|Lyme Park, aka Pemberley in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth|
This Spring, in a joint celebration of our mutual birthday of April 11, my friend, Pam and I, along with our respective spouses, Quint and Chris, embarked on a trip of a lifetime: a transatlantic cruise on the Queen Mary. We met up in London mid-May to board the luxury ship in Southampton, which took us across an ocean to dock in New York.
Prior to meeting up in London, Chris, and I spent a week in the United Kingdom, flying into Edinburgh and journeying through the Lake and Peak district of England in a rented car. We really piled it on as part of my "milestone" birthday celebration, staying at several charming B & B's and visiting several great estates.
|UK version of dollar store|
|Chris driving on the wrong side of the car and road|
In the land where one drives on the "wrong" side of the road and bargains can be found at the local "pound store", there's so much beautiful countryside and quaint places to experience that keeping up with the local customs is just part of the charm.
|At Chattsworth with Mr. Darcy, do not kiss!|
|Cents and Sensibility|
Speaking of pounds, even the currency is enchanting. What felicity to see my favorite author on the ten pound note. Not surprisingly, the money wasn't our only English encounter with Jane Austen. We visited not one, but two, Pemberley estates - Lyme Park and Chattsworth - and had afternoon tea at both Austen mansions.
|Chris looking like one of the natives at Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile|
Starting our sojourn in Scotland, we felt like nobility. Our hotel was a stone's throw from the Royal Mile, the main street of Edinburgh, anchored by two castles: Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. We had afternoon tea on the grounds of the latter. Walking down this regal thoroughfare, we shopped for Royal Wedding souvenirs and kilts for our kids. We toured the Royal Yacht and, yes, had afternoon tea on board.
|On the Royal Yacht|
|Afternoon tea on the Royal Yacht|
We also stopped at the famed Elephant House tea room where J.K. Rowling wrote her Harry Potter stories. We had tea and scones and I was inspired to write many blog stories!
|Tea at the Elephant House inspires more blogs|
|Chris back in the peak district after 40 some years|
|Tea on our balcony at Miller Howe|
|Miller Howe B & B in the Lake District|
|Bubnell Farms B & B on the Chattworth Estate|
Our next stop was Bubnell Farm, a B & B on a real working farm and once part of the grand Chattsworth estate. At night, we could see the twinkling lights of the village in the distance and hear the soothing moo's of the resident cows as they headed home.
No trip to Chattsworth is complete without a trip to the gift shop to see the bust of Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen, from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightly). There's actually a a sign posted below that warns "please do not kiss". Although I love all the Mr. Darcy's, if it had been Colin Firth, I could not be accountable for my actions.
|Blenheim Buttery, a charming inn from the 17th century and just a short distance from Blenheim Palace|
Our final B & B was in Woodstock, and by that time, we were truly half a million roundabouts strong. The inn was Bleinheim Buttery, a charming 17th century building right in town and just steps from Bleheim Palace, home to Conseulo Vanderbilt (my Gilded Age Pleasure) and birthplace of Winston Churchill.
|Blenheim Palace, home to Conseulo Vanderbilt and birthplace of Winston Churchill|
At last, we turned in our rental car in Oxford and took the train to London. We met up with our friends at The Bailey's Hotel in Mayfair. Although we only had a day left before the cruise, we squeezed in a trip the British Museum, hat shopping and the traditional stop at Harrods' Oyster Bar.
|Hat shopping for the Royal Wedding|
|Harrods Oyster Bar, meeting up with friends|
Finally, the day had arrived to board the Queen Mary and be indulged for seven days. With limited internet connections and no port of calls, one is highjacked to relax. We sat by the pool, read books, walked the decks, saw shows and dined superbly three times a day (at a minimum) and, of course, had afternoon tea.
|Queen Mary stateroom, exciting and new, come on board, we're expecting you!|
At the end of our cruise, as we neared the Brooklyn Port - rising at 5:15 AM to catch the first sight of Ellis Island - I got misty eyed with an unexpected flood of emotions. Not only was it spectacular to see the Statue of Liberty stand tall despite the early morning fog, but reality set in that this vacay was at it's end.
|Our designated dining table in the Club Room|
|Afternoon tea on QM II|
I checked off so many boxes on this trip that I'm sure I'm covered for quite awhile. I feel so fortunate to have taken this journey with my husband along with good friends. Turning the "new forty" was exceptional!
Please stay tuned for future bite-sized blogs on our trip across the pond and back - afternoon teas, Gilded Age, Jane Austen and more afternoon teas!
|Exceptional vacation, but great to be back home!|