Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Derbyshire Top Ten -- a photo recap

This past weekend Steve and I went to the Peak District to celebrate our 20th anniversary. It turned out to be the best weekend trip we've ever taken during an Oxford summer. Beautiful villages and countryside, lovely hotel, friendly people, great weather -- we hardly could have asked for better!

Friday was Chatsworth day -- we got there just as the garden was opening.

[Click each photo to see an enlarged version]

This is the best photo I could get of Chatsworth because the familiar facade (as seen here) was covered in scaffolding! WAH! This is still a beautiful view, however, and I was thrilled to see the house that may have inspired Mr. Darcy's Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice. (It's certainly been used as a location for film adaptations.)

The Chatsworth gardens were exquisite -- better even than those at Blenheim, in my opinion.

The maze took Steve half an hour to solve -- a long time for him. If I had tackled it alone I'd probably still be trapped in there.

Remember in Pride & Prejudice '05 when Lizzie Bennett is wandering through the marble statue room at Pemberley? We saw all the same statues, but the Mr. Darcy bust had been moved to the gift shop. Hee!

After finishing up at Chatsworth, we set out on what we thought would be a 1.5 hour walk to Haddon Hall -- a walk that turned out to be much longer. We arrived at the admissions booth 5 minutes after they closed. BAH! We had no choice but to put it on the agenda for Saturday.

However, first up on Saturday was a walk along the Edges. It was a long hike to the top, but the great view was well worth the effort.

This was a particularly interesting section of tall rocks that attracted a large group of climbers.

Eventually we turned back and took a path down the hill through what seemed to me an enchanted forest. This was my favorite part of that morning's walk.

After lunch we made our way back to Haddon Hall, and I'm so glad we alotted more time because I needed every minute. As a huge fan of the latest film adaptation of Jane Eyre, I was dying to see where they filmed it. (Apparently four different adaptations have been filmed here!) Here's a passage from Wikipedia for some context:

[Cary Fukunaga] looked at some 60 residences for one to represent Thornfield Hall but settled on the previously-used Haddon Hall as it had not undergone much redecorating. The conditions were very cold and Fukunaga admitted that Wasikowska nearly got hypothermia on the second day while shooting the rain sequence; however, he could not imagine filming anywhere else, saying "Northern England – Yorkshire and Derbyshire, the moors and dales – they look like they’re something straight out of a Tim Burton horror film. The trees are all twisted by the wind; the bracken and the heather on the moors have this amazing hue. And the weather is so extreme and it changes all the time. The house even, Haddon Hall, is just so steeped in history, the spaces, the galleries, they sort of just breathe and you feel the presence of the history."

I quite agree with that last sentence -- I absolutely fell in love with Haddon Hall.

The Lower courtyard. [Funny tidbit -- the chapel in which the wedding scene is filmed in JE '11 is actually in the opposite corner to this main entry, but in the movie Rochester drags Jane outside and up a hill to get there, right? I mean, I've seen the film five times, so I think I have that right.]

The gardens were absolutely gorgeous. We even saw the little enclosure where Rochester and Miss Ingram were playing with the feather (see here and here), but unfortunately there were a couple of kids sitting in it, so I didn't get my own photo.

The sun was blinding, and thus my face is all screwed up, but you can still see how giddy I was. Haddon Hall may not be as opulent as Chatsworth, but to me it seemed to have much more warmth and character. It definitely was the perfect setting for a gothic romance.

I'll leave you with a haunting little clip from Jane Eyre 2011 that I'm almost certain was filmed at Haddon Hall (click the little rectangle to make it full screen):

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Some updates

It's been rainy and cool (verging on cold) in Oxford lately. This is the sort of July weather I love! But I feel bad for the folks at home who are withering away in the 100+ temperatures. I sincerely hope it cools down for you soon.

And now for a mishmash of updates . . .

First thing I have to mention (as I already have done on Twitter and Facebook) that Novel Novice has put together some stunning wallpapers for THE REVENANT. I've chosen the above for my own computer, but which one is your favorite? It would mean the world to me if you gave them a look and commented on Sara's blog post.

At Novel Novice you'll also find Sara's extended interview with me (starts here) and a guest blog post from yours truly that lists ghostly film/book recs.

Last Thursday Steve and I went to London to see Betrayal, starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Douglas Henshall and Ben Miles. This darkly funny but also painful play about infidelity featured amazing performances, especially from Ben Miles, whom I've only seen doing comedy (he's hysterical in Coupling) and gentle historicals (Lark Rise to Candleford).

We've really been enjoying our evening walks in the University Parks. I thought the light was particularly nice for this photo. On our first night we encountered the loveliest fragrance, but it took a few days to identify the source. After much research, I'm pretty sure it's the linden blossoms that smell so good. As a side note, I came across a hilarious Mitchell and Webb video during my Internet searches. It's slightly R-rated, so I won't link directly here, but those of you who enjoy spoofs on Victorian culture should google Mitchell and Webb + linden tree. (Those who got a giggle out of Darcy's "posh dancing" video really should check this one out!)

Yesterday afternoon we walked to Port Meadow and then on to Binsey (which was hosting a village FĂȘte straight out of Midsomer Murders). Here you see our cream tea at The Perch. The setting was breathtaking, but unfortunately the tea was way oversteeped. Still, I'd like to go back and try a meal there.

This week it's work, work, work and then we're on a train to the Peak District to celebrate our 20th Anniversary! Can we possibly be that OLD? Hmmm.

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A few Oxford photos

Last night was the opening banquet for the OU summer law program at Brasenose College in Oxford.

Last year we had to eat in a tent. This year we're back in the Hall -- huzzah!

There was much revelry -- too much in some cases, but Steve and I managed to behave ourselves.

Today we set out for our favorite sandwich shop on Holywell Street and stumbled across a film shoot for Inspector Lewis!

Laurence Fox and Kevin Whately waiting to rehearse the scene.

Getting last-minute hair and makeup touches.

Roll cameras! In this scene, Lewis and Hathaway encounter a WPC, and something about her makes Hathaway turn around and stare. I guess it will all make sense when we watch, eh? This episode won't air until after Easter in the UK, so maybe we'll get it next summer or fall? It will be titled "Generation of Vipers" and should be the first of the season.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Last minute things . . .

First off, I wanted to remind you to watch Zen on Masterpiece Mystery starting July 17. Entertainment Weekly calls it "PBS' best mystery import in years."

It figures that Rufus Sewell, one of my favorite imaginary boyfriends, would make a critically acclaimed appearance on American TV the week after I leave for the UK. Oh well, that's what DVRs are for.

And now, a few photos from my signing at the Clarksville, TN Borders this past Sunday:

Me and my 94-year-old grandmother, Ruby. Like I said on Facebook, she was a writer long before I was born! It was so lovely to have her there.

My dad's family -- my brother Ernest, husband Steve, me, Dad, his wife Jing, and my stepsister Dionne (a.k.a. "Dr. Peacher" - yay!).

My mom's family -- my brother Jason, Ernest, Mom, me, sister Heather, and the little ones are my darling nieces Samantha and Shelby.

My ex-stepmother Rosemary and her charming friend, Kim.

Childhood friends! Glenda, me, Leigh and DeAnne. Michelle arrived later, and we all had a chance to sit and chat. Perfect ending to a really nice event.

I was so pleased to see so many friends and family members (as well as family members of friends) at the signing. Fellow Elevensie Victoria Schwab made an appearance, bearing a gift of the most delicious cake pops I've ever eaten. Thanks, V! Also met book blogger Shannon. Hooray!

Thanks to everyone for making it a very special day for me.

Finally, I wanted to remind the writers out there that Novel Novice is hosting a fabulous ghost story writing contest (sort of like ghostly "flash fiction"), in which copies of The Revenant are being offered as prizes. Check it out here.

Okay . . . next time I'll be writing from Oxford!

Friday, July 1, 2011

July already?

Today we hit the road for a quickie trip to Tennessee -- if you're anywhere near Clarksville, I hope you'll stop by my signing at Borders on Sunday, July 3, 2-4. I'd LOVE to see you!

As soon as we return it's time to pack up and ship out to Oxford, England. I am terribly excited to return to one of my favorite cities, but as always, there's way too much to do before we leave and so little time to get it all done. Wah.

In other news, THE REVENANT is novel of the month at Novel Novice -- such an honor! The first post, in which Sara explains how Lisa Madigan recommended the book long ago, is beautifully poignant. Today you'll find a desktop wallpaper calendar for July (grab it at the blog, or see below). Please stay tuned for more REVENANT-themed wallpapers, interviews, a guest blog, reading recs, and more, including information geared toward teachers. Hooray! I'm forever grateful to Sara and the lovely folks at Novel Novice for embracing THE REVENANT so enthusiastically.

Happy Friday, everyone!