Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Smug Mummy Jet-Sets: England, the Second Bit

**Confidential to readers, all three of you: thanks for your patience with my erratic posting schedule. With Father's Day and a Master P birthday coming up, I'm busy plotting in a few different directions this week. I regret to inform you that there's even a little mommyblogger-style crafting involved (!).**

What's a clever way to distract the visiting American from attending the jam-packed / rainy / over-touristed / etc. Jubilee festivities going on in London?

Lure her to the verdant English countryside, set her up in a Big Damn Country House (or "pile", as it might be called here) for a couple of nights, and promise her plenty of horseback riding and a trip to a certain Duchess' home turf.

Eager as I was to attend more of the Jubillee events after our Epsom escapade, I've read enough Austen to understand one doesn't pass on the opportunity to horse around in the country for a weekend. Plus, I was supposedly there to visit my real friends, and not my imaginary royal ones, blah blah blah. Supposedly.

Any hesitation I may have had about skipping the other events evaporated as we drove into Hampshire and up the stately drive to Tylney Hall, that wee shack pictured above. The IWOM and her Consort, who had booked our lodgings, rolled their eyes at it all being a bit "naff" or worse, American, to stay in such splendor.

On behalf of the United States, I merrily responded with an American "Whatever!" as I waltzed my naff arse right into these luxury accomodations - as did my friends, strangely enough.

Anywhooo - Tylney Hall is a former residence turned hotel, as many of these too-big, too-expensive former manses are now in England, and it is everything this BBC America watching American could have wanted. The rooms are quietly updated without being too showy or modern, the service attentive without being obsequious, and the grounds, well . . . you'll see:

We wandered, we ended up at charming pubs for "cheeky little pints" . . . absent a slightly stuffy, too old-world dining experience at the hotel restaurant, it was perfect.

And then, as if enough of my personal geek boxes weren't already ticked off, we took a day trip to Berkshire - home county to Princess Shinylocks - to go for a two-hour hack. We had a terrific experience at Cullinghood Equestrian Center if you're, ya know, ever in the area looking for a horse to ride:

PONIES - and a sexxxxxy neon vest, as mandated by the Department of Overcaution or similar

This is approximately when the "Queen's Weather" appeared, those buckets of rain which apparently show as if on cue whenever Her Majesty has a public something going on. On our hack across the lush countryside, I learned the importance of those Barbour jackets you see horsey Brits running around in (see Shinylocks' example here - thanks to Ms. WKW, as ever). My top half was dry, my non-Barbour bottom half soaking wet, my muscles in near collapse from my first ride in forever - and I loved every second of it.

Our long-suffering Consort collected us from the stable and drove us to nearby Bucklebury - yes, the actual hometown of a certain Shinylocks - where we just happened, happened, to drop in on what we hear is the family pub. I'd like to add that my more-British-than-the-Brits friend the IWOM, and not I, was the source of this Princess stalking tidbit. For once:

We warmed our bones - by which I mean "had some whisky" - and furtively looked around for any Royal adjacent types. The spirit was more successful than any sightings, alas, but at least the whisky helped us to feel better about our loss. And, ya know, cute country pub and such.

We returned to the hotel for another night, punctuating our return trip to London the next day with a visit to another old pile, the Vyne. Dummy here hadn't thought to reserve ahead at the nearby Highclere Castle - ie, "Downton Abbey" - which was already booked given the holiday weekend. We looked for something else to suit our my Big Damn Country House needs:

Oh, no - I definitely wasn't imagining myself as Elizabeth Bennet visiting Pemberley when I saw this. Not for a minute. Anglophile /bibliophile /fill-in-the-dork-blank heaven.

Um, yeah. So there's this thing in England called the National Trust, which I understand goes around raising money to preserve magnificent places like this, and for which you can buy a membership in order to see said houses. What I want to know is whether they need a mommyblogger-in-residence - I like big houses! I like England! I mean, it's obvious.

Call me, National Trust! xoxo

Ahem.  Anyways, Vyne was first built in Tudor times and has evolved over the years, but it provides a compelling look into English history. Take the time to speak to the docents in each room, who were enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their subject:

There's some fancy Tudor symoblism to that wood paneling you see there, but my favorite thing was these patriotic mice hidden througout the house.

My other favorite Vyne bit was stumbling upon the preparations for a Jubilee street party being held in the courtyard; parties like this were in every village we passed through:

With thanks to the Consort, who may have posed as a reporter to snap these photos.

After touring the house and treating ourselves to a cream tea - which seems to be Brit-speak for "an excuse to eat dessert in the middle of the day" - we continued on our way back to London . . .


Prippy Handbook said...

Your photos are amazing... they make me want to go there RIGHT now! Looks like an awesome trip.

Hope you have fun with your upcoming festivities!

ms. mindless said...

I am LOVING this trip recap. You look adorable on that pony :)

Amanda Cobb said...

Um... if you are ever going to England again and staying in Tylney Hall or similar again and, you know, need a travel buddy/fellow Austen aficionado - LET ME KNOW.

I'd be all over that.


Looks like you had a fabulous trip! :)

Amy - OPC said...

LOVE the fact that you went to The Old Boot. I would have done the same thing. :)

The Preppy Princess said...

These are incredible posts. Just amazing. And I think we all understand that staying at the Big Damn Country House was a hardship, if not worse, done only because of your wish to have something even more-Pretty-than-Ascot to share with those of us less fortunate in our current travel (non-travel) circumstances. (Cough-cough.)

tp said...

What a wonderful trip across the pond you had! I have absolutely loved reading your recaps over the past few days, what gorgeous photos and of course, you looked ravishing!

Erin said...

Looooving this! England is at the very top of my Places to Go Before I Die husband doesn't get it! There's a chance we'll be transferred there for a few months next year, and I am sooooooo up for a company paid trip to my Mecca :)

You and I have very similar travel tastes/literary priorities - can't wait to hear the rest!

Samma said...

Sans neon vest, you look soo Princess Grace in your riding togs!

Heather said...

Well, this just looks amazing. I was just whining to my beau this morning that what I really want out of life is to live at Downton Abbey. "Upstairs," he quickly qualified. ;)

Cowgirl in the City said...

So beyond jealous! Love the pictures, and loved the fact that you don't hide your admiration of Princess Shinylocks. :) I love her too!

The Waspy Redhead said...

I need medical attention to assist me in recovering from the cuteness of your vacation.

The Shabby Princess said...

I am fighting back tears!! This is so exactly why we're friends--this is just my idea of heaven. I'm so jealous you were there for Jubilee festivities and all that other lovely nonsense. COME ON JULY 12!!! (my return to the motherland)

a H.I.T. said...

My mouth is still hanging open, in utter jealousy over all of this. And I love me a good garden party! Even if you do have to pose as a photog to get some pics :)

Amy @ Forever 29 said...

So I'm adding a membership to this National Trust to my wish list. Sounds amazing. And cream tea, yum.

Nat said...

You went to her family pub!! I remember seeing them interviewing people there leading up to the royal wedding!! Ahh this trip is amazing!

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