Driving up the mile long drive to Highclere Castle in Berkshire, the tranquillity belonged to another era. With dozens of sheep grazing in the rolling fields, tremendous cedars probably planted from seedlings in the 18th century, the stately home of the TV Drama series Downton Abbey took our breath away. You could hear a collective sigh on the AWC bus as we approached the front of this family home.
After being welcomed through the impressive portal into the 3-story high Victorian Gothic saloon we were offered tea and sweets .....
and unfortunately told "no photography inside,please". But just before the announcement was made one of the ladies (whose name shall remain anonymous for obvious reasons!) snapped this picture from the grand oak staircase.
We had the most interesting guide who gave us all the historical information of Highclere Castle as well as filming details of Downton Abbey. For instance she explained how a twelve hour day of shooting for the series might only produce 6-8 minutes of film. Because it could take days to shoot an entire scene, pictures of every detail including hair, makeup, (silk)flower and furniture arrangements had to be taken to recreate the exact scene. I was so impressed that when I got home I re-watched one of the episodes and was able to spot that the desk had been moved in the library and the curtains were pulled in the dining room making the gold flocked wallpaper much darker, probably because of the sun's glare on all the portraits in that room.
As we were making our way around the bedrooms an attractive lady dressed in white sweats and blue sneakers with no laces - casual! - started up a conversation with us about a chair she was having recovered in one of the rooms. It was the lady of the house...Lady Carnarvon. She was personable and delightful and it reminded me of the labor of love- and the massive expense - it must take to keep up such an inheritance. The lower level of the house has been dedicated to the 5th Earl who famously financed Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb in Egypt. To be honest - we would have been more impressed if we had run into Mr. Carson and Anna Bates sitting around the kitchen table having tea! "Americans", I know!