My English Dream Trip has been thus far glorious in so many ways, not least in the sheer number of iconic and coveted (in my mind) places I’ve seen, heard, touched, smelled, tasted, and breathed in over the last fortnight. But today was exceptionally special and magical, because I finally turned into reality a very old dream I’ve dreamt, doubtlessly shared by dreamers across the world. This particular dream was felt dreamt (though I was non-the-wiser at the time) in 2004, when my 16-year-old self was first introduced to BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice, with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. Undoubtedly, when the episode first aired almost a decade earlier, the same dream asserted its place in countless hearts, which remained helpless to the lure of a single wet shirt. I was similarly captivated, and it could very well be said that the series was a contributing factor to my love of literature, English history and culture, and the nineteenth century. Without watching Pride and Prejudice, I probably wouldn’t have read Jane Austen relatively early in my life; and without Jane Austen, I wouldn’t have written Regency Love, or pursued an MA in Romantic and Victorian Literary Studies, or comelettes a PhD in Shakespeare studies on a scholarship.
In short, without the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, I would have had a completely different life.
And even back in my teenage years, I discovered that the real-life estate is called Lyme Park, and that it was in England. But that was that–my untraveled, Chinese-Australian fangirl mind didn’t have the capacity or opportunity to know any more.
Except that I wanted a Pemberley cake for my 21st birthday. Of that, I was fairly certain.
Today, however, the dream became real. No longer the soft, sweet dream I could only dream, but the solid, somewhat wet reality of the ground beneath my feet and the stunning sight before my eyes.
The day began with rain and dark prospects, but I was neither dejected nor deterred. There is nothing more steadfast than a dream with heart, and nothing more beautiful than that dream made real. Even as the clouds gathered and the rain fell, I was in rapture. I was finally at Pemberley.
Before I start fangirling/raving about the sheer beauty and magnificence of Lyme House and Park, I must acknowledge the incredible volunteers (over 600!) who make Lyme one of the best places I’ve visited in all my travels. There volunteers are helpful, knowledgable, friendly, and, above all, passionate—it was so evident they love what they do, and it is due to their hard work and willingness to share their skills and expertise that I had such an amazing experience. Although I didn’t know the names of all the volunteers I encountered, I was very grateful indeed towards Susan (who welcomed me, and lent me a bright orange umbrella with “Mr Darcy got wet at Lyme Park, but I’m keeping dry”), the lady who gave me a lift up the long driveway, the gentleman who gave me a ride back to the main gates, the numerous wonderful folks who imparted their knowledge and took photos of me, and, last but not least, the excellent wardrobe team, who turned me into an Edwardian lady.
Yes, I got to walk around “Pemberley” as a gentlewoman, and it was fabulous. There should be a rule for every historical house/manor/castle/other shiny to dress the visitors, because the resulting experience was just incredible. The mere tactile sensation of wearing gloves and holding an umbrella/parasol (I never used it, so I never found out its capabilities) changed the way I walked around the estate, while my hat framed the way I viewed the world.
And now, here are some of the kazillion photos I took today.
Objectively speaking, my journey onwards was a bit of a disaster due to Disley train station being out of operation, and heavy rain and floods causing further disruption in the Midlands. In order to get to my next destination (Stratford-upon-Avon), I walked back to the b&b to pick up my suitcase, caught a taxi back to Lyme Park (£3.50), was given a lift into Stockport station by a kind lady called Eleanor who’d overheard my dilemma at the cafe where I had lunch (£5.50), took my two trains to Stratford-upon-Avon (£14.80), waited quite a while for my second train due to aforementioned issues, and caught another taxi to my hotel (£7.70). I left for my travels from Lyme Park at 3:35pm, and arrived at my Stratford-upon-Avon hotel (the New Inn; £49 per night) just before 9pm. The gentleman who checked me in took my dinner order, and was basically a star, making me incredibly happy with game soup and veggies (£4.50), profiteroles for dessert (£2.50), and a glass of Sangiovese I’m currently sipping (£4.05).
But that was just the cherry on the cake—I am already floating on my Pemberley-shaped cloud, and will for a long time to come (even if my Regency high might soon be tinged with a healthy dose of Shakespeare love). My dream has been dreamt, nurtured, expanded, realised, and lived.
Food & drink: £16.55
Tickets: £9.90 (worth every penny)
Walked: 13,740 steps; 9.43km