Sunday, May 03, 2009

A day with Miss Austen...

Here it is people - Teresa, Kendra, Aaron, Sarah, and anyone else who loves Jane Austen as much as I do!!! Everyone has been referring to this trip as my Jane Austen adventure and yet it has taken me 4 months to finally make my way down to Hampshire to pay my respects to probably one of my favorite people in the entire world!!! I have said it before, and I will say it again... Jane Austen understands apart of my heart like few other people in the universe ever could. She is amazing and I think the world of her. When someone asks me, "if you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be?" My answer is instantly Jane. I think she and I would have the time of our lives discussing people, friends, family, love, hopes, and dreams... She is just super.

So I finally visited her house! Leonore, Phoebe and I set out on our adventure early saturday morning. Catching a train to Winchester, we set about to first make our way to her final resting place in Winchester Cathedral. We were super excited on the train!! We did our best "Jane Austen" poses and Leonore ever brought along her copy of Mansfield Park she was reading for a class of hers.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous!!! With a high of 63 degrees, I was in heaven!!! Leonore, Phoebe, and I also couldn't get over how fairytale storybook this town was!!! Flowers blooming, everyone out enjoying the lovely weather, green grass, cool breezes, warm sunshine, used book sales, tudors houses, stone streets... Winchester may be my favorite new place outside of London!!!
Some pictures of the town

My Winchester home...

I'm convinced fairies live here...
So as we waited for the Cathedral to open, we took a ramble around the city and came upon the house Jane lived in for the 6 weeks before she passed away...

Then on to one of my favorite England things... CASTLE RUINS!!! Oh and we bought ice cream from the ice cream man!!!


semi candid... kind of like it...

After the ruins had worked their charm we headed back to Winchester Cathedral. Inside held the final resting place of my beloved author.

Let's all take a moment...

and in honor of Jane, we did an old fashioned country dance...

I know some of you think that is disrespectful, but I think Jane would have loved it.
After having quite a moment with Jane, we toured the rest of the Cathedral. I especially loved the children's chapel

and a quick stop at the Holy Children's toy box...

and another awesome door
There is also a very old Bible at Winchester Cathedral and some old books... but after all our Cathedral fun we had lunch. We sat in the middle of the high street and watched as teenagers ranging from 13 - 16 swarmed around this central statue and played out their teenage-ness. It was hilarious people watching and we tried to figure out the personalities, futures, and drama of all the kids!!! It was epic and straight out of a Gossip Girl episode - awesome.
Winchester is not just known for it's young people... or it's Cathedral and part in Jane Austen's life... oh no. Winchester Cathedral has been used in the filming of several films including Elizabeth The Golden Age with Cate Blanchet. But Winchester also has King Arthur's Round Table... I am still confused as to why England still thinks he's real... but here it is...

wait... that's not it... but it was round and it's the first thing you see when you walk into the great hall... but actually this is the table

and who else was there... Queen Victoria... she's everywhere

Oh and we found this... and it made me think of swine flu

But enough is enough... let's get to the real reason for the trip - Jane Austen's house!! This house was actually in a neighboring town called Chawton and was just a 30 minute bus ride away... Now Winchester tourist center gave us a indepth description of how to get to Jane Austen's house, but a nice old lady on the bus gave an INFINITELY faster path... which proved PERFECT! We walked down a country road, past "Bunny Island" (which was the center of a round about filled with grass, trees, and bunnies...

And then out of the brush arose the Mecca of my literary hopes and dreams!!!!

This was the house in which she revised Pride & Prejudice, wrote Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and Emma!!! This was the very desk at which she use to write

The bedroom she shared with her sister Cassandra

The garden she would walk in

I could not get over the amazing fact that I was in Jane Austen's house!!!! Every time the floor would creak or as I slid my hand up the staircase bannister, I thought of house she felt and heard the same things... how she must have walked those very steps. She was inspired to write some of the greatest love stories of ALL time within the walls of her house and the small community surrounding it. It was one of the very biggest highlights of my trip thus far!
After we were the last ones to leave the house before it closed, with our souvenirs in hand, we hoped to get a creme tea at a local tea shop, but they had all closed about the same time Austen's house did :( So instead we walked over to the park across the street and sat on a bench in the sunshine and watched some men play cricket.

We also had a go on the swing set, which was INCREDIBLY fun!!! I hadn't been on a swing in years. Those pictures are on Leonore's camera, so I'll have to add them later.

We finally made it back to Winchester after waiting for a bus on a desserted country road for almost an hour... we played the song game (the one you play Nicole)... we laughed till we cried at one point when Phoebe and I did the entire Elephant Love Medley from Moulin Rouge (opera voice in the background and all)... and then we took the train back to Egham where I introduced Leonore and Phoebe to the wonderment of Newsies (the definitive film of my preteen years) which they had never seen before... travesty. A 17 year old Christian Bale singing and dancing is not to be missed!!! Before there was Zac Efron there were News boys of New York singing their way into young girls hearts everywhere and a pre-Batman Bale was at the forefront!!!

It was the perfect day :)


linda t said...

Lovely, refreshing, enchanting, delightful... the most beautiful post thus far Miranda.
The pictures are filled with such beauty and romance.
I want to spend my remaining years there.
SO tonight I shall live there, in my dreams.

(said with an English accent)

Nicole T said...

How much fun! Im so glad you got to feel like Jane if even just for a moment.

Aaron said... yet another feather in the cap of your travels.

leonore said...


NanAZ said...

What a magical day! I think I caught a glimpse of a fairy just at the base of that tree. I love the pic of you jumping in front of Jane's house. When we were in New England we visited Robert Frost's home and Louisa May Alcott's too. I loved imagining them sitting there dreaming and writing their beautiful words and hoped that some of their inspiration might rub off on me just by being there.