Friday, June 19, 2015

Day 21-22 Down to the Sea!

Goodness- I'm getting way behind! That's what happens when you stay with friends rather than in a boring old hotel where there's nothing better to do at night than write stuff about your day. Instead I'm having a great time meeting peoples' kids, spending time with spouses and generally enjoying life without electronics! Who knew? But I vow to carry on with my reports, if for no other reason than getting to look back at them some time in the future when I'm knee deep in details and need a reminder that this is what it's all for!

Robert in the garden at Stourhead

So, back to my last day in Wiltshire, almost 10 days ago now. Said goodbye to Andrew and thanks for all the hospitality, then set off with Robert to go see Stourhead, another house with a Capability Brown landscape, just about a 20 minute drive away from their house. (I have a Home Depot and a Costco about 20 minutes from my house.) (OK, I also have the Pacific Ocean within a 20 minute walk, so there's that.)

First glimpse of a couple of the follies in the garden, designed by Henry Flitcroft

Got there just as they opened, and walked down the paths to the lake, on a brisk but sunny morning. The rhododendrons here were in their perfection, and some of them are huge- 30 feet tall - covered in pink or purple or white blossoms. We cruised the pathways around the lake, passing several architectural follies (not by Brown) that had nice interiors with statues and painting, and one particularly chatty guard. The guards and and security in most of the English museums I've been in on this trip have been talkative and enthusiastic, and (mostly) very well informed. Nice to see that they care and value their jobs.
The Temple of Apollo, also by Flitcroft.

We were almost ready for lunch by then, but decided to first tackle the house, which is not as large as some, and was completely refurbished after a disastrous fire in 1902. It is still charming, and had another one of those libraries that I could spend quite a bit of time in, with large antique print books that really turn my wheels. The decoration was somewhat plainer than others, but it was still charming and really felt like a home you could live in. The exterior was designed by Colen Campbell, (1676 – 1729) who was instrumental in bringing Palladian style to England mostly through his book, Vitruvius Britannicus, published in the early 1700s.

The portico at Stourhead was a later addition, but was done to Colen Campbell's design.

Left the house and had a bit of lunch, then Robert drove me down to the train station at Gillingham, where I caught a train to Woking (£35 for a 1- 1/2, ouch!) and then rented a car to get down to a hamlet called Chiddingfold, where I'd stayed in an inn with my mother some 42 years ago! I'd located the inn online and booked a night there just for the memories, and (once I found it- without GPS!) I was not disappointed to find it looked unchanged. The low, dark entry was charming and reflected its long history as an inn. The Crown Inn was built around 1250, and is recorded as a place for traveling monks to stay in the mid 1300s. It is a half-timbered house with wonky floors and a beautiful old dining room. My only disappointment was learning that my room was in a recently built annex, though it was still nice and reflected a moderate price that is probably not the case with the old room where my mom and I stayed in the 70's. 

Crown Inn in Chiddingfold, Surrey, built in the mid 1200s
The next day I got up and had my first proper English breakfast in the dining room, then drove down to Petworth, another fabulous house with gardens by Capability Brown again. For the past couple of days, I'd had a bad sore throat coming on, and as I walked the grounds before the house opened, I was feeling pretty light headed. The house was pretty fabulous, with a very nice kitchen and servants area, and an early example of a private gallery in the house that included numerous Turners and William Blakes, and carved wood ornaments by Grinling Gibbons in a great room that lived up to its name. 

Delicate and intricate carvings by Grinling Gibbons at Petworth

By this time the illness was coming on strong, and I barely made the drive down to Brighton, where I turned the car in and got dropped off at my little hotel on Regency Square. The place was fine, though I almost passed out from the effort of lugging my bags up to the 4th floor on the narrow stairs. After a short nap, I got up and out to find something for my throat, then I walked on a bit to take a look at where the Royal Pavilion was (for my visit the next day) and then went down to the beach to see what that was like.

"Put on your boots and let's go down to the beach!"

As a beach boy myself, this was hilarious! First of all, everyone is fully dressed. Maybe a few shirts off here and there, but loads of people (including me!) in jackets, shoes, and pants. It's a bit easier in that regard than it would be in LA, as the beach here is covered in cobbles, not sand, so you stay pretty clean on it. You are also free to smoke and drink alcohol on it, and the locals certainly do. There were no bathers in the water, and a few brave souls were on kayaks, and I saw one lonely paddler on a surfboard. Not quite as lonely as Quadrophenia, but certainly not Redondo Beach either!

Nothing says "beach" quite like stretching out in your suit and talking on your phone as the gulls circle overhead, taking aim
Straggled on back to the hotel, spent a few minutes on the WiFi in the "lobby", and then crashed.

No comments:

Post a Comment