Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wednesday, 13th September – York

After the frenetic pace of yesterday, we decided to just go to one place today – but still managed to wear ourselves out! We went to Castle Howard, a palatial mansion built in the 1700s. It has been and remains the family home of the Howard family for 13 generations. You might recognize it as the setting for the 1980s TV series “Brideshead Revisited”. We wandered through the house and the extensive gardens. Rather than a guided tour they have helpful guides stationed in every room to describe items and answer any questions, which works really well – you have the benefit of a guide but can still take it at your own pace. It’s a magnificent house (for want of a better word) with grand rooms, beautiful furniture, amazing artworks, a large collection of Roman sculptures… It’s hard to imagine that it is still a home. During the winter when the house is not open to the public they put guests up in the rooms we were looking at today. I’d be too scared to touch anything! (Not likely to be a problem, since I can’t see an invitation coming my way). The house was built originally as a statement of how rich the owner was, and it shows.

The gardens are lovely, with a few lakes (artificial) and fountains, a bridge, lots of trees, a walled rose garden, a big ornamental vegetable garden and lots more sculptures. There’s a mausoleum which was built as the final resting place of the original owner and continues to be used by the Howard family, which is so lovely it prompted Horace Walpole to say it “would tempt one to be buried alive”!

It was another very warm day. I hear it’s been pretty miserable in Sydney, and apparently August in England was very cold and wet, so we have been very fortunate so far. Only trouble is we packed jumpers & coats, and haven’t got to use them yet. This morning it was damp and misty, but it cleared and remained warm all day.