Welcome back blog fans. This past weekend, Taylor and Andy (my sister and brother-in-law) came all the way from Louisville, Kentucky to see us and how we live in Derby. Okay, so they were on a bigger trip that includes the Swiss Alps, but they took a couple days out of their eurotrip to visit good old Derby.
We offered to meet Taylor and Andy in London or Stockholm or something like that, but they insisted that they wanted to visit England and see what it’s like. So that’s what we did. We had a proper British weekend and did as many British things as we could. Tara did most of the planning so she gets the credit. Here are the big British things that we had on the agenda that we wanted to make sure they experienced.
- Wollaton Hall (also known as Wayne Manor in The Dark Knight Rises)
- Chatsworth House (as seen in The Duchess, Pride and Prejudice, and Wolfman)
- Matlock Bath
- Fish and Chips
- Afternoon Tea
- Real Ale
We came up with some other British things to do along the way, but those were the big ones that we wanted to check off the list. The Americans arrived Friday at noon so we left work early, got down to business and went straight to Nottingham to see Wayne Manor.
It’s completely free to visit Wollaton hall, but we opted for the 5 GBP guided tour and it was money well spent. We had a nice lady show us around the hall. We got to go in a lot of places that you do not get to see with free admission. She was also funny and full of interesting information.
Since we were already in Nottingham, we decided to drive over to Nottingham’s claim to fame, Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem pub. It is said to be the oldest inn in England.
Tara and I had a secret agenda for this trip. There is a “pregnancy chair” at this pub, which is said to make you instantly pregnant if you sit in it. Taylor is older than me so that means she is due to have kids before me. Her and Andy have been putting it off for a while and my mom can only wait for so long.
Step 1: order pints.
Step 2: Tell Taylor that the chair is famous for giving you strength.
Step 3: Sit in Pregnancy Chair! BOOM! You’re welcome Mom.
That evening, we made reservations at a nice Indian restaurant. Neither Taylor nor Andy had tried a proper curry so this was a big step. Most Americans (me included) aren’t aware of the huge popularity of curry in England. Or even that “curry” is an entire genre of food. I used to think of curry just as a spice that I didn’t particularly care for. Over here in England, the number of places to get an amazing “curry” is pretty outstanding. For the record, an English/Indian curry dish is an extremely flavor packed sauce that meat is cooked in and served over rice and/or naan bread. The sauce can be stock or tomato based, but is always filled with tons of flavor from Indian spices and spicy peppers (if you can handle it). Tara did her research with the help of her Indian work mates and did all of the ordering. We got 4 different curries, 2 different naans, 1 biryani rice, and a Tandoori mixed grill appetizer. It was all amazing, as usual, and Taylor and Andy really enjoyed it. Either that, or they did a really good job of fooling us. I was pretty surprised that Andy liked it. Taylor has painted him as a pretty picky eater, but he did not shy away from anything we threw at him the whole weekend, with the exception of onions, but I’m not bothered about that.
I forgot to mention that we got a bonus English experience on the walk to the restaurant: RAIN. It was coming down pretty good and we had a 30 minute walk to the restaurant. Under normal circumstances, Tara and I may have bit the bullet and drove/paid for parking, but this was a great opportunity to do something British: Ignoring the fact that the weather is rubbish and going about your day as if it isn’t awful outside.
Saturday, we woke up relatively early and headed an hour north to Chatsworth House, which is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. It took a lot of research to figure out what that actually meant. I’ll get to the uninteresting history in a little bit.
For now, just know that it is a very popular and beautiful stately home situated in the heart of the Peak District National Park. It has been featured in such films as The Wolfman, Pride and Prejudice, and The Duchess. Tara and I watched all 3 in preparation for this weekend. If you want to learn about history and not fall asleep, I would watch the Duchess. If you want to see lots of blood and excitement while seeing a lot of Chatsworth, I would watch The Wolfman. If you want to fall asleep, I would watch Pride and Prejudice.
Now on to the history that I learned from asking the security guard. You may wonder why the Duke of Devonshire (bottom left county below) lives in Derbyshire (middle county). The short answer is that it is just a meaningless title for a time when there were lots of fancy titles to go around. The more slightly better answer is that there was a rich and powerful family in England called the Cavendish family. William Cavendish, who held various government offices, was gaining power and the the king wanted to “keep his enemies close” so he gave him the title of the “1st Duke of Devonshire”. This was a pretty cushy position and Mr. Cavendish got to transfer his Dukedom to his sons when he got old or died. There is still a Duke of Devonshire to this day, but he no longer has any power and he is mainly a wealthy businessman. I’m hoping that security guard didn’t lie to me because I’m doing very minimal fact checking on this one.
If you do end up watching the Duchess, you can compare the actors/actresses to their real life counterparts below. Kiera Knightley (in the center) is big step up from the actual duchess (right oil painting below). Okay, that’s enough history for one day.
I had planned a nice walk to do after we explored Chatsworth, but the ladies decided that they would rather explore Bakewell and shop. They sentenced Andy and I to the pub so that they could go shopping. Sacrifices were made.
First order of business in Bakewall was to get a proper afternoon tea. We found some traditional tea rooms and jumped right in. Andy got steak and ale pie (another British bonus find) and the women got tea for 2.
After tea time, the women headed off to explore/shop and the men headed to the pub.
The last stop on the Great British Weekend express was Matlock Bath. It’s a really quaint riverside town that makes a great place to pick up some fish and chips. Our visit also just so happened to coincide with the Matlock Bath Illuminations, which is a lighted boat show. We were a little ahead of schedule so we first stopped off at a pub for some pints. Luckily, this pub had a carry out deal where they would serve you beer in a giant chinese food container. I’m not joking.
Afterwards, we enjoyed some more pints in the pub with some live music. We ended the night with Fish and Chips (check) and lots of fun catching up with Taylor and Andy. I think they enjoyed their time with us in Derby. We really enjoyed having them and hope we didn’t annoy them too much by taking away all choices for them while they were visiting. All in all, I think we squeezed in as much Britishness as you could in a 48 hour period.
The next morning, the Americans hopped on a train and headed for Paris. That’s all for the Great British Weekend.