Saturday, October 28, 2017

Wrapping Up England: Peaks, Valleys, and Friendship

So. England. Now, where was I? Better settle in with your coffee or a glass of wine, depending on which time zone you live in, folks. This is going to be a long one. 

Our UK trip continued apace after Bath. To Stratford-Upon-Avon, and then north to the Peak District. On our day out with Jules in Bath, he'd offered to drive us to Stratford, and show us the Cotswolds at the same time. But we demurred. We were tempted, believe me, but really couldn't justify the extra cost, especially since we had rail passes. So on the Saturday morning, we were up early, packed, breakfasted, caffeinated, and boarding the train along with a myriad of other passengers all seemingly out for a weekend of fun and... well... not to put too fine a point on it... drinking. 

Everyone, it seemed, was breaking out the pints, or the wine, or even the champagne. A group of what looked to be three middle-aged sisters and their mum, further up the coach, had brought breakfast snacks, balloons announcing that one of their party was enjoying a fiftieth birthday.... and champagne. A party of young men were well into their pints by the time we pulled into Oxford at mid-morning. And across the aisle from me, sat a wonderfully voluble young woman who sipped mini-bottles of Chenin Blanc the entire trip, and entertained her dad with family stories, and memories of what she and her friends had got up to in their teens. After a few minutes, I gave up even trying to focus on my book, and shamelessly eavesdropped. At one point, she pulled a fresh bottle of wine from her capacious handbag, and announced, "Now then, Dad, time for a swallow. It's the start of me holiday." Her dad chuckled, but wisely stuck to his tea. The better to be able to handle both their luggage when they reached wherever they were going, I suspect. I haven't been on such an entertaining journey for ages. Not since Hubby and I took a bus in New Lanark, near Glasgow, years ago. And listened to an elderly woman in the front seat as she greeted every single person who boarded, asked after their family, and eventually gave Hubby and me specific directions to our destination once she had ascertained who we were, where we were from, and where we were going. We still laugh at that memory. 

old cottage with stone paving stones outside and wooden bench
Anne Hathaway's Cottage
In Stratford, of course, we made the rounds of the Shakespeare landmarks, and historic sites. Like Anne Hathaway's cottage, which was a short stroll from our B&B. Because we were fairly early, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. So we were able to get pictures without people in them. And could linger in each room, chatting with the guides. That was lovely. I liked how the cottage was set up to reflect the daily lives of the Hathaway family over the centuries.

antique bed in Anne Hathaway's cottage in England
I love how the house was set up to show the life of the cottage across the centuries.
I must admit that despite teaching English for decades, I'm not much of a Shakespeare devotee. What I found most interesting were the guides' stories of how the mythology of the man has built up over the centuries. Aided and abetted by generations of Hathaways, whose fortunes having declined, took full advantage of having a celebrated in-law to make some much needed cash from gullible tourists. One can hardly blame them, eh?

picture of a woman, 17th century
Mary Baker, an enterprising descendant of Anne Hathaway

book with text
The much "whittled" settle, where Shakespeare and his bride did NOT sit courting. 

thatched cottage and garden
The garden was equally interesting.

list of plants in a garden
This sign had my name on it... literally.

Hedgehog campsite
How can you NOT love a garden with a "hedgehog campsite?"
Just before we left Anne Hathaway's cottage a large bus drew up and disgorged a ton of other tourists, along with their cameras and selfie-sticks. Gad. I was beginning to hate those things. By the time we had walked downtown to Shakespeare's birthplace, a seemingly identical group was there before us. Sheesh. Was this the same bunch? It hardly seemed possible. I'm not good in crowds, and hate to shuffle behind a long line of people through rooms which might be interesting if I could actually see anything, other than the people in front of me and on either side of me. So we beat a hasty retreat, made for the nearest exit, and wandered down to the Avon River, and along the river to Holy Trinity church where Shakespeare is buried. This was much better. 

stone church and old graves, fallen leaves
Holy Trinity Church. Shakespeare's grave is inside.
On our last morning in Stratford, Rosie who reads this blog and lives in Stratford, picked us up at our B&B, and drove us to this lovely village in the Cotswold countryside. Broadway, she says, is her favourite village. A little jewel of Cotswold stone houses, with the perfect place for morning coffee and a catch-up chat with friends. I met Rosie last summer when she and her family were in Ottawa on holiday. As she said, wasn't it cool to be seeing each other again so soon? What a small world we live in.


street in a Cotswold village
The village of Broadway, in the Cotswolds
Rosie and I laughed that we looked as if we had co-ordinated our navy and grey outfits for the meeting. After coffee, a wander around the village of Broadway, and a lovely drive back into Stratford, Rosie dropped us and our luggage at the train station. Wasn't that kind of her? Especially as she and her husband had arrived home from Spain late the night before, and she had yet to unpack, or do anything really. Except rush out the door first thing to meet us. 

two women in a cafe with stone walls
Rosie and at The Broadway Deli. As you can see, I was still talking when the picture was taken.
Then it was time to head north. Through Birmingham, Derby, and Chesterfield to our accommodation near Chatsworth, the Devonshire Arms in the tiny village of Beeley in the Peak District. I have long wanted to visit this area, to see the countryside which I've read so much about and, of course, Chatsworth House itself.

table and chairs next to a roaring wood fire
A cosy table near the fire at The Devonshire Arms

stream with stone walls, and a small stone house
Our room was not in the inn itself, but nearby, alongside this small stream
We spent two nights here, and thus had one full day to explore. At first I was a bit flummoxed to find that there was no transport offered to guests who stayed here, and who had purchased "The Chatsworth Experience" which included bed and breakfast accommodation, dinner, and tickets to visit Chatsworth House. "Nope," said the girl in the pub who checked us in, when I asked if there was a shuttle bus or something similar. "You can drive, or you can walk. Across the fields it's forty minutes to walk." We-ell. Since we didn't have a car, and she said taxis would have to come out from Chesterfield, I guess walking it would be. Don't get me wrong, I didn't mind  the idea of a 40 minute walk. We'd walked much more than that in London, and the scenery would be beautiful. It was more the idea that we'd be tramping along trails, through fields, probably muddy... we were told.... with no hiking boots. My good Stuart Weitzman boots were already whimpering. 

green grass, blue sky, stone houses, drystone wall
The view while we waited for the bus to Chatsworth House
The next morning after breakfast when we picked up our tickets we discovered that the answer to our question about the best way to get where we were going depended on whom we asked. The girl who gave us our tickets to Chatsworth, pointed us in the direction of the footpath (no maps? nope), and assured us it would be dry (maybe, she thought.) Then another staff member, who stood nearby, interrupted. She said the trail was underwater in places where it ran close to the river, that we'd be up to our ankles before we knew it. Then she took us outside, pointed out where to catch the bus that could take us to Chatsworth, when it was likely to arrive, and wished us a great day. Phew. Now why, oh why, didn't everyone who worked there know that? Or, since some of the girls were waitresses, and gamely doing double duty checking in guests, why didn't The Devonshire Arms provide a little information sheet, with a map of how to get to Chatsworth House, and include bus times etc for those who didn't have a car? Wouldn't that be an easy fix? Ah well, never mind, we found out about the bus in time to catch the next one to Chatsworth House, my boots were saved, and it was a fabulously sunny, crisp day. And I was going to finally see the home of one of the Mitford sisters. I may not be an expert on Shakespeare, people, but Mitford-mania is something I do know about. 

Chatsworth house from a bridge
Chatsworth House from the bus window.

a lake and a stately home on the other side
From inside the beautiful grounds. 

woman standing beside a lake with Chatsworth House in the background
A shot taken by a kindly student, after I did the same for her
Chatsworth House did not disappoint. Okay... well, maybe just a little. The house itself was unquestionably beautiful, as were the grounds. But it was very crowded inside. And this made it difficult to get a feel for the grandeur of the house. And the fashion exhibit which I was so excited to see, was also hard to get a handle on, I thought. The displays were spread over many rooms, cleverly arranged by theme: wedding dresses, mourning wear, party dresses in the dining room where a dinner table for goodness knows how many guests was set. But it was difficult to find the cards or labels which explained what we were looking at, and many of the rooms were so dark, and so crowded, that we eventually just floated through, carried by the momentum of the crowd, not really understanding what we were looking at. I read this article in the New York Times after I came home, about how Hamish Bowles, an editor for American Vogue, curated the show, and what his vision was. I wish that had been communicated more clearly when I was there. 


We were not alone here, folks.
But, you know, somehow it seems fitting that after a bit of time my interest in the luxurious fashions began to take second place to my interest in all the Deborah Mitford memorabilia. Clothes- fashionable, stylish clothes- were never important to Debo. She once famously quipped that she bought most of her clothes at agricultural shows. I recognized her wedding dress in one of the displays, and the dress, below, which she wore to Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. I saw a straw handbag with Debo, embroidered on it. And of course her famous Elvis slippers. Ha. The former Duchess was a true fan of "the king." 


mannequin in a red velvet dress with white fur trimmed train
The dress Debo wore to Queen Elizabeth II's coronation
I particularly loved seeing evidence that Debo was not the only eccentric in her marriage. The collection of wool sweaters owned by Andrew, 11th Duke of Devonshire, husband of Deborah Mitford, was a hoot. Embroidered with odd sayings, this one was my favourite. I had a lovely chat with a guide about the sweater collection. She chuckled and said this one was her favourite too. 


sweater with "Never Marry a Mitford" written on it
The former duke had a quirky sense of humour
Despite the lack of reliable information about transport, I really enjoyed our stay at the Devonshire Arms. The food was fabulous. The room lovely. And after dinner in the pub, coming back outside to head to our room, into the crisp fall air, surrounded by darkness, and hills, and stone houses on narrow twisting streets, well... it felt wonderful. The scenery in the Peak District is stunning. Bucolic. Peaceful. Calming. I loved it there. I'd go back in a heartbeat. To stay a few days and just wander, do some walking, drink a few pints in a pub, just breath. 


green countryside, with a river in the distance

We had one more stop to make before we headed back down south to London, Heathrow, and then home. Bakewell is a village which came highly recommended, by guide books and friends alike. A short taxi ride from Beeley, we had time to explore before my luncheon date. This is a small street of cottages that I wandered down on my way to our hotel. The cottage on this end is the one I picked out for myself. If I had to move here tomorrow... this would be the place for me. As I stood there taking the shot, I committed the name of the cottage to memory... but... well, that's not a very safe place to store things these days. Ha. Was it Dove Cottage? Surely not. That name's already taken. Let's just call it Sue's Place, shall we?

street of small stone cottages with a church spire in the distance

This is a shot of  my lunch date and me at the Lavender Tea Rooms in Bakewell. Wendy (from York), who many of you know as a longtime reader of  this blog, drove with her husband all the way down from York for our get together. Her husband took their dogs for a run or two, drank his flask of coffee, and generally cooled his heels, while she and I ate and talked. And walked and talked. And sat and talked. How lovely to meet someone you've known only as words in a comment box. And how lovely to have that person be exactly as you'd imagined them. A funny, smart, sensible, stylish, plainspeaking, self-deprecating kindred spirit, as Anne of Green Gables always says. 

two ladies in sweaters and scarves at an outdoor cafe table, under a green umbrella
Wendy and me at the Lavender Tea Rooms
You know, this trip did not turn out to be the trip of my dreams. I struggled many days, with fatigue, with sadness over my brother's death. I had a couple of melt downs. Maybe it was too soon to travel. Maybe I should have delayed the trip. But that was a tough call to make. Especially when everything happened so close to our departure. The stressful, anxious weeks leading up to my brother's death, Hubby's and my flying trip home for the funeral, my back problems three days before we were due to leave. I was so busy just getting on with things that I never had time to process. To really grieve. But it's pointless to second guess myself, now. It's all water under the bridge. And as a wise woman from York said to me, think of all the wonderful things I've seen that I will store away, and reflect on later. And I'd add to that, the friends (like Rosie and Wendy) who I've been able to meet up with, and get to know in real life. My friend Frances recently wrote a post on her blog about friendship. I've been thinking about it quite a bit as I've been writing this post. How wonderful this weird world of blogging can be when on-line acquaintances cross over to become real life friends. 

an empty train platform in the countryside
The platform at Matlock Bath, where our train never arrived
Before I end, I just want to say a word or two about the kindness of strangers. In strange places. This is the platform where we stood in Matlock Bath our last morning, waiting for a train that never showed up. Finally seeing the announcement that it had been cancelled, we stood there on the empty platform, at an unmanned station, wondering what to do. When the driver of a bus parked on the other side of the parking lot that was gearing up to leave, jumped off, ran down to where we stood, and explained how he was the driver of the "replacement bus." Huh? We didn't even know there was such a thing as a replacement bus. He just had to drive down into Matlock, he said, but he'd be back to pick us up in no time, and would take us all the way into Derby. Now wasn't that nice? He could have driven off, no doubt wondering why those two ladies just stood on the platform, too stupid to get on the bus. But, instead, he went out of his way to be kind. 

I loved that. Made me feel all warm inside.





Now that I've wrapped up my trip, I really must wrap up this post. It's gone on far too long. If any of you are still reading, I'll say good night. Next week, it's back to fashion and books, folks. Enough about travel for now. 





Joining with Saturday Share Link-Up   and

Two Traveling Texans

38 comments:

  1. Loved every minute. I had to make a decision about traveling to Italy this year. For health reasons I decided I wasn't really ready to make the trip. Maybe I made the right decision after reading your post. I also was planing on going to Chatsworth. Thanks for the info. I'll have to think about it. Thanks for the fascinating post.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the posts, Sandra. Chatsworth was lovely. We were surprised at how crowded it was on a Tuesday in the middle of October. But then I realized that the fashion exhibit was due to close a few days after we were there. Probably explains the crowds.

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  2. I loved reading this post. Two summers ago, my husband and I went to England, a first for me. The Cotswalds area was our destination and we spent the better part of a day in Broadway. It was perhaps my favourite little town that we visited and I took many pictures. You were so well organized, knowing where you would be from one day to the next and even taking public transportation here and there. It was the amount of history, around every corner, that I was so thrilled by, considering in Canada we've only just celebrated our 150! -Jenn

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    1. I would have loved to poke around in the shops in Broadway, but here wasn't time. Having a train pass helped us with our organization. Although our accommodation was all booked in advance, the pass allowed us to play with times and not worry about missing a connection.
      It's funny how much we Canadians love all that "old" stuff, isn't it?

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  3. I very much enjoyed this post (actually that Mitford sweater has me thinking about the Bella Freud 1970 sweater and mentally choosing one of my pullovers to play with . . . .). I'm with you on finding that too many visitors completely alter an exhibition. I need space for viewing, contemplating, and I very much appreciate those shows that only allow so many in at a time, even if it means more queuing for tix. Sounds as if the surfeit of tourists is challenging the service industry there as well -- you usually go further off the beaten track, don't you? Might not just have been your grief and fatigue that was putting you off, this trip, but at least England can use that excuse for you not seeing her at her best ;-) You still managed to find the good though -- brava, you! I must say that my favourite moment in the post was when you wrote casually, "My friend Frances." It's true. We might only have met once "in real life," but we are not just co-bloggers or bloggers who've met and liked each other. We're really truly friends, despite the distance between us, and I look forward to shrinking the map before too very long. Have a good weekend, my friend ;-)

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    1. We usually do go more off the beaten track, at least for part of a trip. Too much city-ness can be wearing, I find. By the time we got to Stratford, I was weary of so many people in close proximity. Partly that's just me. I'm more used to a few days in a city followed by a self-catered accommodation somewhere small, tiny, even. I could have lingered in Beeley, though.
      Loved your post on friendship. The post and the comments!

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    2. Wait a minute... "shrinking the map before too long"??? Are you heading east any time soon, by any chance?

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    3. No specific plans for the next six months, but I've decided I must get back next year at some point to see a few friends and a few favourite places. . .

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  4. That was a great write up Sue. I'm sure you will be inspiring readers to visit some of the places you have found . I smiled at your experiences of our local transport , not always perfect but can be fascinating . You just need to be a little bit brave & keep your sense of humour . I did enjoy our afternoon together , it was all I hoped & expected it would be . The only sadness of course is that you are so far away but how nice that we can easily be in touch with each other . You were very kind about me . I'm not sure I can live up to that but you are right about the plain speaking - it's a Yorkshire trait I'm afraid , we can't help it . Hurry back .
    Wendy in York
    PS Hi there Sue's mum , I'm sure you will be reading this . It was lovely to meet your Sue at last & she does have a way with words - some rather rude saying about ducks comes to mind ��

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    1. Thanks, Wendy. Speaking of keeping one's sense of humour, I had to try hard not to laugh at some of what I was listening to on my Saturday morning train journey... wouldn't do to reveal that I was ear-wigging their conversation.
      P.S. Ha. Geese, Wendy, geese... not ducks. And for those listening into this exchange... she's referring to a saying about how one's tongue (i.e. mine) can wag, very much like a part of a goose's anatomy. And that's all I'm saying. Figure out the rest for yourselves:)

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    2. Oh heck , geese ...not ducks . Nearly got it right .
      Wendy

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  5. Thank you for sharing your lovely pictures and travel experiences, as well as your frankness about some of the difficulties. I hope that you will have a peaceful and regenerative transition to being at home! I always come home from a long trip wanting to nest, and this is certainly the right time of year for it.

    ceci

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    1. Thanks, Ceci. Home is always nice to come back to, especially this time of year!

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  6. This really was a lovely story and photos-so many beautiful places in so little time. It was nice to drink tea and hear about your journey
    It was too soon after your loss,but,nevertheless,I believe that it was a good decision not to cancel your trip,although ,sometimes,you must have felt like projected from one situation to the other and it certainly wasn't easy
    Meeting friends from blogosphere is wonderful,so nice to realize how we could find friends in far away places-it really enriches our life
    And turists......I prefer to choose less crowded places and months,but then:I'm one of them,too :-)
    Dottoressa

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    1. Thanks, Dottoressa. You're right, of course. We're all tourists when we travel. I need to develop more patience if I'm to tackle crowded exhibitions and line-ups etc. If I'm on my own I'm better. When I'm with someone and we're somewhere at my suggestion, I'm always too aware of their developing impatience, I think.

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  7. The crowds...and those awful selfie sticks ...are to be avoided at all costs!
    I went three years ago and, also through blogging, was invited to stay with my friend Julie near Cambridge! Two nights in her wonderful, gorgeous house and gardens. They took me all over Cambridge, we went to her friends Georgian mansions and gardens, and generally became very good friends! I just love what blogging has done to make all this possible...and so glad you have experienced the same. When I get fed up with blogging I remember these times and the wonderful people, and I keep going!!!!

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    1. I'm glad that some places have a ban on selfie-sticks. At the very least they're intrusive, and sometimes even dangerous. One man at Shakespeare's birthplace, had a camera and an extended selfie-stick with a phone on it, and he kept waving the stick around. Thought I was going to get whacked in the head at one point.

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  8. I loved your post, Sue, especially since I had "issues" of my own last month when I went to Italy. Did you know I met an angel? I have no doubt he was a real angel... If you're interested, it's called The Angel and the Rolling Stones on 1010ParkPlace. There are so many wonderful people who will go out of their way to help. It restores my faith in people and this crazy world. I love that you got to meet some of the women you've only known online. I was able to do that last year. My friend "Essie" came from London on the Chunnel to meet me in Paris! Wow! Our two days together were so much fun. Happy you're home safely. Rest up, Brenda

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    1. Thanks, Brenda. I read your experience at he Stones concert in Italy. Wow, you're lucky that something really bad didn't happen!

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  9. I am thinking it's possible that you planned the trip for a different self than the one who wound up going. That the Sue who wound up going might have preferred a quiet village in Cornwall with all the time in every day to simply wander. Because you have so much to process. That said, when you look back, I am sure you will be glad you went anyway. xoxoxox.

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    1. That's a good point, Lisa. We planned the trip quite some time ago, and by the time we actually boarded the plane, I was in a very different frame of mind. Funny that you mention the village in Cornwall... I specifically avoided Cornwall on this visit because Stu wants to go there and I'm saving it for a trip we take together.

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  10. Hi Sue
    How wonderful to connect with the ladies... I often read their comments.
    As much as I enjoy travel, it's nice to come home!
    Such a great trip and now special memories!
    Robin T

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    1. It was lovely to connect with Rosie and Wendy. Funny how we get o know people from a few lines of comment on a blog post. I still remember how you reacted to my post about "The Shiniest Star" book.

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  11. Your trip sounds lovely despite the difficulties. Great photos and very excited to see "Wendy in York" whose comments I always enjoy (Have to admit was intrigued by your duck comment Wendy, confirms my suspicion that Sue would be very entertaining irl!) Nice that your blog has has been a source of new friends as well as an outlet for your creativity. Look forward to more fashion and books soon. Iris

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    1. Ha. Well spotted, Iris. It's an expression that my mum and grandmother used to say... about someone who talked too much. Like me:)

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  12. Hi Sue, really not sure where to start .... So many connections .... as you mentioned, we live so far apart yet we've been lucky enough to meet up twice in just over a year and realise that we can chat as easily face to face as we do on line. Councidence to find out that you have previously visited some of my favourite places in the Yorkshire Dales! :) like Wendy I also come from Yorkshire! Then Lisa suggested that maybe you would have preferred visiting a quiet village in Cornwall and that's just where I am at the moment ....and it's perfect, great sea views and relaxing walks ... we have a spare bedroom!! :) Dottoressa mentions being a tourist and I echo that, wherever we travel that's what we are. So many people in Stratford comment negatively about "tourists" but I feel they're what give the town it's "buzz" along with Shakespeare!! :) I'll never forget that if I hadn't visited as a tourist then I wouldn't be living there!
    Back to you Sue!! Really great post ...as always I've enjoyed reading all that you've written ... being able to meet up is the "icing on the cake" I was more than happy to get up bright and early to meet up with you as it was such a shame that you arrived whilst I was travelling. At least you were able to follow my favourite scenic walk by the Avon!
    I feel some some sadness that it didn't turn out to be the trip of your dreams but I identify with that .... Expectations!!
    Plus you'd experienced such a sad and stressful time before travelling. However, it's good to read how much you did enjoy certain parts ....I hope your mum liked the picture with Mr Bennett!!
    Take care and hope you've enjoyed a rejiuvenating weekend at home :)
    Rosie

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    1. Hope you are loving Cornwall. As I mentioned to Lisa, I deliberately didn't want to go to Cornwall this trip because I'm saving it. Stu and I have long planned to visit there. We just need to decide what we're going to combine it with.
      I think that tourists are often sneered at by people who don't travel much themselves... after all once we pack our bags that's what we all are. Having said that... I still try to avoid crowds, and crowded times if I can possibly do so. And selfie-sticks!

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    2. Me too! Very early starts and late evening strolls are always the best. I don't always feel that happy when the alarm rings but it's always worth it!! Exploring La Pedrera (Casa Milà) in Barcelona, especially the rooftop area during the early morning whilst it was relatively quiet was just perfect!

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  13. Oops! excuse typo ...coincidence

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  14. Hi Sue
    If you are looking for somewhere tranquil and wild,inspiring,incredibly beautiful and nearly empty of tourists visit Donegal in Ireland. You will never forget the beauty and the people. I think you would love it.Mary

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    1. I love Ireland. Never been to Donegal, though. Yet:)

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  15. I am not a big Shakespeare fan either so I get you on that. I am jealous that you went to the Peak District. I really wanted to go there this summer,but it didn't work out. I hope to go next year. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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  16. Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing these. Great information, this is a place I'd love to visit. Jacqui
    www.mummabstylish.com x

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  17. So sorry for your loss. It must have been really difficult to travel so shortly after. I liked your description of Stratford-upon-Avon - brings me back to when I was there (although only for a few hours)! I remember there was a large group of mainland Chinese tourists and the guide was pointing out some swans to them, like "that's a swan" (I speak Mandarin so was shamelessly eavesdropping). That made me roll my eyes so hard, but on further reflection, maybe they had really never seen a swan before in their lives!

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  18. Looks like you had a good trip, and sorry to hear about the troubles about how to get to Chatsworth from your hotel but at least you found out about the bus. We loved our visit to Chatsworth and we arrived late in the afternoon so it wasn't as crowded as it appears to have been on your visit. I haven't been to Anne Hathaway's cottage but would love to visit soon.

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.