As many of you know, I am a lifelong Jane Austen fan. I harbour an unhealthy passion for all things Regency, I kiss Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy goodnight every night, I know every word to Pride and Prejudice, I dress up my loved ones in gowns with questionable back seams and force them to come English Country dancing with me. Ok, one of these statements is false.
I mean, Jane Austen is reason I got into costume design in the first place and by extension the reason I am on this trip. Where would I be without Jane? I had to make the journey to the mothership of Janeites everywhere, the cottage at Chawton. Her last residence before her death in 1817 and where revisions on her most famous work was done.
Hampshire is heart achingly gorgeous. It’s the quintessential English countryside. Verdant rolling hills dotted with trees and peppered with thatched roof Tudor style cottages. I can understand why Jane’s heart was broken when she had to move from her childhood home in Hampshire to Bath. It’s too lovely.
Our bed and breakfast was right in the heart of the countryside. The mom and pop establishment was very remote. Maybe a little too remote, without a car getting to and from our bed and breakfast proved a challenge. Walking was out of the question, from the BNB to Chawton it would have been a 1.5 hour affair. A little daunting in the rain that poured down. And a cab ride one way was the equivalent of $30! I think it was only through sheer determination that we did anything at all. Next time I will rent a car. Luckily, the bed and breakfast was very quiet. Scratch that, mostly quiet. Our host made us a traditional English breakfast every morning that was SO delicious and as farm to table as you can get, the eggs came from a chicken coop in the back yard. Much to my chagrin, the rooster who woke us up at the crack of dawn every day did not make an appearance on my dinner plate.
The Museum wasn’t open early enough for the us keeners. We arrived at 9:30 and were forced to kill time at terribly charming Cassandra’s Cup, a tea shop across the street. How unfortunate, right?
They served the freshest scones I’ve ever had; warm and soft and obviously fresh from the oven. Served with Earl Grey tea and lavender infused jam and clotted cream. Heavenly!
Once the doors opened, I was given ample opportunity to shame myself in public with my fan girl behaviour. I ached to put on the bonnets hanging in the kitchen and almost made a dash for the dining room where the telltale creaky door stands. The kind staff patiently told me I would be welcome to come and volunteer there, in costume if I so prefer! Do you even have to ask? I gave myself a crick in the neck swivelling it around to see all the Austen memorabilia and left a very happy girl.
After our visit to the holy grail of Austen fans, we turned our sights to Spain. Truth be told, I was looking forward to getting out of England. I was ready for a little sunshine. England felt so much like home, that I never really felt I was travelling. So, with our giant bags on our backs, we cabbed our way to the London Gatwick and £80 later (eek!) we were on our way to Madrid. I think the lesson learned from this part of the trip is somethings you HAVE to do, and no matter the challenges you face doing them, you have to make the best of the situation and enjoy the moment. Just make it work or get tainted memories. Then retreat to a cheaper country to recoup the losses!
Totally worth it.