Saturday, 28 September 2013

Afternoon Tea and Hardwick Hall

After the stress and chaos of registration, it’s been nice to have a couple of nice relaxing days. Thursday I wore my sweatpants all day. I guess I went on a run so I changed into shorts, but then got right back in my sweatpants after I showered and stuff. It was awesome. Yesterday we had afternoon tea with our Nottingham tour guide, Chris. Chris was so kind in inviting us to his house and spending the afternoon with us. It was delightful! His backyard and his gardens were so quaint and beautiful and English and I loved it. Chris loves telling stories and he is such a great storyteller! It was wonderful just to sit and listen to him. He can just talk forever and I love it! I could listen to his stories nonstop for a week and never get bored.

Life lesson from Chris: “Even when life is shitty, you never know what’s right around the corner.”

After we all got back to the flat we simultaneously changed into sweatpants. Kailey, Sarah and I baked cookies (they did most of the work, I did most of the eating) because we wanted to have cookies. My ice cream withdrawal is now turning into a general sweets withdrawal. It’s been hitting me pretty hard the last couple of days.

Today I set off on my first ever actual adventure!!! My destination was Hardwick Hall, a beautiful house built by Bess of Hardwick, a character who is fast making a place for herself in the category of “my people.” Her life is so fascinating! Did you know she was poisoned by her third husband's brother?! Also as a woman she was basically a badass for her time. Hardwick Hall is a little inaccessible without a car, but somehow I managed to get there. These were my directions via bus from the Hardwick Hall website:
"Alight Glapwell 'Young Vanish,' and cross the road, walk up the hill and take 1st right following signs to Rowthorne and Hardwick. Continue toward village then take 2nd right and 1st left, arriving at Rowthorne gate. Continue straight to access Hardwick Hall."

They might seem like detailed instructions. They were not detailed in real life. My bus ride from Nottingham was about 75 minutes, and I left Nottingham a little after 9:00am. Special shout out to the very kind man who sat next to me on the bus! Not only did he point out Hardwick Hall through the mist across the highway to me, but he also made sure I got off at the right stop and he pointed me down the road I needed. From there I literally just walked into the middle of fucking nowhere small village English countryside. It was a little scary, just because I had no idea where I was going! I didn’t have any maps with me (fuck you google maps for not working with me here) but magically I found the gate listed on the directions. About two miles from my bus stop, after walking through a village, down a country road, through the gate, not knowing if I was going the right way, and literally walking past sheep in a pasture to get there, I found it.

"Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall"

The things I will do to get to my people…

Hardwick Hall is so beautiful and incredible. The house wasn’t open for another hour still when I got there so I meandered through the gardens. The gardens were also beautiful. I made sure to spend a lot of time in them, resting and just soaking it all in. Sometimes when I’m by myself at historic places, I feel like I’m constantly rushing around trying to fit everything in and see everything and do everything. It’s really important for me to take a minute and sit back and relax. So it was nice to do that today. Right before the house opened, a costumed Bess of Hardwick came out and greeted us and told us about her life! It was great.

I want to be her

Hardwick Hall is filled with old tapestries, one of the best collections in England I’m pretty sure. More importantly (to me), the Long Gallery of the house is filled with portraits. I spent a lot of time with “My Henrys” in the corner—portraits of Henry IV, VI, two of Henry VII, and of course one of Henry VIII. They also had a portrait of Catherine of Aragon!!!!!! Can I get a what what?!?! Best surprise ever!!! Unfortunately, the most famous portrait of Elizabeth I wasn’t there, since it’s on loan to the National Portrait Gallery for their new exhibit called Elizabeth I & Her People. I’ll have more to say on that in a couple weeks I’m pretty sure :) It also didn't rain all day!!! Thank you, weather, for behaving for me and making it warm and sunny all day.

Getting to Hardwick Hall and back home honestly was one of my proudest moments. I have never felt so independent and so accomplished!  I was really nervous that I would get lost or that I wouldn’t be able to find it, that something would go wrong, that I’d take the wrong bus, etc. But I made it there and not to go on an ego trip, but I’m just beaming with pride for myself right now. It’s scary to be on your own and trust your gut instincts and be by yourself, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had so far. I wouldn’t trade in that feeling for the world! I guess that’s what this year is all about :)

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