The Trip — 2016: Part 21 — Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey)

I get some ice and fix a drink and then make the mistake of turning on the TV. Di looks up from playing a game on her iPad and sees a movie she likes so I take my book to the library to read. One of the staff dims the lights — it’s now too dark to read so I leave — more than a bit ticked off.

Trip - The sheep "next door" to Highclere Castle
The sheep “next door”

I take a walk and return. Di has the movie on and I pick up my computer and take it to the deserted library, now real dark and resume this story.

It’s now ten o’clock and Di probably wants to go out for a smoke, needs her meds and I need a drink — good night.

Went back to the room and Trish was there helping Di get her remaining clothes in order. When they finished Trish returned to Newbury and I accompanied Di out to the parking lot for a smoke and then to bed. Never did get that drink.

Trip - The backside of Highclere
The backside of Highclere

Sunday: Today is the day for Highclere CastleDownton Abbey for those of you who watch English soap opera (at least, I think of it as soap opera). A car from Pryors comes to pick us — Di, Joe, Don and Cathy — up at our hotel at one o’clock and it’s about a thirty-five minute drive. Trish met us at the entry and we purchase tickets. As Trish, Di and I have already toured the house we get garden tickets (cheap) while Don and Cathy purchase tickets for a tour of the house.

Trip - Kathy on "the bench" at Highclere Castle
Kathy on “the bench”

Don and Cathy toured the house and we found an empty table (just vacated by a small family) outside a snack-tent. Trish got Di some tea, herself some coffee and an egg sandwich — which she offered to Di and Di ate.

We then adjourned to the gift shop; Don and Cathy finished their tour and hit the gift shop — I cooled my heels on a rather hard bench.

On to the snack-tent (the inside this time where it was warmer) for tea and coffee and scones. We still had most of an hour until our car picked us up so we slowly walked or scooted to “the bench” where we took pictures. Di and I remained there while Trish showed Di’s friends some of the estates gardens — Di and I had toured them on our previous visit in 2011.

Trip - Don and Kathy at Highclere Castle
Don and Kathy

It was then on to the car park, the ride back to our hotel and dinner at the Quod Restaurant next door. Di ate some cheeses, crackers and bread while I had a scallop and scampi entrée and fish and new potatoes for dinner — and a couple of very nice scotches.

(to be continued)

The Trip — 2016: Part 20 — Heathrow to Oxford

Trip - Old Bank Hotel and Quod Restaurant
Old Bank Hotel and Quod Restaurant

Only a dozen people or so were left in the baggage area and I was only able to find three of our four checked bags (Di’s scooter, however, was there and I unfolded it for her to ride through customs and to our taxi). After waiting for the remainder of the flight’s bags to be unloaded, and not finding Bag #4 containing Di’s extra shoes, sandals, knickers and everyday clothing, we filed a claim with BA. We were assured the bag would be delivered to our hotel the next day. (It is now 9:22 pm the next day and the missing bag has still not shown; BA’s phone line has been too busy to speak with anyone.)

Trip - Don, Kathy, Di and Joe - University College, Oxford
Don, Kathy, Di and Joe – University College, Oxford

Helen was taking a train and bus to her home in London while the rest of us went in a hire car, think taxi, to take Trish home in Newbury and us to our hotels in Oxford.

Trish had Peter, our driver, get off the motorway a bit early to give Don (his first time in England) and Kathy a tour of a bit of English countryside.

Trip - Shelly

We dropped Trish at her home only to find that the neighbors who were keeping an eye on her place had not placed the key where they had said they would. Eventually, we had to leave as it was getting dark. Trish said she’d be OK — turned out the neighbors were in another backyard garden and hadn’t thought Trish would be home so early.

We went on to Oxford and Don and Cathy landed at their B&B, and we checked into the Old Bank Hotel. The room’s a bit small and cramped but looks nice. It has some handicapped accessible features and Charlie can use her scooter to go outside for a smoke. It took me three tries to get some ice so I could have a drink and there is no fridge (there is a stocked mini-bar cooler), nor microwave nor tea/coffee maker — hmmm . . . there is an attached restaurant and room service.

Trip - On to the Ashmolean Museum
On to the Ashmolean Museum

I took Di out to smoke in the parking lot behind the hotel and then had a couple of drinks (Trish and Helen had gotten me a bottle of Cardhu at Corfu Duty Free) and some of Di’s Twiglets before turning in for the evening.

The hotel delivered a London Times and Daily Telegraph this morning and I read parts of them before Don and Kathy showed up about nine. We went to the Quod Restaurant next door for coffee, tea and breakfast. The service was slow, and we weren’t even asked if we’d like a second cup. No, I didn’t get any breakfast.

Trip - Egyptian exhibit at the Ashmolean
Egyptian exhibit at the Ashmolean

About ten-thirty we started to walk to see Shelly’s memorial (who, ironically, did not graduate from University College) and then walked in the other direction to take in some of the Ashmolean Museum. Don and Cathy wanted to split up to meet us at the Quod for High Tea at 3:30 pm. (Liliana, the librarian from Charlie’s former school was in Oxford with her husband for the summer and was also going to join us there.)

I asked Charlie if she wanted to see the museum and she said no. I asked why we were there and she said she wanted Don and Cathy to see it or, at least, have the opportunity to do so. Therefore, I wandered through the museum until after one when Charlie wanted to go outside for a smoke. I came out after another ten minutes and she now wants to go shopping for some skin moisturizer and knickers.

Trip - Tea at the Old Bank Hotel

We do this and return to our hotel to wait for her friends and guests to show up for tea. I go next door to make reservations and am told they are taking no more, just show up — great. Everyone arrives and there is no room for us in the restaurant. We have to go to the “library” in the hotel. Eventually we arrange the furniture to suit ourselves and open windows that seemed to have remained unopened for decades to get some fresh air and cooling.

Trip - Kathy, Tricia, Di and Lilliana
Kathy, Tricia, Di and Liliana

Tea is served and we remain talking for some hours; Trish joins us; plans are made and changed; a round of Pimms is shared. Trish eventually takes Don and Cathy to a pub where they’ll meet her son and have a drink. Liliana and her husband have already left and Di and I head back to our room.

(to be continued)