There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie


Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.
~Rumi


May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett


Friday, 4 October 2013

HIGHCLERE CASTLE CHRISTMAS FAIR
December 4th and 5th, 2013 (sold out)


Last year Stuart and I were lucky  enough to get tickets to the Christmas Fair held every December at Highclere Castle.   On Thursday morning Stuart must have had a rare moment of fleeting intuition, because out of the blue he asked if I'd gotten tickets for it yet.  Still suffering from jet lag from my trip back to the U.S. last month, the Christmas Fair had slipped my mind.  The tickets are sought-after and sell like hot-cakes, so I had a moment's panic that we'd missed out due to my foggy, jet-lagged brain.

But not to worry, Stuart's intuition was spot on the day, and they went on sale just that afternoon, so we were able to grab our two tickets as fast as we could.  Unfortunately within 2 days all the tickets were sold out, so if you didn't make it this year, plan on it next year.  It's always the first week in December..........and you can read all about last year's Fair below, posted last December.

Originally published December 7, 2012


A while back I wrote about succumbing to the phenomenon that is Downton Abbey.  I resisted it for nearly two years, but in a fit of homesickness for England while I was back in the states, I broke down and watched every episode of both seasons back to back in one week.  Once I returned home I was determined to make the pilgrimage to Highclere Castle where much of the series is filmed.  It's only a forty minute drive from Oxford, so I knew it would be a nice afternoon out.

Unfortunately by the time I started looking into buying tickets to tour the house, they were closed for the season.  Fortunately though, I found something even better.  Every year Highclere puts on a Christmas Fair in aid of the Air Ambulance Service.  It's two days where tables are set up throughout the house selling things that are either Christmasy, lovely, or yummy.  I jumped on the chance and bought tickets for Stuart and I to go to the afternoon session--the morning tickets were already sold out but luckily there were a few left for the afternoon.

We weren't sure what to expect of the Christmas Fair, but driving up the long drive to the house on a frosty winter morning, we were enchanted right from the start.  There were carollers in the great entrance hall and Countess Carnarvon was there signing copies of her book, The Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey.  Everyone was in a jolly, festive mood and we were able to find some special Christmas gifts for the people still left on our list.  We came home with delicious peppermint fudge from Marsden's Fudge and homemade, scrummy cakes from Cakes by Katie B.


Lady Edith's bedroom in Downton Abbey
In between looking at all the beautiful things to buy, we oohed and ahhed at the house.  I especially loved looking at all the family photographs scattered everywhere--pictures of the Carnarvon family dating back to the 20's and many of them looked like they could have stepped right out of Downton Abbey.  I even spotted a small photo with Princess Diana in it, shiningly beautiful, a guest at a wedding.  We also were able to tour the bedrooms upstairs--rooms that are Countess Cora's, Lady Edith's, and Lady Sybil's bedrooms in the series.  I admit it, I took a photograph inside the house (with my iPhone and the flash off), which you aren't supposed to do, but I couldn't resist.

With our purchases in hand and out of cash, we headed 'belowstairs' to the servant's quarters and kitchens, where lunch awaited.  We sat at a large, long table and ate our pasties and roast turkey--and I half expected to look across the table and see Mr. Bates or Thomas scheming with O'Brien.  As we walked out of the servant's dining room we stopped to inspect the 'modern' bell system for ringing servants.  Each room was labeled--the Steam Room, the Library, bedrooms, bathrooms, morning rooms, smoking rooms, and on and on.  I imagined that many times it was lit up like a Christmas tree and I wondered how they kept from trampling each other as they ran up and down the narrow 'belowstairs' corridors.

Stuart on the newfangled
house phone.










We hated to leave the festivities--and the warmth of the house.  It was too bitterly cold to walk through the gardens but we promised each other we'd return in the summer to walk the grounds and the gardens.  If you'd like to visit next year's Christmas fair, tickets go on sale early October--maybe we'll see you there, since we intend to make it a yearly event every Christmas.  

A blurry picture of
the great hall--taken
quickly, but you get
the idea.