Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sightseeing for the Downton Abbey Fan

My sister and her husband are fans of Downton Abbey, just like I am. (We are fine with the Season 3 tragedy, in fact, we may even mock it now and then).  I was excited to see anything that had graced the scenes of the show, and so we took a day to explore.

The abbey  scenes (exterior and limited inside) are filmed at Highclere Castle.  (Seen above the hill behind me)

If you go on season, you can tour the castle and learn more about it's history, and the filming that is done there.  We were off season, and we knew that, so we ignored the CLOSED signs just wanting to get a  little closer for a picture.

Ummm...oops! CLOSED meant closed for filming...not closed for the season. (Let me hurry and snap a photo anyway) I am no expert- and this is taken from quite a distance, but could that possibly be Tom Branson walking to the set?  He is probably so sad about Sybil...perhaps a quick hug.......

We were asked to leave (very kindly, might I add, as my sister talked her sweet American sweet talk with the security) and did so quickly.  But it was enough for this fan to be pretttyyyy happpyyy.......

The Gorgeous Highclere Castle

My brother-in-law had also done his research and took us to Bampton, where the scenes are filmed when they go into town for the market, the fair, church and hospital.  This little town was amazing, so quaint, and we were definitely spotted out as 'Americans here for the TV show'.

Side street in Bampton, near the Library
Library entrance, filmed as hospital
This town feels so historic (really, like most of England) and it did seem like Anna and Bates would walk past me any moment.  The library had a little booklet they had put together with more information about the filming of the show, which I purchased like the suckered-in tourist that I am.

The highlight of the city, however, is the lovely St. Mary's church, where more filming is also done, and visitors are free to enter and photograph.  The grounds are amazing here, too.

St. Mary's Church gate

As seen in Downton Abbey- Matthew Crawley
(from the book The World of Downton Abbey)

Side yard of church
And the character of Isobel Crawley, Matthew's mother, lives in the church gate home- blocked by stone walls but seen from the church grounds on the hills.

Front yard and patio of the Crawley house
I think the most surprising thing was that the entire town felt so timeless, and while the people were all gracious and friendly, it was obvious that some of the ones we talked to, looking for directions or what not, didn't seem to really care that the show had been filmed there, or even care about the show much at all.  I guess that's just part of living somewhere lovely like that on a day to day basis. It's nothing special.

For a fan, it was perfect.  The sun shone at the right times and the green trees and grass framed everything we saw.  I do wish the town had some place to eat, pickings were slim for cafe or dining options, and we were ready to eat after walking around all morning.

If you haven't watched Downton Abbey yet, you can stream it on and catch season one on Netflix.  Such a delicious escape in television...I wish the US would produce something worth getting excited about.

And this is the book for the fan of the show, or the book lover, or as in my case, BOTH.  The thick pages are full of stunning photographs, behind the scenes peeking, and historical facts and trivia. It is a gorgeous book.

Until next time, mind your manners and please dress appropriately.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cramming more life in life

Our family has been doing a lot of traveling lately- and in order to get to any of it I will have to break it up into edible bites, chunks and moments of life lately..... but before that, I must explain.

I have never been one of those parents that says "Where did the time go?" when looking at my kids.  I journal, I photo take, I blog, basically I feel I do soak it in as we go along.  In spite of that, however, I have felt a sudden urge to do more lately.

At Christmas I realized "wow, we only have a couple of Christmases with all the boys here" and I look at my oldest son and think, "okay, he's almost 18- I gotta sneak in more time with him whenever possible" (which is the last thing he wants to do).

So, for my oldest son's Spring Break we loaded him up and flew to England, where my sister lives for the time being.  My son had told us when he was quite young that he wanted to see Stonehenge someday.  I always hoped we could make that happen, and with a sister within 45 minutes of the site we knew we had to go.

One funny thing about going to Stonehenge, is everyone tried to tell us it wasn't cool to see.  Well, guess what. They were wrong. It was awesome- and actually one of our favorite things to visit.

Just to walk around these stones (are you a Tess fan, perhaps? I am) and ponder how long they have been here (reported guesses are about 5,000 years) sort of fills you with wonder.  The path around it is great, giving you lots of space and many clear shots for pictures.

The audio guide here is well done, with good historical tidbits and speculations about what the purpose of this site is, and there are a lot of benches and areas to sit, look, even stop and eat if you want to. 

For some strange reason for us it became all about the pictures.

Honestly...I am not even sure what the point of this all was.  I just know when your teenager wants to take crazy pictures while fulfilling his bucket list you sort of just comply and enjoy the ride. 

This next one was for me, however, after much coaxing to my sweetheart (my sister helped put on the pressure, I was glad she had caught my vision!)

Oh yeah, totally worth it.

We also saw the stones of Avebury, which also form some sort of circle, only over a mile radius or so.  You can't really tell what you are seeing while you are up against it, but you can touch all the stones and walk right along them.  The country side here is gorgeous.

Here you can see some of the stones behind us.  Like I said, the lands and country sides were so pretty, so green, and just so peaceful. 

A photo for the gaming fan...................

You can see that some of these stones were huge.

The day we saw Stonehenge and Avebury, we also went to Salisburg, because it was within our driving range for the day.  Photos and highlights another time from there, though.  The day was amazing- and that was just one day of our 8 day stay. Every day was packed, and everywhere we went there was plenty to see and plenty to do. 

I literally fell down at the end of each day so tired I hardly wanted to take another step.  Good thing my lovely sister had plenty of BBC shows (Selfridge's and Paradise, no less!) and cozy drinks, chocolates, and other tasty treats to relax with.  It was always a perfect end to a great day.

If you get a chance to go abroad, just go.

 Cram some more  life in while you can.

from via pinterest