Thursday, August 25, 2011


Neil and I  decided to drive to Scotland in December.We wanted to go as far as Inverness- via the lake District and Edinburgh.

We spent Christmas Eve in London with friends but early the next morning,
 we left for the Lake District.

The English Country side is very charming .
 As you get closer the the lakes the rolling hills are divided with stone hedges dotted with sheep .

We spent the night at a beautiful country hotel where we had a wonderful Christmas meal near the fire place in the dining room .It was nice basking in the warmth of the fire, after the drive in the freezing weather from London.

The next morning we continued driving and went over the border into Scotland .

Scotsmen wear kilts for special occasions.

Bagpipes- another symbol the Scottish.

Edinburgh-the second largest city in Scotland after Glasgow- is dominated by the Edinburgh Castle,
a fortress which dominates the skyline of the city from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock.

  Human habitation of the site is dated back as far as the 9th century BC, although the nature of early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle here since at least the reign of  King David 1 in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until the 1603.

The city of  Edinburgh is rather grey- specially in December- but the people were very friendly but it was rather difficult to understand their heavy brogue.

From Edinburgh we drove through the Highlands of Scotland to Inverness.
Once again we thought we might to try to visit a ski resort and try to ski.


Inverness Castle

Skiing in the Highlands near Inverness

Urquhart Castle.

I started not feeling so good by the time we got to Inverness ,and that night I really got sick.
It was cold and snowing softly and we could see almost nothing of the city.
Neil was also not feeling so good either so we decided to drive back to London.
I do not know how he did it. I had a fever and don't remember much about the trip back.
Once we got back to London we both ended up going to bed for a week with a, very bad case of the flu .Pity we had to cut the trip short but going up there in the middle of winter was not such a great idea. I am glad I did see Scotland, and would love to visit the Edinburgh Music Festival in the future.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Two Stately Homes of England.

Back in London I realized that I would have to make some decisions about my career and staying in England. I enjoyed London in the 70's but the visa situation was getting to me. My big love was Covent Garden and the Royal Opera House but I needed to further my career.
I decided to enjoy my last few months in England and see as much as I could.

Elizabeth Regina

My parents decided to visit Europa and came to stay with us in London for a week. At the same time Luigi a priest  from Milan -that was a neighbor -decided to visit as well.
Neils apartment  had 3 bedrooms as well as a sleep sofa in the living room there was enough space.

My parents and me near Blenheim Palace.

I was the only one that could speak some Italian so I was the translator. That could get very stressful.
He and my father could not understand each other but it did not stop them from having  great conversations. After he returned to Italy he sent my parents a box of Italian wine.

We went to see "No, No ,Nanette" in the Drury Lane Theater with Dame Anna Neagle and Thora Hird. I don't think Luigi could understand much but he did enjoy the music.
We decided to take my parents into the English Countryside and  we visited Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire .

Blenheim Palace and landscape.

It  is a monumental country house situated in Woodstock and the residence of the Dukes of Marlborough. It is the only non-royal country house in England to hold the title of palace.

 Its construction was originally intended to be a gift to  John Churchill , Duke of Marlborough from a grateful nation and Queen Anne in return for the  military triumph against the French and Bavarians at the Battle of Blenheim.

Queen Anne

It was also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

The Gallery with the organ in the background.

Tapestry Room

Red Drawing Room

Dining Room at Blenheim

The Hallway.

Portrait of the 9th Duke of Marlborough and his American wife Consuelo Vanderbilt  and their children
by John Singer Sargent

Charles, 9th Duke of Marlborough (1871–1934) can be credited with saving both the palace and the family. Inheriting the near-bankrupt dukedom in 1892, he was forced to find a quick and drastic solution to the problems. Prevented by the strict social dictates of late 19th-century society from earning money, he was left with one solution; he had to marry money. In November 1896 he coldly and openly without love married the American railroad heiress and renowned beauty Consuelo Vanderbilt . The marriage was celebrated following lengthy negotiations with her divorced parents: her mother was desperate to see her daughter a Duchess, and the bride's father, William Vanderbilt  paid for the privilege. The final price was $2,500,000 (worth about $62m in 2007) in 50,000 shares of the capital stock of the Beech Creek Railways Company .The couple were given a further annual income each of $100,000 for life. The bride later claimed she had been locked in her room until she agreed to the marriage. The contract was actually signed in the vestry of St .Thomas Episcopal Church New York  immediately after the wedding vows had been made. In the carriage leaving the church, Marlborough told Consuelo he loved another woman, and would never return to America, as he "despised anything that was not British".
So the palace was saved by American money and  a very unhappy Duchess.

Another interesting fact about this family:-When Tina Onassis divorced Aristotle Onassis after he started the affair with the Opera Diva Maria Callas-Tina married  John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough in 1961.They divorced in 1971.
My mother- being a teacher- enjoyed the history and glamorous house  very much but  my father was more interested in the man made lakes, horses and the buildings.


After a week in London it was time for my parents  to continue their European tour.

 They went on to Switzerland where they visited the Bernina Sewing Machine Company that my father represented in South Africa.Then they went to Rome where they stayed at the Pensione Suisse near the Spanish Steps that Elsa and later I  always used when we went to Rome.

Pensione Suisse-Rome

They could not go to Greece as there was some political upheaval-being the early 70'-so they ended their tour in Israel where they visited the Holy Sites of the Bible.
I was sad to see them go.


Another Country Home we visited during this time was the medieval Arundel Castle in West Sussex.

Arundel Castle- seat of the Dukes of Norfolk.

Arundel Castle  is a  medieval castle. It was founded by Roger de Montgomery on Christmas Day 1067. Roger became the first to hold the  Earldom of Arundel by the graces of the first Norman king William the Conqueror .

 From the 11th century onward, the castle has served as a hereditary stately home and has been in the family of the Duke of Norfolk for over 400 years. It is still the principal seat of the Norfolk family.

"The Surrender of Arundel Castle to Sir William Waller, January 6th, 1643 "
Painting by Charles Landseer.

The Chapel

Living Room

Dining Room

The Library

Arundel Castle Interiors

 Among the famous members of the Howard family are the 2nd Duke of Norfolk (1443-1524),  who with Sir Francis Drake repelled the Armada in 1588.
The 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473-1554), was a uncle of two Queens;- Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both of whom became wives of King Henry VIII (1491-1547).
Visiting these home makes history fun- and sets the imagination free.