Sunday, February 19, 2017

Inside A Private Estate.....Not Open To The Public....

Not far from our present house sit location is the massive estate called, "Chequers." A mansion on 1,200 acres of land near the Chiltern hills, it is the private country house of the Prime Minister of England. It is here that present Prime Minister Theresa May can go to unwind from a hectic week in London.  She can also choose to entertain there, host heads of state for business meetings, engage her cabinet in formal sessions, or just hang out by the swimming pool with family.

The Main Entrance to the Estate

This is the front entrance of the Estate

This is a private home that is NOT open to the public ever.  But with a friendly husband like mine who friended an old acquaintance from Panama online, we soon found ourselves getting an invite. But before we could set foot into the home we had to undergo a background check from the local authorities that we apparently passed with flying colors.

To make a long story short, someone we  knew from Panama is now living here in England working as a Steward at the estate. She IS allowed to invite friends into the estate when the Prime Minister is not in residence.  We were thrilled when she offered to give us a tour and gladly took her up on the offer.

We made our way over to the guard gate following closely behind our friend and guide.  First we had to open the trunk of our rental car in order for the police to search it, making sure we weren't trying to smuggle in extra people. Finally we made our way into the back entrance used by the staff to get ready for our exciting tour.

Aerial View taken from Web

We were delighted to be offered a guided, private tour with her and one of her colleagues.  For TWO hours we were enlightened about the history of the home that included tales of past famous visitors that slept, worked and enjoyed the company of the present and Past Prime Ministers.

Picture Taken Driving in

Needless to say the inside of the estate is gorgeous with large rooms filled with grand furniture, valuable artwork and memoirs of the families that have lived there. Yet despite the size of the place it felt rather homey and comfortable.  I had the urge several times to plunge down onto a sofa and take in the ornate scenery that surrounded me while enjoying the crackle of a fire.

The lovely home seemed to go on forever as we toured great halls, libraries, dining halls, offices, ten or more guest bedrooms, a large indoor swimming pool, restaurant sized kitchen and so much more. Unfortunately due to the privacy of the estate we were NOT allowed to take photos inside.  We also had to sign confidentiality statements agreeing NOT to talk about anything that we learned while inside. But I DID ask and was told that YES we could tell people that we visited the home, since that was allowed.

This room had signed Photos
of all of the Past Prime Ministers
We were standing where The Queen Mother is
(Picture was found on the internet)

We left the home giddy with excitement and feeling so fortunate about being permitted into a world that so few Brits ever see let alone foreigners. This surely was the highlight of our three months in England and will be something that stays etched in our minds for years to come. For anyone seeking more information on the estate there is a link below.

This is the Library
We walked in the footsteps of the Queen
(Picture  was found on the internet)

Here's to another amazing experience, to having friends in the right places, thankful for a husband who has never met a stranger, and for more wonderful adventures.......along the gringo trail.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The City Of Oxford, England......

If visiting university towns made us smarter we should be genius' by now since we explored yet another one today. Known for the famous ancient University of Oxford, the city is full of culture, beautiful architecture and more. There are some thirty different colleges and universities within the Oxford University system making the city come alive with young people riding bicycles through the congested streets.

The University of Oxford has been shaping young minds since 1096 and has produced some of the greatest minds and successful people in the world.  The list of alumni include members of the Royal Family, Nobel Prize winners, Olympians, actors like Huge Grant just to name a few.

We also discovered Oxford Castle, it is a large, partly ruined medieval castle. The castle standing now replaced the older wooden structure in the 11th century.  Later on, more buildings were added to the complex as the structure became used for a prison, a hospital and county offices during different times.

We strolled along the cobblestoned streets taking in the sights, sounds and vibe of this lovely city.  Come along with us and enjoy the sights of Oxford, England in the photos below......along the gringo trail.

Monday, February 13, 2017

To Be Or Not To Be......The Birthplace Of Shakespeare

Like it or not, most of us were at one time forced to delve into the works of William Shakespeare. We all remember those dreaded school days of trying to figure out the strange language in which he wrote. With fond memories, or not, of our high school English teachers who tried to keep us awake long enough for some of it to seep into our empty minds, we all managed to get through it. While clever types like myself with the ability to write could flip through a condensed version of most books to get just enough information to formulate a report, when it came to Shakespeare even I needed some help. I do think in the long run I really did enjoy his works but surely could not have figured it out without help.

Back in the day I'm sure I learned that that William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England which I had about as much chance of ever visiting as Mars. Little did I know back then that someday I'd be visiting his birthplace walking on the same floors where he did.

Since we finally saw the sunshine after a week of rain, mist, fog and snow with us both having colds, today was a good day to venture out. A little over an hours drive from where we are staying is the popular tourist destination.

Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

Notice Tree Growing Up The Building

Stratford-Upon-Avon, a medieval market town in the West Midlands of England is the 16th-century birthplace of William Shakespeare.  Five beautifully preserved homes all associated with Shakespeare are open to the public. We bought our tickets to three of the five homes and made our way on foot through the town. The picturesque town with the Avon River running through it is lined with Tudor styled buildings, shops, and just dripping in Shakespearean charm.

Avon River

Narrow Boats On The Avon

As we rounded one corner it felt as if we walked through a tunnel that transported us back to the days of Shakespeare. We were almost stampeded by a parade of children and adults all dressed in medieval garb.  Perhaps a group of school children there on a field trip? I wonder if children here appreciate the works of Shakespeare more than those of us that grew up across the sea?

Time Warp?

We began our visit at the house where William Shakespeare was born, grew up, ate his meals, did his homework, played and even spent the first five years of his married life. Nicely preserved we saw the bed where he was born, the room where he played and walked on the same floors where he took his first steps.

Home Of William Shakespeare

Back View

From there we visited the home of Anne Hathaway who later became his wife.  This 500-year old thatched-roof cottage is where William courted Anne. Although little is known about Anne Hathaway we do know that she married William when he was just 18 and she was 25.  Thought to be a shot gun wedding by some, Anne was three months pregnant at the time they wed.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage

The third home we choose to visit was that of his daughter Susanna and her husband Dr. John Hall. Named "Hall's Croft" this beautifully furnished Jacobean home featured an herb garden where the doctor would grow herbs and grind them into medications. Given to Susanna by her father this is where they raised their only daughter and lived for many years.

The Daughters Home

Herb Grinding And Medicine Making

Next we visited Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare was baptized, worshipped, possibly married there, and later buried. The graves of Shakespeare, Anne Hathaway and the rest of the family are on display still today.

Graves Of Shakespeare And Anne Hathaway

The other two homes open for visits include Mary Arden's Farm that is closed for the winter and Shakespeare's New Place.  The New Place was Shakespeare's home from 1597 until he died in the house is 1616. The house was demolished in 1759 and turned into a garden and remembrance of the times he spent there writing his best works.

Perhaps our stroll around Stratford was a romantic preview to Valentine's Day which just so happens to also be our wedding anniversary? The romance of Shakespeare, the love story of him and Anne Hathaway and the ambiance of a river-front, medieval market town......along the gringo trail.