Finally, the girls were about to visit the place they'd waited years to see in person, the site of one of their favorite TV shows, Downton Abbey. To get there, though, we had to log a lengthy train ride, and to get there, we had to pass through Paddington Station.
Paddington is a central London railway terminus, one of its busiest since it first opened in 1838.
The children's book character, Paddington Bear, was named in honor of the station. In the Michael Bond books, the bear is found at the train station, have arrived from somewhere in Peru, along with a note pinned to his jacket reading "please look after this bear." The girls did their shift looking after the bear, sitting alongside the station by Marcus Cornish alongside Platform 1.
And from there, we were off to Hampshire, England!
The day provided everything the ladies wanted for a number of reasons, the most important of which we'll get to at blog's end, but for starters, it was the perfect backdrop for these two proper ladies
So the actual castle's name is Highclere Castle, country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon, but the home itself provides the backdrop and filming setting for the hit PBS show.
The history of the home dates back centuries, but most of the rebuilding of the home was carried out in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by the Carnarvon family, who converted the previously standing red brick house into the classical Georgian mansion that it is today.
The Carnarvon family lives in Highclere during the winter months, and return to their cottage on the grounds in the summer months, when the castle is open to Johnny Foreigners such as Jack, Heather, and I.
Mister Bates just opened the door for Heather to come on in.
No photography of any type is allowed inside the castle's rooms, so we'll see you when we come out!
Naturally, us left-footers as the Granthams might have called us, had to have tea and scones in the basement of the castle. Not sure if Mrs. Patmore was the founder of this feast.
The castle currently features an exhibit about Egyptology, since one of the home's previous earls sponsored the excavation of several tombs, and himself accompanied the archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.
My own little archaeologist was especially excited about that historical section of the tour.
We didn't have our own valets or footmen, so it was up to us to make our way around the grounds on our own.
Time to explore some of the 5,000 acres of the property.
First up: Jackdaw's Castle, which was built in 1743 by Robert Herbert who had inherited the castle from his mother. It was built using Corinthian columns salvaged from Berkeley House in London. For me, it gave me my Samson moment.
For Heather, another opportunity to look beautiful and give me some modeling shots.
Bernadett, take note!
Out back is Highclere's Secret Garden, and yes, it did serve as the locale for the 1987 film of the same name.
A quick smooch for the Lord and Lady before we move on
So, a parting note about most likely the most rabid Downton Abbey fan you'd ever meet, Jack's sister Annie, who sadly passed away two summers ago. Anyone who knows her, knew her as Lady Anne when it came to Downton. She obsessed about all of the character interactions, developments, and drama that the show provided every week. She'd have her cuppa tea each week to accompany her viewing. Heck, she even wrote a weekly blog about it, and it's still linked to the right of this post.
Annie and Jack made a trek to England as sister-buds back in the 1980s, but for this Highclere visit, it was a chance for Jackie and Heather to experience the tour and remember all of the scintillating and raucous debriefs they'd have with Annie after each episode.
She couldn't make it there in person, but she was certainly there in spirit with her two buds, and truth be told, we brought a bit of Downton back via some wildflower seeds to help solidify her connection.
This visit was dedicated to Annie, our own Dowager Countess!