Yesterday we went on excursions to Chawton and Winchester, the sites of Jane Austen's home and gravesite. The day started off pretty gross and rainy and cold, but it got progressively prettier as time passed. Chawton is about 1.5 hours from Oxford, and I spent the drive readingMansfield Park (this is pertinent, I promise). In the book, they mention the "wilderness," the "grounds," the "estate," more times than in her other novels; however, never having visited an old English estate, I couldn't exactly picture it in my mind.
Bring on Edward's house. Edward, Jane Austen's brother, was adopted by the wealthy Knight family and moved into an estate right down the road from her family's cottage. Today it is a library, and it was the first stop on our tour. Walking down the lane to reach the library was like being in a movie. I felt all Elizabeth Bennet, strolling down the dirt lane, lined with trees, towards this huge brick facade. Inside they have tons of first-edition books, clothing belonging to her family, and - brace yourselves - a handwritten manuscript of Sir Charles Grandison (a play of Austen's). The gardens out back are even more incredible. Back in the day, families would construct these elaborate paths in the woods to get the feeling of country living, of rusticity, without actually having to be in the country. This isn't even one of the more lovely houses, and I was blown away. What will I do when I visit Austen's model for Pemberley - Chatsworth House - this Saturday? I may cry.
After Chawton, we drove 30 minutes to the Winchester Cathedral. When they first told us it was 3.50 to go in, we were skeptical.
It was worth every penny.
This is the biggest, most beautiful, church I think I've ever been in. I wish I could describe it, but really, it's one of those things you just have to see. Hopefully my pictures will give you some idea of just how grand it was. After exploring both the main church and the crypt (parts of which date back to the Romans!), we finished our day with a trip to fancy-pants Maison Blanc for tea and chocolate croissants. With very few plans for the rest of this week, I'm excited to see what adventures we come up with...