightly resembles Luckington Court, which was used as “Longbourne” in the 1995 version of “Pride and Prejudice.” But Killerton is much larger and has what has to be the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen. We went there for the costume exhibit, but I have to say the house was every bit as satisfying to me. It also had one special highlight guaranteed to thrill me, but I’ll share that in a moment. For now, here is a photo tour!

The elegant dining room with portraits all over and table laid out for company...

Looking into the library from the dining room...

The library fireplace. Have a seat and read a while!

Late 1780s portrait in the drawing room

A beautiful portrait of a Regency Era mother and son...

The stunning drawing room (looking toward the fireplace)...

The marble columns in the drawing room are absolutely gorgeous...

Looking into the music room -- the thrill is over the fireplace!

This is my favorite Regency portrait of all time--Lady Lydia Acland and her sons. Lady Lydia lived at Killerton, and the son at right inherited the estate.

Here's a detail shot. I just absolutely love this portrait. I have tried to find a print for years without success. Someone snagged me a postcard today in the Killerton shop! And, yes, those are boys in the dresses. The short hair is the giveaway.

This organ at the far end of the music room was built by Lord Acland for Lady Lydia after their honeymoon. The docents allow anyone to play it who wishes to. It's quite an amazing sight.

Miss Emily got to try her hand at playing Beethoven on the beautiful grand piano!

I love the stairway hall at the back of the house--doesn't that couch look like a cozy spot? I could really live here!

This is the opening of the upstairs gallery, which houses the current display of costumes. There are over 17,000 objects (10,000 garments; 7,000 accessories) in the Killerton collection, but they can only display 30-40 at a time! I'm sorry I can't show you any of the displays, but the National Trust doesn't allow it. :(

This I can share! They had a lot of hands-on displays for children, including a dress-up area, which my daughter thoroughly enjoyed!

Here was the best surprise of this trip: Killerton's costume department uses my patterns to create the try-on clothes! This is a Spencer made from my pattern. Curators Shelley and Charlotte both told me how much they enjoy my patterns. What a complete thrill!

A fashion plate on the wall -- I love how you can see the back of the lady's gown in the mirror.

We enjoyed luncheon in Killerton's Tea Room after finishing in the house. Delicious, and the service was amazing.

This is the view out the side of the house. My girls are enjoying space to run!

The garden with the cows beyond the wall...

And now for the garden! This is a real treat...

I can never get enough hydrangeas, and they had masses of 'em!

The view from the top of the garden out to the fields beyond...

And looking back at the house (tea room is below that arched window)...

Let me take a moment here to just strongly recommend that you get to Killerton if you ever have the chance. It isn’t just that the house and grounds are so very wonderful and the costume collection delightful–it is that every single staff member and volunteer who works here so obviously loves the estate and enjoys entertaining visitors. We were made to feel so welcome by every person we met, from the ticket seller in the welcome center to the manager of the tea room and everyone in between. I have never had such a feeling of good cheer and warmth and delight in any place I’ve toured. National Trust, you are doing a fabulous job with Killerton House! And all the hands-on things for children are simply icing on the cake. This is a great family outing if you can manage it. And we didn’t even get to try the children’s trail and play area!

After our lovely luncheon, we made our way back to the coach (through the shop, which was a complete trap, let me tell you!). We drove back to Exeter for our appointment with Shelley Tobin at Rougemont House, who was set to show us items from the collection stored there. The collection is used for displays at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. The museum is undergoing a massive renovation and will reopen in December 2012. Until then, the costume stores are rather crammed into corners at Rougemont House. Conservation is done in tiny rooms by a dedicated group of volunteers who are obviously in love with what they do. We enjoyed seeing a mid-Victorian paisley shawl being meticulously patched and reinforced with tiny (tiny) surgical needle and thread. Shelley obviously regretted being unable to take out more things for our inspection, but the space was just too limited. She looks forward to having all new spaces with plenty of room to spare when the museum is complete. But we enjoyed what we were able to ogle! Included was a Worth opera wrap (silk, lace, gilt–ah!), a 1670s shoe, a dear pair of 1795 striped leather shoes with very pointy toes, and a stunner of an 1830s dinner bonnet with ostrich plume and plump bows. Then we climbed upstairs to see rare lace and racks upon racks of garments being readied for the move to the new, improved conservation center. Bliss!

Listening to Shelley describe the pieces (sorry I have to cut off the table -- can't show anything!)...

Rougemont Castle is directly opposite Rougemont House. 1068 next door!

This fascsimile portrait of lady archers by Frith stood next to the castle. Beautiful!

On the road again! The sun was out again as we headed toward our evening meal in Lacock Village. I snapped this church out the window as we flew past. Devon is so lovely and reminds me of my childhood haunts in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia....

The George Inn, Lacock Village. It is a charming spot and so cozy and inviting. Delicious food, too!

Here's the room where we ate. Low ceilings, rock walls...the quintessential country pub!

These will be a bit blurry because of the low light, but a pub just doesn't look right with a flash!

Waiting for our meals at table...

So that was our day! I’ve rounded it out by sneaking a late-night dessert in the lounge of Rudloe Hall while looking through photos and blogging. Having realized I’ve killed the third camera battery, I’m Googling to see if I can find one in Bath tomorrow (wish me luck!). Tomorrow morning we head to the Jane Austen Centre for a tour and luncheon. After that, we motor over to The American Museum in Britain at Claverton Hall. Should be a fun day!

September 14, 2010

Day One in London!

Well, we’re all here and accounted for (though finding folks at Heathrow this morning proved a bit of a challenge!). We went straight to the Victoria & Albert Museum for luncheon, then had a couple of hours free to see exhibits before meeting up for our private study session in the costume storage area. As with the Museum of London last year, we are not allowed to share photos of the objects displayed, but I can tell you we did lots of ooohing and ahhing! We saw a stunning 18th-century court gown, an 1880s day dress, and an ethereal Regency gown with silver thread embroidery. When I have time, I’ll look up the call numbers on the V&A site and post links so you can see, too! At left is a 1780s gown we saw last year (it was one of the inspiration pieces for my Ladies’ 1780s Portrait Dress pattern, now in progress).

After finishing at the museum, we boarded our coach for a rainy drive to Wiltshire, enjoying lots of visiting back and forth in the coach as we rode. The sun broke through the clouds in dazzling glory right at the end of our trip, casting that golden English glow over the countryside and lighting up the rain-wet trees and stone walls. It was stunning! Too bad I had packed my camera away by that point. If the weather holds tomorrow, I’ll be sure to get our gorgeous view.

Here are some highlights from today:

Back of a Grace Kelly gown on display at the V&A

Suzi showing Mom a photo of her bonnet for Bath. It's yummy!

Man's banyan coat made of a military toile, if you can imagine such a fabric!

Exquisite Victorian baby gown from the British Gallery at the V&A -- all lace!

My favorite gown in the British Gallery -- lots of amazing whitework on this trained Regency gown.

My girls peeking into a miniature room display, which was really astonishing in its detail.

Things to come... A bunch of us will be seeing the special Grace Kelly clothing exhibit next Monday afternoon!

That’s all for today. Tomorrow we head to Leominster in Herefordshire to see the Snowshill collection at Berrington Hall and enjoy the delights of the Hereford Museum costume collection as well! Cheers!

September 10, 2010

It’s almost here!

Hard to believe the 2010 Tour is already upon us. The year has just flown by! We are so excited about this year’s tour. We have a group of 15 lovely ladies going along, and I’m really excited that my dear mother will be with us this trip. We haven’t been in England together since 1988, so this will be a wonderful memory-maker. :)

Stay tuned for blog posts about the trip, as time permits (and when I have WiFi access!). I’ll be taking all the pictures myself this time (a rather daunting prospect!), so I’ll have to get the hang of using this new camera and formatting photos.

We’re going to be in London, Wiltshire, Hereford, Exeter, and Somersetshire this year, seeing historical garments from world-renowned collections and touring beautiful manor houses at the same time. I’m excited to meet curators who specialize in areas that are new to me (lacemaking, anyone?), and Suzi Clarke will be along as before to guide us through all these delights. Hope you’ll tag along here for all the fun!