Friday, September 22, 2006

Five Pictures from a Fabulous Vacation

Katy in a punt. Katy and I were celebrating multiple happy occasions this trip: her engagement; my 28th birthday; the completion of her dissertation; and our ten-year anniversary of being best friends. On Saturday, Katy took me out for a picnic in a punt: a baguette, sharp cheddar, tart apples, Cornish pasties, McVitie's, dark chocolate pastilles, water and lemonade (which I insisted on having in honor of Lord Peter and Harriet, though ours was non-synthetic). Katy did all the punting, while I sat and watched the ducks and the undergraduates float by, and we talked and talked and talked. We went up the Cherwell to a pub called the Victoria Arms, where we each had a glass of Pimm's, then came back down for dinner with her fiance Josh and a wonderful bonfire with McVitie's s'mores. (Directions: 1. Toast one marshmallow to the bursting point. 2. Quickly remove the marshmallow from the stick and place it on a chocolate-side-up McVitie. 3. Place another McVitie on top, chocolate side down, and squash to make the chocolate melt. 4. Eat quickly, and don't be ashamed to lick your fingers.)

Me on a stile. On Sunday, Katy and I journeyed by train and bus up to the Peak District in Derbyshire. We held my official birthday dinner at the Rutland Arms Hotel in Bakewell (an inn where Jane Austen herself stayed during a visit to the county in 1811) and slept that night in a B&B. The next day, we set off on a five-mile trek over the Dales, which occasioned considerable good-natured sisterly bickering over the map (Katy held it), our route (I didn't trust her), if it would rain (it didn't), and whether we would reach our destination in time for afternoon tea (of paramount concern to both of us). As it turned out, I was right that our route was not the one marked on the map, but we agreed that the map was stupid and our way was better, as we saw a great deal of beautiful Derbyshire countryside (and sheep) and still reached Chatsworth by 1 p.m. -- plenty of time for tea.

Chatsworth. Why were we so wild to see Chatsworth, you ask? Because Jane Austen likewise visited it on that 1811 trip, right when she was revising Pride and Prejudice, and it is very likely the model for Pemberley:

They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road, with some abruptness, wound. It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; -- and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. . . . Elizabeth was delighted.

And it is lovely. Begun in 1552 by Bess Hardwick and her second husband William Cavendish, it housed Mary Queen of Scots at various times during her imprisonment, and it is still the home of the Cavendish family -- better known as the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The interiors were gorgeous and luxurious without gratuitous ostentation, and the grounds (originally designed by Capability Brown) included a cascade, a rose garden, a delightful hedge maze (which pleased me very much, as I long ago wrote a P&P fanfic set in a hedge maze at Pemberley), and a Squirting Willow (no doubt cousin to the Whomping variety up north). And the stables have been converted into a restaurant, where we had our delicious, much-anticipated tea.

Mr. Darcy, the statue. In fact, Chatsworth is so lovely and so what Jane Austen had in mind that its exterior, entrance hall, and sculpture gallery served as Pemberley in the 2005 adaptation of P&P. While I have considerable differences with that adaptation, I was very fond of Matthew MacFadyen, and they've kept the plaster bust of him as Mr. Darcy in the sculpture gallery where Keira Knightley-as-Elizabeth sees it in the film. It's displayed next to the dress Keira wore in that scene and real first editions of P&P, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey/Persuasion, which I did not steal, despite my extreme case of book lust. Future visitors to Chatsworth may thank me for my forebearance.

Decadence. Finally, of course, after we came back to Oxford on Tuesday, we had to rent the execrable new P&P and watch it all over again -- which was actually a pleasure, as we'd never seen and snarked at it together. So here we have from right to left: the movie; a glass of Cava sparkling wine; Nutella; strawberries; McVitie's; more wine; and Ben & Jerry's Phish Food. Bliss.

More pictures of our trip, with commentary, are now up on my Flickr page here.


  1. Oh. Oh, it just sounds so lovely. *is wistful* England! In autumn! Punts!

  2. Your pictures were amazing! Thanks for sharing them with the rest of us who are too poor to travel! Now get back to work like the rest of us dogs!

  3. This is the kind of "literary vacation" I love having myself, so I enjoyed hearing about your adventures and especially seeing your pictures. The pics made me want to return to England sooner rather than later. So many literary sites to see! I was also there in the fall and loved it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. How lovely! (quite envious over here)

    And Nutella is the breakfast spread of champions...

  5. Really appreciate your picture on the stile. Have been reading mentions of stiles in Brit lit for years and could never visualize.
    Relief at last! Thank you!

  6. Gorgeous. I'm ready to go back. It's been a few years and i miss it!

  7. Better Cornish pasties than Cornish Pixies...

  8. Oh my. Punting, stiles, sheep, Chatsworth, Darcy statues, books, and Cornish pasties. You really know how to generate tremendous vacation envy!

  9. Oh my...McVitie's and a toasted marshmallow...that's pure genius.

    There's something ethereal about the English countryside. I journied through Wales a few years ago and it was breathtaking.


  10. I'll roast marshmallows over the electric burner on my stove. I am so fixated.

    I, too, never knew what a stile looked like. Always thought they were a little set of steps over a little fence.

  11. I am absolutely GREEN. It's always been my dream to do a Jane Austen tour. She's my very favorite literary author.

    Thanks for sharing the pictures.

  12. Pemberly! Squirting/Whomping Willows! Mr. Darcy!! That photo paired with Austen's excerpt was perfectly in synch. Looks beautiful! Oh and I agree, I did not very much like the new P&P, as my choice for Elizabeth would NOT have been Keira Knightley. However, I did enjoy the performance of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley and his two sisters. And who doesn't love to eat nutella & watch a movie with a friend just to snark? :)