Portrait of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, at Chatsworth House
I’ve been MIA from blogging for the past couple of weeks. Sorry! It’s just that some freelance writing and editing work came up and has kept me busy. We’ve also been regaled with the fantastic news that Vivien Leigh’s grandsons have sold her archive to the Victoria and Albert Museum, so there’s a lot going on as we head into autumn.
Two weeks ago Robbie celebrated his birthday, and last weekend he and I drove up to Chester to visit his sister and her boyfriend. Whenever I travel around the UK, I usually take the train, but it’s great to rent a car and get a different feel for the landscape. The only problem with driving is, of course, traffic. It took us over an hour just to get out of London! On Saturday, Louisa and Alex drove us over to Wales. This was really exciting for me as the Bean side of my family is Welsh, and my dad always asks me if I’ve met any of our people (answer: no). Our destination was Conwy, on the north coast. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Conwy is known for the military garrison Conwy Castle and the city walls built during Edward I’s conquest of Wales in the 13th century. Only English citizens were allowed to live inside the city walls, and the Welsh were relegated to living in the surrounding areas. Conwy Castle is really interesting in that it remains much more in tact than a lot of the other castles I’ve visited while living in the UK. It’s largely a stone shell, but you can still climb to the tops of the towers (watch your step) where the views of Conwy Estuary and the surrounding town and hills are breathtaking.
After lunch at the vistor’s center, we explored Plas Mawr, a preserved Elizabethan house once owned by the merchant Robert Wynne. Not only did we get a glimpse into middle-class life during the Elizabethan Era, we also learned about things that affected all citizens during that time, like diseases, water supply, etc. There was an interactive board where visitors couple tap a “symptom” and have a doctor say what we could do to “cure” that particular ailment. My favorite was a woman asking how she could tell whether her husband was bewitched. The answer? “Look into your husband’s eyes. If you can see your reflection, then he is not betwitched. If you cannot see your reflection, then he is probably betwitched.” *Science*
Conwy Estuary from a window in Conwy Castle
The suburbs of Conwy from the top of Conwy Castle
Conwy Castle from the city wall on the other side of town
On our way back to London on Sunday, Robbie and I took a detour and drove over to the Peak District to visit Chatsworth House. I have to admit that its special place on my bucket list had something to do with it being the fictional setting for Pemberley in Joe Wright’s film version of Pride and Prejudice. Chatsworth is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and has been owned by the Cavendish family since 1549. Notable residents include Georgiana Cavendhish, the fashionable subject of the Kiera Knightley film The Duchess, and Deborah Mitford, who married Andrew, the 11th Duke of Devonshire. “Debo,” the only living Mitford sister, remains the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire.
The grounds of Chatsworth are dotted with random modern art sculptures that are unfortunate eyesores in the otherwise immaculate landscape. It’s the interior that remains most impressive. The string quartet performing in the foyer added wonderful ambiance to our self-guided tour!
The Canal Pond and Emperor Fountain
Hall of statues
Derbyshire Dales in the distance
Heather on the Derbyshire Moors. The Peak District is stunning.
*All photos © Kendra Bean, 2013