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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Jane Austen to Downton Abbey

When we were planning our visit to London we were disappointed Highclere Caslte, a.k.a Downton Abbey was closed to visitors until the summer months. So we put the idea out of our heads and made other plans.....

For our last day in England we rented a car, but didn't make any specific plans. The general idea was to jump in the car, attempt NOT to die while driving on the other side of the road, and explore the English Countryside. You know, a spontaneous "fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants" kind of day.

The night before we agreed The Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton would be our starting point. I'm not an avid reader, except for anything.....everything Jane Austen. And, it happened to be the 200th anniversary of her novel Pride & Prejudice.
Garden at Jane Austen House
The actual table where she penned Pride & Prejudice
It was a beautiful drive and......bonus, we made it there alive. It was a very peaceful time at the house-museum. I relished reading all the background regarding Jane, her family, and the house.
After our time at the museum we sat down at the pub across the street (maps/brochures in hand) and began narrowing down our options for the next leg of our road trip. I was busy stuffing Fish and Chips in my face when my sister exclaimed, "Did you know Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) is only 30 minutes from here?".  We both agreed it seemed ridiculous to be so close and not go.....even if it meant only getting a picture from the outside. This was a test of our Downton devotion.
So, it was decided....we were on our way to Downton Abbey! Suddenly the inner 16 year old girl emerged from within us.....we giggled and bounced and hummed the shows theme song the whole way there.
We arrived at an open perimeter gate (the actual castle still out of sight). There was one sign which read "closed to the public". There was another sign that said "public road enter here". What were we to do? Well, drive on....of course! The plan: if someone caught us we would  1) bat our eyelashes incessantly and/or  2) play the "Stupid American Card". ie. what? huh? Oh, so sorry...etc.
We drove slow and stealthy. Then, all of a sudden.....
there it was....peaking through the trees! Our excitement elevated.
We continued on the narrow winding road as it climbed up a little hill with a pasture of sheep.
 Until.....we had made it.......the Main Gate!

Sure, we didn't get a tour or even close enough to peek in the windows. But, there was something exhilarating about the whole experience. All you Downton fans would understand. Mission accomplished! We had been there!!

Off to Oxford.....

P.S.  Our $40 car rental ended up being around a $240 car rental.....I may have side swiped "something" while trying to drive in London. But, our adventure....priceless!


  1. Hi Christy! I'm Nicola's friend from college...I hope you don't mind me peeking in!

    That last photo doesn't even seem real. How fun! I'm so happy you were able to go with her for a little bit. This may have been my most green with envy day of her trip so far!

    1. Of course I remember you Tawnya. Check in anytime. It was the trip of a life time!

  2. AWWWWWESOME!!! So glad I'm enjoying my vicarious trip through you!! :):)

    1. I'm glad you are enjoying it. It's fun to be able to share and relive it through the blog.