Wednesday, August 28, 2013

200 Years of Pride & Prejudice

2013 marks the 200th anniversary since the publication of 'Pride & Prejudice' - my favorite Jane Austen novel and the one that sparked the tour I took in England.  JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America), of which I'm a member, has an annual conference every year which I have never attended.  This year, though, it's in celebration of 'Pride & Prejudice' and is being held in Minneapolis.  Perfect!

The conference is at the end of September for 4 days and will include speakers that will address both 'Pride & Prejudice' and the Jane Austen/Regency period in general. Additionally, there are interesting side tours available that will go to the Minneapolis Museum of Art, a Sherlock Holmes tour, and to the Minneapolis Arboretum.  I'm planning to drive over and really looking forward to the whole thing.

In conjunction with my current goal of visiting mansions and historic homes within driving distance (see my 'Vicki's Pensieve' blog for more details), I intend to leave home several days early in an effort to catch some of the homes open to the public.  Should be a fun history-rich week!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tea & Scones, Jane Austen, and Door County

Article written for JASNA newsletter:

I spent an enjoyable afternoon in Door County on August 6 specifically to catch the Door Shakespeare company’s performance of ‘Pride and Prejudice’.  Located in Baileys Harbor, the Door Shakespeare company holds outdoor theatre performances in the gardens of Bjorklunden, a lovely lodge set on the shore of Lake Michigan and surrounded by trees.

Throughout the summer of 2011, the company has been performing ‘Pride & Prejudice’ on alternate days with a performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’, with the same actors performing in both shows.  In addition to the performance itself, the company had special dinner show evenings, wine event evenings, and the one I chose:  an afternoon tea prior to the show. 

The afternoon tea was really lovely and thoroughly enjoyable.  In it’s second year, the Harbor Fish Market & Grille in Baileys Harbor handled the offering of the afternoon tea.  The table was set for 18 and was loaded with beautiful mismatched teapots, cups, and saucers, and an array of food that left everyone unbuttoning waistbands.  They served a variety of teas (in tea bags, for which they apologized, but the size of the crowd made it necessary) with sweeteners, fresh orange and lemon slices, and freshly picked mint leaves.  There were scones, crumpets, breads, cucumber sandwiches, gravlax, fresh fruit, jams, lemon curd, and marmalade.  The table was set with lovely fresh flowers, crisp linens, and soft tea lights. 

At the table were a variety of people from various places in Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as a Dad and two children from England.  Made up mostly of women, there were three men and two boys in the group as well and a stunning view of the harbor and Lake Michigan outside the windows.
Kitty, Mrs. Bennett, and Lydia

As our party sat down and began enjoying the lovely service, Mrs. Bennett, Kitty, and Lydia arrived – all in costume and in character.  They chatted with the whole party and the younger girls spent a lot of time searching among the group for ‘eligibles’.

Later that evening, within the grounds of Bjorklunden, the theatre-goers walked through a wooded pathway lighted with solar and twinkle lights to the open-air theatre where the Door Shakespeare company holds it’s productions.  Looking very much like the parade grounds where jousting tournaments might be held, the seats all filled quickly and the production began.  The actors are in a clearing directly in front of the first row of seats and frequently duck back through the trees and enter again down the center aisle or from one of the sides, giving you the impression that you’re right in the middle of the action.

Mary Bennett, Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Lucas, Sir Lucas, Bingley,Darcy, Caroline Bingley

The production was adapted for the stage, and the scenes run directly from one event into another with no pauses to explain the action.  For instance, the girls will be walking home from Meryton talking about an upcoming ball and immediately walk into the setting of the ball.  It moved things along nicely and took nothing away from Jane Austen or ‘Pride & Prejudice’ as her original dialogue was used throughout.  Many of the actors play multiple roles, and all is handled very professionally.  As in the book, Mrs. Bennett, Lady Catherine, and Mr. Collins are all delightful – the actors threw themselves into the parts with vigor!

For the summer of 2012, the two performances will both be Shakespeare (‘Hamlet’ and ‘A Comedy of Errors’), and I would definitely recommend that you take the opportunity to attend a performance of this fine production company in its beautiful setting.  For further information, go to

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In Honor of Harry Potter

The final (8th) Harry Potter movie is being released tomorrow night at midnight and I'm currently enjoying a marathon at the local cinema.  The first three movies were shown today, and the final 5 will be shown tomorrow -- culminating with the final movie at midnight tomorrow night.  Even though I've seen all of the films (and own them on DVD), there's something a bit more magical about sitting in a theatre and seeing it on the big screen with great sound and a big bucket of popcorn.

While in England last September, I was fortunate enough to see a few of the places where filming took place in the first two movies (both directed by Chris Columbus -- his movies were a bit more lighthearted than those that followed).  I'm going to try to capture those photos here:

In "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", Hagrid takes Harry through a quaint area of London on their way to The Leaky Cauldron and, ultimately, Diagon Alley.  That quaint area of London is Spitalfield's Market (and you can briefly see the name over Hagrid's head as they walk down the street).  This really was an old meat market, but has been gentrified and turned into a charming shopping area.  Unfortunately, I was there on a Sunday and everything was closed.  If you look closely at the pictures, you can see the roof that encloses the marketplace.  The "gas lamps" that hang down are, of course, electric but help with the feel of and old area of London.

Interestingly, just a very short walk from here is the pub where Charles Dickens spent a lot of time doing his writing and hanging out with other writers.

The shop used for The Leaky Cauldron is almost difficult to identify with the bright blue paint.  In the movie, the entire thing is painted black -- including the windows -- and there is a book store next door (the shop painted red here).

Note:  by the time the third movie was made "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", an entirely different building was used.  When Ern stops the Night Bus in front of the pub to drop off Harry, it's just a flat building -- totally nondescript and boring.

After getting all of their supplies in Diagon Alley (at Olivander's Wand Shop, Flourish and Blots, Eyelops Owl Emporium, Madame Malkin's Robes, etc), Hagrid and Harry head for the train station.  Hagrid gives Harry his ticket and leaves him on the pedestrian bridge over the tracks.  This is that pedestrian bridge (I'm standing on it to take the picture of the train station).  It's located in York -- several hours north of London.

Once inside the station, Harry needs to get to Platform
9 3/4, which means that he has to go through a brick wall just like this one.  With the sign out of the way, and the electrical boxes moved, there would be signs saying Platform 9 on one side and Platform 10 on the other.  That black and red thing is a train although, sadly, not the Hogwarts Express!

This was used in the second movie as well:  "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."

During both movies, the students of Hogwarts are often seen walking along hallways that are open on one side onto a courtyard.  These are actually cloisters from the abbey where the filming took place.  [A cloister is basically a covered walkway that was used by nuns or monks to get from one section of a church (or living quarters) to the main church].  The cloisters here are part of Lacock Abbey where much filming was done for the first two movies.

This is a view of the cloisters from the opposite side of the square across the open courtyard.  Some of the scenes in the movies were filmed with snow on the window sills and in the courtyard.  A fountain was placed in the middle of this courtyard for the filming and there are scenes from the first movie with Dumbledore walking near the fountain.

Also at Lacock Abbey is the dungeon classroom of Professor Snape.  Although it was a bit rainy the day I was there, it still wasn't dark and overpowering as it is in the movies.  Still, it was easy to imagine the room full of desks and shelves of slimy unnamed things from Professor Snape's collection.

Another look at Professor Snape's classroom with the arching support columns and big black cauldron.

Another of the hallways leading into the school.  In the dungeon classroom, there is a large poster board with stills from the movie showing the various locations within the abbey where filming was done for the movies.  Note:  in England, the first book (and movie) was titled "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone".

This home is also located in Lacock and was used as the home of James & Lily Potter -- where they were the night that Lord Voldemort came for them.

In "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", Harry and Ron take off for Hogwarts in a flying car when the portal to Platform 9 3/4 is sealed.  As they take off, they fly over "King's Cross Station", which is actually the exterior of St. Pancras International right across the street from the real King's Cross station.

And, finally, two entrances to the Ministry of Magic:  the phone booth used by Mr. Weasley to take Harry to the Wizengamot hearing, and the other entrance used when the Death Eaters had taken over the Ministry at the end.

Monday, October 11, 2010


One of my favorite things through-out the trip was the signs -- the design of signs, the funny names, the interesting grammar -- all of it.

Through-out London, there were these black signs directing you to tourist attractions and important buildings.

McDonald's in Windsor.  The options on the menu are much more limited than in the U.S.

Uncle Vernon was right:  there is no Platform 9 3/4!

Red Lion pub, which used to be a coaching inn back in the day when people traveled by coach.

This was just too cool for words.

A lot of the pubs and shops have signs that advertise their wares without having to use words.

One of my favorite pub names:  Hung Drawn and Quartered -- located near the Tower of London and Tower Green where all of the beheadings took place in the 16th century.

The street signs are all located on the sides of buildings at the intersections.  Makes it very easy to see where you are.

More of the "signs" that are simply pictures hanging on the outside of the buildings.  Not sure what the cricket is supposed to represent.

 This is in St. Pancras rail station.  It's one of those signs with the flippy numbers and letters like you see in all of the movies.  While we were standing there, all of the letters and numbers started flipping around.  It was cool!

Probably never going to see this particular business putting up a sign in the U.S.!  This was in Paris.

I almost feel like Napoleon put this up himself!

This totally summed up my feeling for Paris.  One of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen.

Some Cool Things

 This is the inside of an old church (or vicarage) and I hope I can explain it well.  In this first picture, I'm standing at the doorway facing the altar to take the picture.  You can see that the pews face each other like the seats in the Houses of Parliament.  As a matter of fact, this church has been used in movies as though it were Parliament back in the Regency days.

In this next picture, I'm standing up near the altar and taking the picture back toward the door (in the middle near the bottom of the picture).  Note the pretty ceiling in this little vicarage.  Above the door is the pulpit where the vicar reads his sermon to those assembled in the facing pews.  The area around the pulpit is a painting to it looks like it's up against a window.  Outside was the cemetery just like in all of the old Agatha Christie novels.

Five of us spent the night in the old vicarage and it was surprisingly large.  My room was up on the third floor (narrow, twisty stairs) and I had to drag my suitcase up there.  I chose the orange bedroom because it had it's own bathroom, but the fire escape left a little something to be desired!
 Next to the vicarage was a farm (with sheep, of course) with a really interesting basket-weave fence.

Not surprisingly, this is the red drawing room.
On the tour that I took from Bath up to Manchester, we visited many large estates and huge homes.  Some are still privately owned, but most have been turned over to the National Trust (probably because no one could afford to keep them up).  The exteriors have beautiful manicured gardens and the insides are jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Almost all of the ceilings had this beautiful painting and plaster work.

This is the portrait gallery.

On the last day of the tour, we took a buggy ride.  Can't go on a proper buggy ride without a hat, though.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Well, I've had a very busy couple of weeks and I've been traveling extensively (yes, I promise to sort out and post more pictures very soon).  I suppose it was just a matter of time before I got sick.  When I woke up this morning, my eyes were kind of glued shut and my throat hurt.  As the day progressed, my throat kept getting worse until it felt like it was completely closed.  I changed hotels today as Steve is coming in tonight and this is where we'll be for the rest of the time.  It's a completely different area of London called South Bank or Southwark (pronounced Suth-ick), and has a totally different feel.  I was in an older, more upscale residential area before whereas this is closer to the heart of London and is a bit livelier.

Anyway, I went to Westminster Abbey today, which was totally beautiful (and doesn't allow picture taking, although I sneaked in a few) but then came back to the hotel to rest.  Since my room wasn't ready yet, I sat in the pub all afternoon updating my journals.  Now, I'm in my room with some nice hot (very hot because it makes my throat feel better) cup of tea.

My room faces a back courtyard shared by several buildings and should, theoretically, be quiet.  However, there has been noise all afternoon and, at first, I thought they were setting up for a party or doing some construction.,  However, now I'm hearing someone say "And,,,action" so I'm wondering if it's a filming set for some tv show or something.  It's off to the side so I can't really get a great view -- just a bunch of lights and it looks like people dancing.

Ok, so I just called down to the desk to see if anyone could tell me what's going on.  Turns out that they're filming a Guinness commercial that will air in the U.S. in December.  Since it's not Johnny Depp or Colin Firth or anybody like that, I probably won't go check it out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Interesting Signs

These blue discs appear on the sides of buildings of note.  Generally, it's because someone famous lived there, but sometimes it's because a society was started in the building or something similar.

Pub where Charles Dickens used to hang out.

This was at Kensington Palace and the squirrel was just gnawing away at the metal leg of this sign.  You could hear his little teeth just grinding.

The entire city of London is monitored by closed circuit cameras.  They're at every intersection, on the corners of buildings, in hallways and the subways -- only the bathrooms are spared (I think).

The subway system is really old and most of the stations have no elevators or escalators, so you get used to going up and down a lot of stairs (a real pain with a lot of luggage, by the way).  In this case, though, the tracks were so far underground that there were warnings posted against trying to climb up to street level.  There is construction beginning for some of the stations to install "lifts" in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics.

Another of those blue discs -- this one commemorating the long-running play by Agatha Christie "'The Mousetrap".  It's now in it's 58th year.

Lots of public toilets over here, but it costs 30 pence (about 47 cents) to use them.  Pubs, restaurants, etc all have bathrooms available to customers, and I guess it's great that there are so many facilities available but 30p just to pee?!

My first thought, when I read this sign, was "what could have frightened the door?"  The English language cracks me up sometimes.  As Homer Simpson would say, "Why do I have to learn English?  I'm not going to England."

Another favorite pub of Charles Dickens (it's a wonder that he got any writing done at all!).  This one is tucked away down an alley in an area that, reportedly, he used as the inspiration for the counting house owned by Ebenezer Scrooge.