|| The incomparable Chawton House Library. ||
England 2015 Trip Journal
Wednesday, April 14
|The view from our window.|
We spent some time really looking in the Jane Austen's House Museum shop and at their used book table for souvenirs. I found another magazine that I could give as a gift, Mom found a book for me on language in Jane's books and a mug, and some postcards and a teaspoon she picked out for souvenirs.
|The utterly pleasant main street of Chawton, with Jane Austen's House Museum on one side and Cassandra's cup on the other.|
|Jane Austen's House Museum glowing in the spring sunshine!|
A good lunch was then in order– at Cassandra's Cup, of course. It is pleasantly relaxing to go in a place long before they are scheduled to close and when it is full of fellow customers enjoying themselves like you are. We each got the toasted ham and cheese sandwich with a cup of bacon and lentil soup, which was quite filling, even after I had saved one half of my sandwich by stashing it in my purse wrapped in a napkin. We decided to forego tea (shocking, I know) and share a dessert: a rhubarb crumble with custard, which we enjoyed immensely. There was a poster of of teacup designs from 1785-1820 that we were looking at, pointing out our favorites to each other, and noticing how many of them looked as if they could be contemporary. (We are easily amused when it comes to tea...)
|Cassandra's Cup, newly painted green.|
|A delicious toasted ham and cheese sandwich.|
Then it was time to leave our traditional table by the window in the front room of Cassandra's Cup to walk just down the road to the grounds of Chawton House. On our way, a man getting out of his van asked us if we knew where Chawton House Library was. It was surprising enough that he was right there on the road and didn't know, but we were rather amazed when he told us that he lived only 10 miles from there and had never been to the house before!
We saw at least a dozen lambs in the field to the right as we walked up the drive! One of them had gotten out, who we found among the daffodils. We got pretty close to him, but he squeezed back under the fence when Mom tried to pet him.
It felt so exciting to be back as we walked through the open gate up to the door, like we were old friends coming for a visit. The two ladies volunteering inside the house were the most cheerful people we'd met on this trip so far. They were just so happy and seemed so pleased to give us our tickets and let us know that the kitchen was open if we'd like to pop in for some tea after touring the gardens. I had half-hoped to see Jeremy Knight again, and I thought it would have been nice to have his company as we walked around the grounds, but he was nowhere to be seen. There didn't seem to be scheduled tours anymore, unlike last time when you had to book a place before you could even go inside. Now you simply walk up – which I admit I do prefer.
|Chawton House itself! In Jane's day, the walls were covered in white stucco.|
What a warm, pleasant day it was! The warmest day of the year, BBC told us. And warm enough to make walking in the shade comfortable. There were scores of yellow primroses blooming inside and outside the walled garden. Jane's brother Edward Austen-Knight began building this part of the garden while Jane was still at Chawton. He re-designed all of the gardens, and I could just imagine Jane and Cassandra visiting him, telling him how well they liked his improvements.
|Edward Austen's walled garden, filled with apple trees, strawberries and vegetables.|
But I couldn't do that, at least not today, so we decided we might as well go. Although not without peeking in the gift shop, and even though we didn't buy anything, we looked at some more Jane Austen books that were quite interesting, such as a recipe collection of the Knight family.
|"A prettyish little widerness..."|
|Jane loved to walk in this little wilderness – and so did we!|
|A back view of Chawton House.|
|Lingering one last time at Chawton House...|
When I think of England – every place we went – I feel such a longing to see it all continuing on. Including even the regular everyday places like Costa Coffee, Sainsbury's, and Boots drugstore (because my sunburn that I had accidentally acquired at Lyme the day before was being uncomfortably troublesome, meaning I required aloe vera), our last three stops in Alton.
We decided to have some coffee at Costa instead of doing more shopping in the charity shops, so we grabbed a brownie from Caffé Nero – those utterly delicious Belgian chocolate ones – a mocha from Costa, and a copy of The Times, and sat outside the Alton Costa shop by the little stream. We enjoyed reading about the general election and the Conservative Party manifesto out in the pleasant evening air when we were joined by a duck surrounded by ducklings as they were swimming along in the water.
|The most delicious brownie in the world.|
|This little family joined us for coffee.|
|Our view: the old mill in Alton.|
Love this place.
Then it was time to pop across the road to Sainsbury's for some travel snacks like nuts, cheese, lunch meat, grapes, and chocolate, of course. We told the cashier where we were from, and she welcomed us, then after we mentioned that we'd been there for six weeks already told us she hoped we'd enjoyed ourselves. Another example of English friendliness. :) We put some more gas in the car, and had the unusual experience of going through the car wash there at Sainsbury's. We also wanted to vacuum it out, but the vacuums were broken at two different stations. I won't say too much about packing. Only that it was a bit impressive to me that I could get all our new books in my bags, and that as a consequence, my suitcase was as heavy as a rock.
The next morning we got off to Gatwick airport smoothly. After dropping off the car we even had time to stop in the Caffé Nero upstairs before going through security – to grab one last mocha to toast our unforgettable time in this incomparable country!
© Anna Morton 2017