On to My First Tango in Halifax (Part 1)

Well, here I am at the lovely, historic Holdsworth House. The building and grounds are fantastic, dating back to the 13th century. We’ve dropped in to the town of Halifax for a brief visit. We’ll be back shortly with a tour group, so I’ll get to tell you more about this area later. If the building looks familiar at all, it’s because it was the film set for a wedding in PBS’s Last Tango in Paris. The whole area is green and dramatically hilly, with stone rowhouses climbing the sides of hills like so many long, grey caterpillars.

We’ve landed here after dropping the recent walking tour participants at Heathrow, then driving 3 hours north. I never think of the UK as a land of major highways. We’re so often winding our way along back roads, to towns and farms and castles and sites well off the beaten track. So there we were, Heather and I, in our little Fiat, audiobook playing, trying to stay awake (I failed , but she was driving, so it was alright). Have I shown you our car? We named her Trixie. She’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. For better or worse, she’s a shift car. Don’t you think Heather’s brave for driving her?

But, as you can see, we arrived safe and sound at Holdsworth House. We were greeted by the resident cat. Now we’re having drinks by the fire. Despite sunny weather our first week, we’ve had some rain off and on and things are getting chilly. More pics of Holdsworth House:

So I left you all in Broadway, after our second day of the trip. As per usual, everything picked up steam from that point forward. It’s not that I don’t have time to post. I do have some breaks during an average day. But it takes a combination of free time, being alone, and quiet for me to be able to write. We may be in the bus, traveling to a new destination, but the conversations going on catch my attention constantly. Also, as a guide, if I’m in sight then I consider myself “on”. Also not a conducive state for reflection and communicating with you. Even here, this evening, with Heather quietly knitting next to the fire, the radio intrudes into my brain. It makes sense to me that my best posts come from time when I’m housesitting. It’s quiet. I’m the queen of my own schedule. I’m “off duty”. I’m happy to write about my experiences in the absence of distraction.

So, please bear with me. This, and posts during the next couple weeks, are likely to be disjointed.

The next day, while Heather and the group went for a there-and-back walk to Snowshill manor, I stayed behind to take care of administrative work. I set up my computer in the Broadway Hotel’s sitting room and enjoyed my day watching folks come and go. Then the next morning, we headed out for a walk to nearby Hailes Abbey, a Cistercian monastery abandoned after Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic church. As I begin to understand the amount of booty gathered in the form of land, riches, and consolidation of power, I can’t help but question just how much his actions were motivated by wanting Anne Boleyn and how much were due to his shrewd assessment of the benefits involved. Hailes abbey soon fell to ruins. We had a picnic next to the extant (and much more contemporary) chapel.

There was more walking. We crossed through more fields and wandered along pathways.

Then we found ourselves at Stanley House, where we had a tour and visit of the grounds.

Eventually we wound our way up into the town of Winchcombe. a much bigger town than Chipping Campden or Broadway, it also had a much more vibrant feel to it. Lots of different folks from every economic strata.

I did get a kick out of our hotel, the White Hart Inn. This was the view out our bedroom window.

But this was the view from the bathroom.

I kept chuckling about that.

Our next day included a visit at Sudely Castle. I was there once before – in 2016. Nonetheless, my breath was taken away once again by the gorgeous gardens and the chapel wherein Katherine Parr (Henry VIII’s final wife) is interred. I’m afraid I decided to just enjoy it rather than take lots of pictures.

Oh, and I discovered there was an entire section of the gardens I missed in my previous visit. Sudely is home to an amazing rare breed pheasant reserve. They have birds from all over the world and are deeply engaged in conservation and breed restoration back to the birds’ native habitats. Who knew? A very interesting collection of birds.

And of course, the requisite peony shots. THE most beautiful peonies I’ve ever seen in my life…

Then there was a bit of wandering and shopping before attending our evening at Gifford’s Circus. I swear this circus cannot be described. It’s part Broadway musical, part Cirque du Soleil, and absolutely 100% original. I even asked a few of our group, “Now could I have prepared you for this by trying to explain it ahead of time?” Every one of them said no. And every one of them said “THAT was fantastic!!!!”

I know I’ve said it’s indescribable, but I will share a few pics. Make of them what you will…

And there, I must pause. The post is getting long. The download will take forever. And I’ve hours of excellent sleep in which to envelope myself before continuing with part two. So, signing off for now.

Oh, hey — that’s me, at Stanley house. Why am I carrying a tennis ball around? I’ll tell you in Part 2.

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