Britain the Beautiful

One week ago, Thursday, July 3rd, we took the train from London to Hampton Court to experience life in the Tudor monarchy. Personally, I love this time period — Queen Elizabeth I has always been a hero of mine — so I was very eager to travel to the palace of her father, King Henry VIII (and his six wives, of course). Upon arriving, we were hit with some rainy weather, so my family and I opted to explore the indoor kitchens, Great Hall and apartments. It is always fascinating to step back in time and witness the methodology and social requirements of the day because it gives you a greater appreciation for the your time. While the tapestries are incredible and the gowns impeccable, I would not opt to live in a world of little education, poor hygiene and the threat of beheading. I do, however, love exploring these ancient castles because the history fascinates me. So many things went down in Hampton Court — I even got spooked in Catharine Howard’s haunted hallway — and I’m very glad we got to jump back to the 16th century.

That night, after dinner at my favorite pub, The Ship Tavern, we attended the new adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic, The Importance of Being Earnest. This was no ordinary play, though, because it starred the one and only David Suchet, who is revered in the Fisher household as Agatha Christie’s Detective Poirot. My father is a quiet man who does not excite easily, but when I told him that we had the opportunity to see David Suchet perform on the West End stage, he reacted with as much glee as a child on Christmas morning. Beaming as we entered the theater, our happiness only grew, as the show itself was wonderful. If you by chance are in London during Earnest’s run — especially if Suchet is starring — I cannot give a higher recommendation for a classic, hilarious and very well executed show. The talent was fantastic, but the fun memories that our family made with this play far surpass anything else. 

We bid cheerio to London that afternoon (after popping to Selfridges and Kensington Palace once more) and headed to our next residence, Charlecote Park. There is an infinite amount of reasons why I’m grateful to travel with my family, but one of the more prominent factors is that we do our research. My dad loves trip planning, and this is hands-down one of the coolest things he’s ever concocted: for the past week, my family has been residing in a country house. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, a country house is a grand estate that has been in an aristocratic family for centuries. Most notably, Downton Abbey has recently brought attention to this way of life, and while things aren’t as extravagant as they once were, these houses still serve as “living museums”. The architecture, furnishing and design of each country house is breathtakingly grand, but there’s also an intimate and familiar mood associated with estates that still are home to their families, which is why I love them so much. (Whilst studying abroad, I took a course on country houses and had a blast visiting many different locations, each with a different story and personality). 

Charlecote Park is located just east of Stratford-upon-Avon and was built in 1558 by the Lucy family — they still live here, and the National Trust rents out an apartment in the house. Our living area is certainly modest compared to the grandeur of the downstairs public rooms (we are fairly certain this used to be the servants’ quarters), but I cannot begin to describe how incredible it is to come home each night to this grand estate. During the day, tourists flood the grounds and house, but in the evening, we have free range of all the gardens and land, all to ourselves. Our first day was spent simply getting the lay of the land, but the following day, we began to explore the beautiful surrounding countryside.

This day was coincidentally the Fourth of July, but despite being in England, we still managed to celebrate our independence from England! The Stow on the Wold Fourth of July Festival takes place is held in honor of the city’s sister relationship to the Civil War town, Appomattox. American flags fly side-by-side to Union Jacks, and everyone dresses up in “American fashion” i.e. major red, white and blue and cowboy attire. I was PUMPED — all the townsfolk were so happy to celebrate America’s independence from their own nation, and we couldn’t have been happier to party alongside them. As Claire so accurately pinpointed, it was as if we showed up to a surprise party for us early and no one realized it: people were celebrating us (sort of) and didn’t realize it until we spoke…and when we did, they became even more elated! I love the Fourth of July, so I was very happy we got to properly practice this American holiday with our one-time foes.

The festivities continued with the Pershore Midsummer Brass Festival that evening; the Fishers love their music, especially brass bands. This authentic English pastime is a wonderful practice of British culture, so we loved that we got to listen to the spectacular sounds of this country’s history. Although I was never in band, Claire and Margaret both were, and because I attended so many of their concerts, it brought back memories (though not to the extent of Claire’s nostalgia, as she just ended her run as Band President upon graduation). All-in-all, it was a wonderful day that filled me with pride for my own country and admiration for the one I’m currently inhabiting.

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