In March we got to take care of a beautiful golden Labrador and her sweet mother on the grounds of Highclere Castle. You may know Highclere Castle as Downton Abbey. Several years ago when I was caught up in this great PBS drama series, I never in a million years thought that I would get to see it – let alone walk on the grounds surrounding it for a month and meet some of the caretakers of this important, historical and beautiful building and its grounds. It was an extraordinary experience! We even got to meet and enjoy the company of Lord and Lady Carnarvon. We were so struck with how lovely and down to earth they are. They have been entrusted with the stewardship of their family estate and they are doing a remarkable job in extraordinary times.
I encourage you to look up Lady Carnarvon’s blog and check out her beautiful books. She writes with heart about her home – and it really is a home that they share with the world so that it is ensured of a future. In today’s modern world, an estate like this has to be run as a business in order to survive. To do that while recognizing that it is a family home and those who are employed there are part of the family is difficult, yet rewarding.
Our days were spent working, walking the dogs, visiting and venturing out on side trips from time to time. One day we visited Oxford because the only other time we had been there it was much too brief a visit. This time it was still too short, but we did spend an entire day and enjoyed a great walking tour that gave us some historical context. It is staggering to stand in the place where respected names from the past have also stood and ponder their significance in world history. It was here that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote and Charles Wesley practiced his Christian habits that developed into Methodism.
Back at Highclere, we were impressed with the trees on the grounds. We learned that enormous evergreens scattered about are Cedar of Lebanon. They were first brought to the area a couple centuries back and seem to grow exceedingly well in the area.
There are several "Follies" on the grounds as well. Follies were structures built in the 17th and 18th centuries as decorative elements in large gardens or grounds. They are often built to resemble Roman ruins and rarely served any practical purpose. We re-watched some episodes of Downton Abbey and spied the follies in the background. They take on much more meaning now that we've been there. Our daily walks often took us by the Temple of Diana and Heaven's Gate.
In a similar way to how the characters in Downton Abbey support one another, Highclere Castle’s people form a lovely community that sincerely cares for each other while respecting and appreciating their history and traditions. We shared coffee with the gardener and walked dogs with a sweet widow woman who has lived there for 47 years as her husband was employed on the estate. We met the most remarkable people while we were there and enjoyed just a taste of the real Downton Abbey. It was pretty amazing to be a small part of Highclere's community for a few weeks and we are so grateful to everyone for their kindness and generosity while we were there!
Remember that we are always available to you and your friends and family for custom trip planning to Italy, France, Ireland and all of Europe. Our Spring Break 2019 small group trip to Tuscany is now available to book. Check the link for more info! Let us know if you'd be interested in either one of these. You can always reach Betsy at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to help you make your travel dreams to Europe come true!