Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Beatrix Potter's Lake District

© National Trust

Don't worry, I don't intend to recap my whole vacation on my blog, but since so many of you are artists and book lovers (especially children's books), I'm sharing some things related to those passions. 

Here we go! After Oxford (the previous post), we hit the road to head up to the Lake District. (Actually, we toured Blenheim Palace and Warwick Castle, but I can only bore you with share so much here.) I was still a bit nervous about being a passenger on the left side of the car, but sights like this lightened things up...

click to enlarge all photos...

...as did a stop at a service center—so much fun to peruse a British candy aisle.

Arriving in lovely Windermere, we drove right onto the ferry to get to Near and Far Sawrey, Beatrix Potter's stomping grounds. She was actually quite instrumental in preserving much of the land that is now part of the Lake District National Park—just another reason to love her! We stayed in a beautiful inn called Ees Wyke Country House, and the scenery was breathtaking. Miss Potter actually stayed here on holiday:
"It was taken for granted that the two young Potters would continue to accompany their parents on holiday even when they were grown up, and Beatrix was nearly thirty when they all went to Sawrey for the first time in 1896. The property that Rupert Potter took that year on the edge of the village was a large country house, Lakefield, which by their return in 1900 had been renamed Eeswyke or 'house on the shore'. From the pretty garden there was the magnificent view over Esthwaite Water to the hills of Coniston beyond, and behind the attractive whitewashed house was a bustling farm with sheep and cows and pigs. Beatrix took her pet rabbit, Peter, with her, the coachman took his cat, and during their stay Beatrix and Bertram drew and painted, went for long walks on the fells or drove round the district in the pony and trap."
—from the National Trust book, Beatrix Potter and Hill Top

The owners of the inn have two friendly Old English sheepdogs, Harry and Teddy, which made the place even more charming. Sitting outside, you could hear the sheep on the hillside...it was idyllic, to be sure.

A little weary of braving the driving on very narrow country roads, the next day we decided to skip the trip to the Pencil Museum in Keswick, and relax and enjoy this area. Sawrey and Hawkshead are full of Potter lore, and none of it is overly tourist-y, amazingly enough.

It was just a short walk up the road from the inn to visit Hill Top House, Beatrix Potter's home. There's hardly a wooden or metal fence to be found anywhere in this area. Just miles and miles of these gorgeous stone walls:

We passed this little inn, the Tower Bank Arms...

which can be seen in this illustration from The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck:

©Frederick Warne & Co.
We arrived at Hill Top House, knowing that the house was closed on Fridays (as I mentioned in this previous post), but the grounds and gardens were open. It turned out to be a great time to visit, since there were fewer people.  It was a beautiful day, and so many of her stories and illustrations went through my head as we wandered through this charming place. You can see glimpses of the house and garden in many of her illustrations:

both illustrations from The Tale of Tom Kitten 
©Frederick Warne & Co.

from The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck
©Frederick Warne & Co.

We then drove into nearby Hawkshead, where her husband's former office has been converted to a museum and gallery by the National Trust. Seeing her original artwork was nothing short of amazing. I didn't take pictures in there, but I did manage to take a few of our lunch that followed!

Sigh...we could have stayed for weeks in the magnificent Lake District. But, we had a train to catch...

The last "travel post" will follow soon: a quick recap of Paris and London. I know, no one needs to see another photo of someone standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. I'll keep it blogging/art/book related, I promise!

Note: Just after I published this post, I saw a great piece on today's Buzzfeed: 11 Reasons Beatrix Potter was the Most Charming Pen Pal Ever. It's wonderful...check it out here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Home again, home again...

I'm back! Well, physically I've been back from my trip to England for ten days, but the first five or six found me quite jet-lagged and foggy-brained. I am just now feeling like I'm approaching normalcy (or at least my version of normalcy).

Since I'm just getting back into drawing mode, I have no new drawing to post. But I thought I would share a few highlights, in the next few days, that might be of interest to my fellow artists and book lovers. First up...the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford!

When I arrived for the tour at the appointed time, the woman at the gate told me that I was the first to arrive. "You may go through those double doors and wait inside for the others."  Well, I was already rather awestruck being among the gorgeous buildings of Oxford, so I'm fairly sure that I gasped audibly when I entered this "waiting room":

(I know, the photo is a bit fuzzy...I was a tad overwhelmed.) Formerly the Divinity School, it's an exquisite room. (It may also be known to you as the Hogwarts infirmary.) Our tour guide was fascinating and extremely knowledgeable. As we climbed the stairs and toured the centuries-old Duke Humfrey's Library, we learned that, since its creation around 1600 through current day, all readers (students and staff) in all of the libraries that make up the Bodleian have been required to take this oath:

They are so serious about this oath that Duke Humfrey's library was only used in daylight hours until electric lights were invented. And when the library stood in for Hogwarts' library in the film, the flame on Harry's candle had to be inserted digitally!

We were then taken into the Radcliffe Camera. I was so excited; the public can only enter these rooms on certain tours. No photography was allowed, but I'll easily remember those gorgeous round reading rooms. 

After the tour, we went through the "Magical Books" exhibition at the Bodleian where we saw original sketches by C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Phillip Pullman. Click here if you're interested; much of the exhibition can be seen online.

We then walked over to the Ashmolean Museum to see the Master Drawings exhibit. Click here for more information. While there were stunning drawings from many famous artists, I was especially drawn to (no pun intended) this self-portrait and this sketch by Samuel Palmer.

One last thing—while I toured the Bodleian, my husband climbed to the top of one of the church towers and took these panoramic shots of Oxford. (Click to enlarge.) Such a beautiful town...enjoy!

Next up: Beatrix Potter's stomping grounds, and meeting a British blogging friend...in person!