Part 1, Downton Abbey Tour, Secret Garden, exquisite grounds…More tomorrow…



We held our breath as we approached Highclare Castle, home of the famed BBC Downton Abbey TV series.  No interior photos were allowed.  Please click here for interior photos of the house

When we planned the 10 hour tour which included a trip to the castle where the popular BBC TV series, Downton Abbey is filmed, we discovered the “real” name of the castle is actually Highclere Castle, which long before the show was a popular tourist attraction.


 
Please click here to enjoy the beautiful music from Downton Abbey while perusing today’s photos. 

With the production and popularity of the show, Downton Abbey, the increased tourism to the castle has been instrumental in it owners and occupants of the house, Earl and Lady Carnarvon to commence extensive much needed renovation.


The exquisite grounds were as equally appealing as the castle.

Earl and Lady Carnarvon stay out of sight during tours, often away at their summer home, although at times they have made an appearance during the 60 to 70 days a year the castle is open to the public. 

For the details and history of Highclere Castle, please click here


Tom was looking at the exterior condition of Highclere Castle as we wandered about the grounds.

Rather than retell the history and general facts regarding the castle with considerable information already online, we’ll share our photos and experiences of the 13 hour outing, over a period of two days in Parts 1 and 2.


There’s hardly a totally clear day in the UK including during our time at the castle.

Tomorrow, we’ll share photos of the village of Bampton Oxfordshire, where most of the village filming transpires. 


Standing at the back of the castle, this is the view of the carriage house.

For devotees of the popular British TV series produced by the profoundly talented Julian Fellows and his creative staff today’s post may off come appeal.  For those of you unfamiliar with the series, we can only suggest giving it a try for a delightful escape to another time and place, historically accurate, and robustly produced.


The back view of Highclere Castle.

We’ve watched the series since its first episode began on September 21, 2010, now rolling into its fifth season.  Our lively and knowledgeable tour guide Paul, explained that a week ago he’d seen the show in production at the village of Bamptonshire.  (“Shire” is included at the end of the names of villages and towns to indicate a division of land).


There is a huge field of wildflowers on the grounds of Highclere Castle.  We can only imagine how beautiful this would be in the spring in full bloom.

We had few expectation of yesterday’s lengthy outing beginning at 7:30 am when we walked across the street to the Kensington Hotel to be picked up in a luxury coach for the two hour drive to Oxford which was the first leg of the tour. We didn’t actually arrive at Highclere Castle until 2:30 pm with a full two hours to explore on our own.


View of the castle as we walked along the path to the gardens.

We’re sharing the separate areas we visited out of sequence, wrapping up the balance tomorrow.  We felt many of our readers were anxious to read about Downton Abbey first, when we’d mentioned it several times over the last week.

I recall seeing this bench under a tree in a scene in the series.

With 60 passengers in tow on the luxury coach where we spent several hours on the road, we all held our breath as we approached the Highclere Castle.


The vast array of color in the gardens was exquisite.

We were delighted to find many flowers blooming in the Secret Garden at Highclere Castle.

As is the case in many of these tours, one must prepare themselves for a letdown, when the anticipation has lingered for days or weeks.  But, disappointed…we were not!  It was all we expected and more. 


Anyone have an idea what this is?

The only disappointment was the fact that no photos are allowed anywhere inside the castle with respect for the privacy of Earl and Lady Carnaron since this is their personal home.


A simple white flowers amongst many.

In an odd way, once we entered the interior of the house,  I was fine not focusing on taking photos, instead able to pay attention to minute details, as we moved along the house’s many rooms.   Please click here for interior photos of the house.


Beautiful blooms!

Standing in the familiar rooms was exciting while our minds perused various episodes of the series.  My favorite was the familiar dining room and Tom’s was the library. An on site guide explained that there are approximately 200 rooms in the enormous castle with an estimated 120,000 square feet, 11,148 square meters.


A manicured path we followed in the Secret Garden.

Fortunately, we were allowed to take exterior photos which kept us busy during the second hour as we toured the extensive gardens. It wasn’t crowded as shown in our photos many of which we were able to take with tourists in view.  The fact that we’d arrived in the afternoon appeared to have been a factor in the lessened crowds.


With the rose blooming season behind us, we enjoyed seeing this pink rose.

At 4:30, we again boarded the bus for the quaint village of Brampton where many of the village scenes are filmed.  Apparently, the townspeople are opposed to their new found notoriety due to the series with increased business in their few shops and one pub in town. 


Bess and butterflies were everywhere partaking of the sweet nectar of many varieties of clowers.

When filming commences, autos, TV antennae, power lines, and trash bins must be removed.  In addition, they production crew fills the streets with dirt and gravel over the tarred roads to create an appearance of a time long ago.


Another butterfly alights a pretty white flower.

At the end of each season’s production the company holds a party for the entire village as well as providing donations to the city, making all the hoopla worthwhile to its citizens. 


We sat on a bench contemplating these unusual trimmings.

In the beginning of the tour, I’d considered that Tom had tagged along for my benefit.  However, as the day worn on, he was engaged and interested, particularly to the historical aspects of the castle and village.



Tom under a uniquely trimmed arch.

Having seen Highclere Castle we’ll have an entirely new perspective when the new fifth season of Downton Abbey  begins in January.


Although the greenhouse doors were locked, we took this shot through a tiny opening.

As the long day ended, the bus dropped us at the Kensington Station, a mere 15 minute walk back to our hotel.  Anxious to stop for dinner, we found a casual Italian restaurant on the way with good food which included a few items suitable for me.


The red in this flower close to the greenhouse, stood out among many.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with our visit to Bampton where the village shots for Downton Abbey are filmed and, also the historic village of Oxford, reeking of history dating back to 912 AD.  What an experience that was as well!  One could easily book a hotel in the fascinating town, staying for weeks to experience its many treasures.


Me, at the main entrance to the castle.

No, we don’t love touring on a bus with 60 other tourists. However, this was the most affordable tours we could find at US $370, 223 pounds for both of us.  Its wise to book in advance if possible. 



One last peek before we departed Hghclere Castle, home of the Downton Abbey TV series.

We’ll be tomorrow with Part 2 and many more photos!
_______________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, August 21, 2013:


Little did we know how many geckos we’d find in houses while in Africa, at this point a year ago with only 10 days until we’d depart Italy for Kenya.  For details from that date. please click here

Fitful night..Worrying…

Worrying is an enormous waste of time, especially during the night when restorative sleep is so vital to our well being. Each morning I am able to see how well I slept the previous night by plugging in my fitness armband to my computer.

As a lifelong fitness fanatic (“nut,” as Tom would say) I have been wearing a fitness armband for the past two years made by BodyMedia which tracks all my activities, calorie burn and sleep patterns which I can view on 
either my Android smartphone or laptop throughout the day to see how I am doing. My goal is take 10,000 steps per day, a tough goal lately while spending considerable time online these past months researching for our future travels.  

Each morning I plug the Bluetooth enabled device into my computer to recharge. As the data is uploaded, I can view how well I’ve slept the previous night. Invariably, my sleep pattern is totally dependent upon how much worrying I’ve done during the night. Last night my sleep efficiency was 81% indicating that approximately 19% of my lying in bed was spent worrying.
Sure, I may have spent 5% of the 9 hours lying in bedthinking pleasant thoughts, chatting with Tom, planning my day, wondering about the weather, and contemplating getting up. Subsequently, I actually slept about 7.5 hours, certainly plenty on an average night.
Why spend any time worrying? My theory has always been that worrying is only beneficial when the avoidance of it is so powerful that it inspires one to change that which they worrying about. Otherwise, it is wasted energy, time, and health. Years ago, my eldest son Richard, reminded me of this quote: 
“Worry is interest paid on a loan that never comes due.”
 
Tom has reminded me of Richard stating this quote many times over the years. Oddly, for most of us, we worry at night. As we busy ourselves with the activities of our day, our worry dissipates, only to be revived in the middle of the night. Years ago, I made a pact with myself: if worry appears during the night, do whatever I must during the day, to make it go away.  
 
Today, I have a bit of a dilemma. What task is necessary to stop worrying about one small part of our travels that kept me awake last night? Here is the source of my worrying, that started last night while reading online about traveling to Belize this upcoming January 29, 2013, a mere 9 months away: 
 
We will take the cruise from Miami, disembarking in Belize City, one day before its final destination. We were able to get permission from the cruise line to disembark early at Belize City, it’s second to last port. There are no cruises that actually “end”  or “begin” in Belize City with the reverse occurring when we leave on 4/9/2013, in both cases, missing out a few days of the cruise. The pricing both ways was less than the cost of a hotel, airfare and meals and thus we have been thrilled with this plan.
 
So, what am I worrying about? When we arrive in Belize City on January 29th, we must find a way to get to Placencia, Belize, a 17-mile long peninsula, a four-hour drive from Belize City! This map illustrates the location of our rental property. Toward the right side of the page is item #69, listed as “Decked Out House.”  I was worried…how do we get there? Here are the options:
1.  Rent a car in Belize City for the entire two and a half month period at the cost of $3000+. They don’t allow other “drop off” locations leaving us stuck with a car the entire period, barely using it with so much within walking distance as indicated on the map.
 
The popular means of transportation in Placencia is a nearby (walking distance) golf cart rental for about $10 hour, handy for grocery shopping, and nearby sightseeing. We anticipate that we’ll rent a golf cart for 8 hours a week.
 
2.  Fly from Belize City to Placencia at a cost of approximately $400 round trip for both of us plus cab fare from the airport to property about $40 plus the cost of the golf cart. Little prop plane. No thank you. Golf cart rental plus airfare for a total of $1240
 
3.   Shuttle: $175 each way for an air-conditioned shuttle, leaving at specific times each day (may require some waiting) plus the cost of a golf cart for 8 hours a week for a total for entire period = $1150
 
Writing this down today, calculating the costs, realizing we won’t fly in the little plane, the solution is clear…we will use the shuttle and rent the golf carts for 8 hours a week. If we decide we want to wander further away from Placencia, we’ll rent a car in Placencia, for one day at a time. Worry dismissed!
 
What will I worry about tonight? Our Placencia rental is from February 1 to March 31, 2013.  Our cruise drops us off on January 29th and our picks us up on April 9th. Where do we stay on January 29, 30, and 31st? Where do we stay from March 31 to April 9th?  
 
In checking out hotels on either end, it appears the average night in a decent hotel will be no less than $200 a night, plus transportation for 11 days, plus meals for 11 days (requiring us to eat every meal in a restaurant), plus taxes, plus tips may total $4000 or more, the usual cost of an 11-day vacation in Belize. This doesn’t comply with our budget and can throw off our numbers.
 
Time to get back to work on the Internet to find a solution for this dilemma, get that sleep efficiency number up to 95% tonight, and get in my 10,000 steps! Once this is done, I can start worrying about the zip line in Belize! Ha!