1. Chatsworth House, the Beatles and learning to speak Welsh

Everything is ready to go, we have paid for extra-comfortable seats for the 9-hour leg over the Atlantic and we have a 90 minute connection from American Airlines to British Airways in Dallas. Naturally, the plane is 80 minutes late and the next fight is at the far side of the airport, so we rush to the gate just in time to see the punctual British Airways 747 smugly leaving the gate on time.

American can accommodate us in a couple of hours but it is in separate, middle-of-the-row, uncomfortable seats in the cattle car area. Visions of crippling back pain for the whole trip immediately spring to mind. No thanks. So, after several hours of shuttling backward and forward from the American to the British gate and back, we score two tickets on British, the next evening, accommodated with very comfortable seats and two vouchers for a hotel and dinner.

Let no-one say anything bad about Dallas, but a whole night and day in a run-down Hawthorn suites instead of a pleasant stroll alongside the Thames in beautiful countryside is not a good exchange.

The British flight was, of course, full so we still had separated center seats. I tried to get us reassigned and was told they would try. Twice. Finally, an hour before boarding Diane took charge. Her charm got us upgraded to Business Class in adjacent lie-flat 'beds' with champagne service. Well Done Diane.



The next day everything went fine, we drove four hours to our cottage and took possession.



The weather was great so we ate our first meal on the patio. Fish and Chips, of course.



The cottage was delightful - kitchen, sitting and dining downstairs, three bedrooms with their own bathrooms upstairs.



Having slept well, the next day we began exploration. The first stop was one of my Mother's favorite jaunts - Bakewell Market which is held every Monday…



…Complete with Buskers



The next day we met up with friends from San Antonio - Nadine and Jeff - who would be staying for a few days and visited Chatsworth House. This is owned by the Duke of Devonshire (he's one of the top-flight aristocrats, not quite royalty) who also owns the village we are staying in just down the road.



The paintings…



…and the sculptures…



..and the statuary (check out the dog on the left)…



…and carvings were fabulous.



This in particular is fantastic - everything, including the veil, is in marble.



After we had traipsed through the house we explored a little of the gardens. This is a garden seat made entirely of American fifty cent pieces. It turns out that the Kennedy's were friends with the Duke, so that probably has something to do with the choice of coins.



There is a fountain…



…And a cascade. This has no pumps - it is fed entirely from a lake at the top of the hill.



This is "I've fallen and I can't get up - version 2". (For version 1 see our trip to Paris - Tuilerie Gardens)



We next took a trip to look at well dressings. This custom probably started as a pagan "thanks for the water". Christians took over the custom and for the last several hundred years have decorated with Christian themes. Now many secular themes are creeping in. This year is the hundredth anniversary of the First World War, which was traumatic for England. This well celebrates the regiment the local folk fought in. Most villages have a well and decorate it, each one on a different date.



Next day we took a trip to Liverpool. Anyone remember the Beatles? This is Jeff and Nadine.



this is the area…



Dedicated to the Beatles



Next day Jeff went to see the British Open and the other three of us went to Wales for the day. Here is Diane at the start of her favorite walk to Aber Falls



The Welsh insist on using their own language but all road signs are translated into English as well. Another example is Toiledau which translates to WC. They are also very fond of the letter "L". "Ll" sounds like a cross between "CHL" and "THL" as heard in the name of the village llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Click to listen



Next stop was Conway castle





…and the smallest house

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