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
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
|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.|
|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 . . .