Memorable Moments During My Jane Austen Tour 2013

Jane Austen Tour 2013 signpost in Chawton

I have been home from my Jane Austen Tour to England for almost two weeks yet I am still basking in the afterglow. We visited many amazing cities, museums, stately homes and gardens associated with Jane Austen and her family which will fill up many future posts, but as I looked through photos and memorabilia for inspiration on where I should begin it brought back moments when my world went silent in surprise and awe. After years of appreciation and study of Austen’s novels and her world, this was my first trip to the country that she and her characters lived in—and my first step back in time to an era two hundred years ago—far removed from our lives of modern conveniences and technology. Here for your amusement are a few personal moments that I would like to share of my journey through Jane Austen’s world.

Jane Austen Tour 2013 Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate, Kent

A Sunset in Ramsgate:

“When my niece Georgiana went to Ramsgate last summer, I made a point of her having two men-servants go with her.” – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 37

After flying into Heathrow, touring thorough the grounds of Buckingham Palace, The British Museum, Covent Garden and The National Portrait Gallery in London we headed south east to the port city of Ramsgate in Kent. After a very long day of travel by plane (16 hours) and touring in Town followed by a three hour coach ride to our seaside destination we arrived at our lovely vintage hotel The Pegwell Bay Inn overlooking—you guessed it—Pegwell Bay, a shallow inlet in the English Channel coast at the estuary of the River Stour between Ramsgate and Sandwich. Exhausted, and running on pure adrenalin, I checked into my room, dressed for dinner and descended to the dining room, whose large terrace overlooked the bay. As the sun set to the west I was given an incredibly beautiful welcome to my first day in England—a sunset so vibrant and mesmerizing it would be worthy on anything I have witnessed in California or Hawaii. As the sea gulls swooped and cawed above me I understood this site’s draw to the Georgian and Regency gentility who frequented this delightful seaside town. Austen fans may remember it as the place mentioned in Pride and Prejudice where dastardly Mr. Wickham followed and wooed the fifteen year-old Georgiana Darcy, but it shall always be for me the first night in a country that I had long dreamed of visiting.

Jane Austen Tour 2013 Kent countryside

G & G:

Our men had but indifferent weather for their visit to Godmersham, for it rained great part of the way there and all the way back.” – Jane Austen’s letter to her sister Cassandra, 1 September 1796

While in Kent, we toured two significant stately homes that Jane Austen visited many times: Godmersham Park, the primary residence of her wealthy elder brother Edward (yes, he owned multiple estates which earned more than the astounding £10,000 a year that her character Mr. Darcy’s estate of Pemberley generated), and Goodnestone Park, the home of the Bridges family whose daughter Elizabeth married Edward in 1791. Both of these estate names are ancient and inspired by the Dutch who settled this region centuries ago. Our tour guide kept getting the names mixed up as she described the estates. We laughed and were too merry to correct her. Even our trusty coach driver got them mixed up and took us to Goodnestone instead of Godmersham. Not to worry. They are within 9 miles of each other and the detour resulted in a serendipitous experience as we traveled down a narrow one lane country road lined with ancient oaks so large and dense that they created a dark tunnel of green enveloping us. When the trees ended quite suddenly we were brought back into the sunlight resulting in the sensation of total amazement as we viewed the rolling green countryside dotted with sheep and patchwork hedgerows. This was indeed the England that I had envisioned; so beautiful it took my breath away.

Jane Austen Tour 2013 blue bench St. John's College, Oxford

The Blue Bench Beckons:

“It was a sweet view — sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive.” – Emma, Chapter 42

As a classically trained landscape designer, I was well aware that England was renowned for its long history of passionate gardening. I had my firsthand introduction at two country manor house gardens at Godmersham and Goodnestone, and despite viewing them in a down-pour to rival the weather I experience weekly at home near Seattle, WA, I was able to capture some beautiful photos which I will share in later post. What really stopped me in my tracks was this beautiful turquois blue bench nestled on a quiet pathway at the back of St. John’s College in Oxford. We were there to view the great university town known for its fabulous architecture of dreaming spies and (to Janeites) the alma mater of Jane Austen’s father George and her two brothers James and Henry. As we walked through the meticulously manicured quads of St. John’s College, admiring the stonework of the buildings, we came upon their back garden which opened up to a large lawn surrounded by ancient trees. The gravel footpath encircling it lead me to this delightful turquois blue bench. It reminded me of what the British do so well in their landscape design: create intimate garden rooms offering a secret respite among the clamor of daily life. Who could not resist the sirens call to sit there, but a moment, and drink it all in?

Male and female English pheasant

A Bird in the Hand:

“Having therefore, agreable to that & the natural turn of her mind to make every one happy, promised to become his Wife the next morning, he took his leave & the two Ladies sat down to Supper on a young Leveret, a brace of Partridges, a leash of Pheasants & a Dozen of Pigeons.” – Frederic and Elfreda, Chapter 3

Traveling south west from Winchester our day was to have a naval theme. We were headed to the sea and the port of Portsmouth, the former Royal Navy harbor where Jane Austen’s brothers Frank and Charles received their early training as mid-shipmen and launched their significant naval careers. Our first stop was at Cadland House, Fawley, to see the Drummond family’s amazing collection of nautical, equestrian and portraiture art and objects. As we departed by coach, squeezing down the narrow country lane, a pheasant and his ladybird skirted in front of our path dashing off into the thick brush on the side of the lane. Several of my fellow travelers spotted them too, including our colorful coach driver Mervin who commented in his charming Cotswold accent that they were inches away from becoming his dinner. We were all aware of hunting and killing birds as a gentleman’s sport from the many times Austen’s male characters talk about shooting, or engaging in it, in her novels and begin to fathom the importance of it when Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice offers to her neighbor, “When you have killed all your own birds, Mr. Bingley,” said her mother, “I beg you will come here, and shoot as many as you please on Mr. Bennet’s manor. I am sure he will be vastly happy to oblige you, and will save all the best of the covies for you.

I had never seen a pheasant that was not dead, plucked, roasted and ready for consumption before. I had no idea that they were so beautifully plumed. The birds were so prized that they are raised by the estate gamekeeper and set free so the gentlemen would have “covies” to shoot on their own property. The estate manager at Godmersham told me that shooting foul was big business in England and hunters flew in from all over the world for the privilege of taking their aim at an English pheasant. Who knew that dotty Mrs. Bennet was indeed giving a great honor to her neighbor in offering her husband’s prized targets up for his enjoyment? Regardless of their value as game, I was so struck by finding pheasant in their natural environment that I will never look upon a roasted bird again with the same relish.

Jane Austen Tour 2013 Bea's Vintage Tea Room pastry case

The Pastry Case:

You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.” – Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, 15 June 1808

I had a delightful luncheon in Bath with fellow authors Jane Odiwe and Juliet Archer and their DH’s at Bea’s Vintage Tea Room behind the Assembly Rooms. The meal was superb, and like Jane Austen and her interest in sponge-cake, the attraction to the pastry and cakes on the menu was very interesting indeed. After sampling Bakewell Tart in Lyme Regis the day before, and adoring it, I abstained, and in Jane’s honor selected lemon sponge-cake. You can see by the pastry case at Bea’s they do a splendid job with their desserts and I was all anticipation of another new English discovery. My plate arrived and I dove in. It was delightful, but, the entire time I spied Jane Odiwe’s husband enjoying his slice of Bakewell tart and envied his selection. I had many great meals while I was in England but the local crab sandwich and Bakewell tart in Lyme Regis was to die for. The first thing I did when I returned home was to hunt down a recipe online and attempt to replicate it. I served my first attempt to willing guinea pig and fellow Janeite Christina Boyd. She enjoyed it too—along with the three slices I sent her home with—which were eaten in quick succession over the next twenty-four hours!

Traveling does open up your horizons and introduce you to things you never imagined to experience firsthand. Those special surprise moments I experienced on my trip will stay with me forever—along with my memories of the people I met and the mazing Austen sites I visited.

Stay tuned for my travelogue of further adventures in Austenland over the next few months.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

Home from my Jane Austen Tour

Jane Austen Tour at Chawton Cottage 2013

Jane Austen Tour Group at Chawton Cottage, 2013

“pursuit of novelty and amusement”… fulfilled!

Jet-lagged but buoyant, I am still tingling from my amazing 10 day excursion to Jane Austen’s England with fellow author Syrie James and 14 intrepid Janeites.

I have so much news to share. I do not know where to begin. The following is a brief recap of our incredible journey through southern England visiting many significant sites and homes associated with our favorite author and culminating at the Jane Austen Centre Festival in Bath. (I will blog about each day or site more extensively over the next few weeks, so please stay tuned.)

Jane Austen Tour Day 1:

Jane Austen Tour arrival at Heathrow 2013

Our arrival at Heathrow Airport, London, England. Left to right” Kathleen Dixon, Laurel Ann Nattress, Syrie James and tour guide Christina.

Can you tell we are excited? Our group of 16 Janeites assembled for the first time (after 16 hours of travel for me) at Heathrow airport and met each other and our tour guide Christina from Pathfinders Tours. The journey was put together by Ingenious Travel and included a traditional Jane Austen pilgrimage with an excursion to Kent and Lyme Regis.

Jane Austen Tour at Buckingham Palace 2013

A surprise visit to Buckingham Palace

Our first stop in London was a visit to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s primary residence Buckingham Palace. This was not on the itinerary, but since all of the group arrived without delay, our tour guide decided to add this stop. Were we thrilled? It was a Sunday so the streets around the palace were closed to traffic and we could stroll at leisure and enjoy the sunshine which welcomed us to London.

Jane Austen's writing desk at The British Library

Visiting Jane Austen’s writing desk

Our first official stop was The British Library to see Jane Austen’s writing desk donated to the library by her great-great niece Joan Austen-Leigh. We were in awe. After dipping into their fabulous gift shop we departed for a tour of Covent Garden to see 10 Henrietta Street, her brother Henry and sister-in-law Eliza Austen’s former residence in London where Jane Austen stayed with them many times. After lunch we departed for The National Portrait Gallery to see Cassandra Austen’s watercolor of her sister Jane. Despite its tiny size it packed a wallop and brought tears to many eyes. We then departed by coach to Kent and arrived for an overnight in Ramsgate, the seaside resort where Jane Austen’s naval brother Frank resided and her character Georgiana Darcy had her near escape from eloping with the scheming Mr. Wickham.

Jane Austen Tour Day 2:

Greek temple at Godmersham Park, Kent 2013

The Greek Temple at Godmersham Park, Kent

Jane Austen Tour Goodnestone Park 2013

Goodnestone Park, Kent

Today we visited two stately homes: Godmersham Park owned by Jane Austen’s elder brother Edward Austen (later Knight) and Goodnestone Park, the family estate of the Elizabeth Bridges who married Edward in 1791. We toured the extensive grounds (Mrs. Elton would have approved) and enjoyed the fabulous picturesque landscape dotted with Grecian temples and ancient stone towers. It poured rain and we were soaked through, but no complaints were voiced from anyone. We were, after-all, in England.

Jane Austen Tour Day 3:

Jane Austen Tour St. John's College Oxford 2013

St. John’s College, Oxford

Departing Ramsgate we headed north to Oxford, the famous college town where Jane Austen’s father George and her brothers James and Henry attended St. John’s College. We were disappointed to learn that the college was closed to visitors because of an obnoxious St. Giles annual street fair, but Syrie James saved the day by sweet-talking the porter into letting our group tour the grounds. Squee!!!

Jane Austen Tour St. Nicholas Chruch, Steventon 2013

St. Nicholas Church, Steventon, Hampshire

We continued on to Hampshire to Steventon and a surreal experience at St. Nicholas Church were Jane’s father was Rector and she resided for the first 25 years of her life. We continued on to Winchester to check into our hotel and have our welcome dinner there.

Jane Austen Tour: Day 4:

Jane Austen Tour Portrait of Lord Nelson 2013

Portrait of Lord Nelson

We headed for the seashore today. Our first stop was at Cadland House, Fawley, to see the Drummond Family’s amazing collection of nautical, equestrian and portraiture art and objects. My favorite was of Admiral, Lord Nelson!

Jane Austen Tour HMS Victory, Portsmouth 2013

HMS Victory, Portsmouth

Continuing on with the naval theme, we visited the historic port of Portsmouth where Jane Austen’s brothers Frank and Charles attended the Royal Naval Academy and departed for their sea adventures. The highlight of the day was touring the HMS Victory (Nelson’s flagship) and then on to the National Museum of Naval History. Returning to Winchester,  we ate at a fabulous local pub The Bishop on the Bridge. Our special guests were Austenesque authors Jane Odiwe, Monica Fairview, Lynn Shepherd and Nancy Kelley.

“My idea of good company…is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.’

‘You are mistaken,’ said he gently, ‘that is not good company, that is the best.” – Persuasion  

Jane Austen Tour: Day 5:

The morning saw us on a walking tour of Winchester besides the Itchen River to 8 College Street, Jane Austen’s last residence, and then on the magnificent Winchester Cathedral where she is buried.

Jane Austen Tour 8 College St, Winchester 2013

No 8 College St., Winchester

After the graveside service we departed for Chawton Cottage, The Jane Austen House Museum and a guided tour of The Chawton House Library at Chawton Manor and it’s church, St. Nicholas.

Jane Austen Tour Laurel Ann and Syrie at Chawton Cottage 2013

Laurel Ann & Syrie at Chawton Cottage

There was so much of Jane’s life significant to these locations that I cannot begin to summarize and will leave it for more detailed blogs in future. Suffice it to say, I floated through most of this day and still feel like it was a dream to be there and experience her home and the museum in her honor.

Jane Austen Tour: Day 6:

Jane Austen Tour walking the Cobb, Lyme Regis 2013

Walking the Cobb, Lyme Regis

We departed Winchester and headed west for Dorest and the seaside village of Lyme Regis where Jane Austen and her family holidayed and inspired her scenes in her novel Persuasion. There we walked along their famous Cobb, saw the spot where character Louisa Musgrove might have fallen, and walked through this delightful seaside town. I had a delicious local crab sandwich and my first Bakewell tart. I am hooked. At the end of the day we were bound for Bath and my excitement to see the famous Georgian spa city was only matched by Northanger Abbey’s character Catherine Morland.

“Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?” – Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen Tour: Day 7

Jane Austen Tour The Regency Promenade 2013

The Regency Promenade, Bath

After a delightful breakfast we departed our hotel for the Royal Crescent Lawn to view the Jane Austen Festival’s Regency Promenade. I connected with author Jane Odiwe (who owns a townhouse in Bath) to view 700 participants in full Regency regalia paraded past us, included many of our tour group members.

Jane Austen Tour lunch at Bea's Tearoom 2013

Lunch at Bea’s Tearoom with Juliet Archer, Laurel Ann and Jane Odiwe

After this exhilarating spectacle, Jane and I proceeded to Bea’s Tearoom for luncheon with fellow author Juliet Archer, a most welcome surprise. Our meal was fabulous. I order lemon sponge cake for desert, but I was so envious of Jane’s husband who ordered Bakewell tart!

Jane Austen Tour Assembly Rooms, Bath 2013

The Assembly Rooms, Bath

Next, we toured the fabulous No 1 Royal Crescent, a real Georgian-era townhouse with period furnishings and an amazing gift shop. This was a definite highlight of my Bath experience for me so far (not the gift shop, but the home!) Our guide then took us on a walking tour of Bath past the Assembly Rooms, the Pump Rooms, Bath Abbey and all of the homes where Jane Austen and her family had resided. My day ended with a walk through Sydney Gardens by Jane and a quiet dinner at her delightful home nearby.

Jane Austen Tour: Day 8:

Jane Austen Tour The Roman Baths, Bath 2013

The Roman Baths, Bath

Many of the member’s attended a talk this morning at the Mineral Water Hospital on Jane Austen fashions, but I jettisoned from the group to attend Sunday service at Bath Abbey and tour The Roman Baths, which did not disappoint. The gift shop there was superb and I purchased many gifts for family and friends.

Jane Austen Tour Lacock Village 2013

Lacock Village, Wiltshire

We all met again at the hotel to depart for Lacock Village, a spot that time has forgotten, and many of the period movies have been filmed at including Pride and Prejudice 1995. I had a lovely authentic English luncheon of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at the Angel Inn, a tavern with roots back to the 1200’s.

Jane Austen Tour Jane Austen Centre, Bath 2013

The Jane Austen Centre, Bath

Upon our arrival back to Bath, I dashed through the rain to see the Assembly Rooms, the Fashion Museum and my last stop, The Jane Austen Centre gift shop to load up on more Austen-inspired gifts. More on all the Austen loot I accumulated and how I fit it into my small suitcase in a later post. Our final dinner together was in Bath at Sir Walter Elliot’s House for an evening of Regency-style entertainment, a buffet dinner (including lemon syllabub), and live music and dancing. As we headed home to our hotel, my head was swimming from the music and all of the incredible places and events I had been privileged to experience.

Jane Austen Tour: Day 9:

Jane Austen's writing desk at Chawton Cottage (2013)

Jane Austen’s writing table at Chawton Cottage, Hampshire

After breakfast at the hotel we said goodbye to Bath and headed to Heathrow for our departure. We said our thanks you’s and tearful farewells on the coach and were deposited curbside at our respective airport terminals. Some members were staying on in London, but I flew home that day. After 18 hours I was finally home. Truly exhausted, but satisfied that I had the most wonderful experience of my life. Now I could really share my passion for Jane Austen first hand. I had been to England and fulfilled my dream of a Jane Austen pilgrimage filled with “novelty and amusement.”

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

Off to England in “pursuit of novelty and amusement”…

Jane Austen's House Museum,: Chawton Front Sign

Today is the day I leave for our Jane Austen Tour of England organized by Ingenious Travel September 7 – 16, 2013. Fellow author and dear friend Syrie James and I will be shepherding a merry group of Janeites to the homes and haunts of Jane Austen and her family through: London, Ramsgate, Canterbury, Oxford, Winchester, Chawton, Portsmouth, Lyme and finally Bath for the Jane Austen Festival.

It has long been my dream to visit England and walk in Jane Austen’s footsteps. I have purchased packs of mini-Kleenex in anticipation of the emotions that are sure to overtake me, often! I am looking forward to all the fabulous sights and meeting authors Jane Odiwe, Monica Fairview, Elizabeth Aston and Lynn Shepherd while we are there.

I promise to take numerous photos and share upon my return.

Of course I could not sign off without a quote from the author who has inspired this pilgrimage:

“The period of expectation was now doubled. Four weeks were to pass away before her uncle and aunt’s arrival. But they did pass away, and Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, with their four children, did at length appear at Longbourn. The children, two girls of six and eight years old, and two younger boys, were to be left under the particular care of their cousin Jane, who was the general favourite, and whose steady sense and sweetness of temper exactly adapted her for attending to them in every way — teaching them, playing with them, and loving them.

The Gardiners stayed only one night at Longbourn, and set off the next morning with Elizabeth in pursuit of novelty and amusement. One enjoyment was certain — that of suitableness as companions; a suitableness which comprehended health and temper to bear inconveniences — cheerfulness to enhance every pleasure — and affection and intelligence, which might supply it among themselves if there were disappointments abroad.” – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 42

I do have posts scheduled over the next 10 days so my faithful readers will not be neglected in my absence. I will be checking in occasionally to make sure no abhorrent spammer or troll has violated our sanctuary. If you need some live Janeite interaction, check out the group read of Among the Janeites at The Republic of Pemberley starting on September 15th. It should be a lively discussion!

Adieu,

Laurel Ann

© 2013, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

A Jane Austen Tour with authors Syrie James and Laurel Ann Nattress

Chawton Cottage, Hampshire, England

Imagine being offered the opportunity to create your own dream excursion to Jane Austen’s England? What would you choose to see? Her home at Chawton, the cob at Lyme Regis and the pump room in Bath of course—but what other family estates, seaside villages and country escapes would be on your list? This was the question that author Syrie James and I were presented after we were approached by Ingenious Travel to create the ultimate dream Jane Austen tour—and boy did we have fun brain storming on this topic. We hope that you will be as excited by our choices as we are to be part of this fabulous eight day tour to Jane Austen’s Seascapes and Landscapes.

Here is our itinerary:

7 Sept (Saturday): Fly USA to London.

8 Sept (Sunday): Arrival at London Airport, welcome by the accompanying Jane Austen specialist guide, transfer by private coach to London. Visit the British Library, walk through the Covent Garden area to see places where Jane Austen stayed. Continue to Kent, check into the hotel. Welcome dinner.

Godmersham Park, Kent

9 Sept (Monday): Full breakfast (included daily). Visit Ramsgate and Goodnestone, lunch here; continue to Godmersham House and village. Visit Canterbury Cathedral if time permits. Return to the hotel for overnight.  (Lunch included)

10 Sept (Tuesday): Travel northwards to Oxford, visit the University and especially St. John’s College, which Jane Austen’s father and two of her brothers attended. Then to Steventon, the village where she was born: see the site of the old Parsonage, visit St. Nicholas’ Church where her father and eldest brother were Rectors. Continue to Winchester, check into the hotel. Evening social meeting after dinner with local Austen experts.  (Breakfast and Dinner included)

Winchester Cathedral

11 Sept (Wednesday): Touring in the lovely city of Winchester, visit the Cathedral, short ceremony at Jane Austen’s grave. View the house where she died. Then to Chawton, visit the Jane Austen House Museum: special meeting at Chawton House to see the Library, informal talk by the Director and (subject to permission) tea at Chawton House. Return via Alton, the charming country town which the Austen ladies frequented. Stay in Winchester.  (Breakfast and tea included)

12 Sept (Thursday): To the coast today – visit Cadland House, overlooking Southampton Water, to meet the Drummond family and see their fine display of maritime paintings and memorabilia. Then to Portsmouth, tour the historic Royal Naval Dockyard including HMS Victory, and see the former Naval College where Jane Austen’s naval brothers Frank and Charles received their training.  (Breakfast included)

The Cobb Stairs at Lyme Regis

13 Sept (Friday): Travel west to the pretty port town of Lyme Regis, walk the Cobb (scene of Louisa’s fall in ‘Persuasion’), meet Patrick Stokes and Diana Shervington, Austen descendants. Then to Bath, check in for 3 nights – the Jane Austen Festival begins this day. (Breakfast and Dinner included)

14 Sept (Saturday): Tour Bath, seeing houses where the Austens lived, also St Swithin’s Church, where Jane’s parents were married and her father is buried. Visit the Jane Austen Centre, 1 Royal Crescent, and the Assembly Rooms. Participate in the Festival Parade. (Breakfast included)

Assembly Rooms interior Bath

15 Sept (Sunday): To the nearby village of Lacock, film location for ‘Meryton’ in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice – as well as many other fictional places in various writers’ works. Return to Bath for a free afternoon – or a chance to attend other Festival events. Evening, private dinner party and entertainment in an elegant Bath townhouse.   (Breakfast and dinner included)

16 Sept (Monday): Transfer to London Airport for the return flight – opportunity for optional tour extension(s) in Bath (for more Festival participation) or London.  (Breakfast included)

As you can see, we are visiting all the special places in Jane Austen’s life and novels. Syrie and I are so excited to be part of this fabulous opportunity to share our admiration and knowledge of our favorite author Jane Austen and her world. We hope you can join us!

Additional information on the A Jane Austen Tour: Seascapes and Landscapes official website.

Cheers, Laurel Ann & Syrie

© 2013, Laurel Ann Nattress, Syrie James and Ingenious Tours