I was a photo-taking fool today, and if you didn’t know better, you’d think I was sorta full of myself with all the photos I’m planning to show you. Okay, I AM sorta full of myself. But some subjects are just so awesome, the photos sorta take themselves. You may want to get a cup of coffee before you settle in with this one. And just sose you’ll know, there are a ton more where these came from (I really did edit a LOT!)
We were up early again, headed in opposite directions for the day. We each have so many things we want to see and do, we’re having to prioritize. Highclere didn’t make Mr. Tattered’s cut, and Portsmouth didn’t make mine, so it worked out well for each of us to be out on our own today.
I was off first, taking the nearby tube to Paddington Station where I caught the train for an hour long trip to Newbury, followed by a 15 minute cab ride to Highclere Castle, the castle used in the filming of Downton Abbey. The cab driver’s accent was so darling I could have listened to him talk all day!
All of the pre-book tickets for the rest of the season (they’re only open to the public 60-70 days per year!) were sold out, but there was a notation on their web-site saying that if you just show up, there are sometimes spaces available. I was a little nervous going all that way HOPING to get in, but I figured that even if I couldn’t go inside, I’d be able to take photos of the outside and wander the grounds. Any die hard Downton Abbey fan would do the same, right?
I added in lots of extra time so I’d have time to get myself misplaced and still get there. As it turned out, everything clicked, and I arrived 1/2 an hour before the castle opened, purchased my ticket and began photographing the outside while (or in the UK, “whilst”) I waited to get in. It was VERY foggy, so I was afraid the photos would be lousy, but I figured later in the day it would be hard to get pictures that didn’t have a ton of people in them, and I could always take more if the fog lifted and toss the early ones if need be. But, in this instance, the fog was a bit of an enhancement, and I got both foggy and sunny shots (lucky you? heeheehee!)
Decked out in sensible shoes and a cute skirt, I started my tour.
As I entered the gate, I was met with this…
I ALMOST gasped.
From there I headed to the right hand side of the castle where the outbuildings are. This is the view looking from the front of the castle to the grounds.
The back buildings were just charming.
Who takes pictures of water faucets, huh? Well the older places mostly have a separate faucet for hot and cold water. That just cracks me up – one hand gets scalded, the other frozen. Go figure!
Once I photographed the outside and visited the gift shop (of COURSE!) the Castle was open and ready for viewing. No photographs are allowed inside, but fortunately there were postcards, so I bought one of each!
It was so crazy to actually be in there! It wasn’t identical, of course. There were family photos that are removed for the taping, and some of the furniture was different, but much was recognizable. Lord Grantham’s desk had a photo of him on it. They had little signs everywhere indicating which rooms were used in the filming. The library with the red couches used nearly all the real furniture (and all those books? They’re REAL – many dating back to the 1500 and 1600s) but the dining table was different. We saw Cora, Edith and Sybil’s bedrooms, as well as the one where Mr. Pamuk was staying, and of course were able to go up and down the grand staircase.
Many of the privately owned castles in England are in financial distress. It is incredibly expensive to maintain them, so they tend to not be kept up real well. This family has found a way to bring in a reasonably good income, so they are better able to keep up with the maintenance. Although it was “well worn” I would not call it shabby. But the castles we’ve been to in the past, that are now owned by the “National Trust” tend to be better cared for.
Anyway, it was grand.
Once back outside, it was still foggy, so I walked the grounds, both to enjoy them, and to fill my time while I waited to see if the sun would come out for some additional photos (I tend to be controlled by my camera!) It was past prime time for flowers, but there were still some.
Beyond the garden, I found a darling little bench out away from the castle where I sat to get caught up on my journal and have a bite to eat (a yogurt and shortbread brought from Pret – a whole ‘nuther story, if I remember later on.) Not many people ventured out that far, so I mostly had it all to myself.
My view from the bench…
I sorta got lost in my writing, but finally looked up to see that the sun had peeked out.
So, I headed back to take more photos of the castles with the blue sky. But, by then there were people all over the place, so I kept the photos above head level.
I really hated to leave, but I figured this would be a good time to get back to London and hit Selfridge’s, the department store of “Mr. Selfridge” fame (It’s actually the 2nd largest department store in the world, but I’d never heard of it before the show!) and it’s REAL. And it’s amazing. It makes Nordsrom’s look like amateur hour. It didn’t make Mr. Tattered’s cut either, and he wasn’t scheduled to get back ’til after 7pm, so I had time.
I think I’ll save Selfridge’s and a peek Portsmouth for tomorrow’s post. I say “peek” because I had the big camera and Mr. Tattered’s iphone was dropping battery strength like a rock, so he didn’t take many pictures. Oh, and he doesn’t live with a camera in front of his face! Heeheehee!) We have a super quiet day planned followed by dinner with friends we made on one of our cruises, so I shouldn’t have too much to report. Although they’re taking us to their favorite “watering holes.” It could get crazy! Stay tuned…