Friday, August 08, 2008

English Roadtrip - July 2008 - The Jane Austen Tour

I had the pleasure to be travelling with an obsessed Jane Austen fan, *ahem* Alison, which turned out to be educational for me since I have never read any of her books nor watched any version of Pride & Prejudice, which turned out to be a unifying theme throughout the trip. [I have only watched Sense & Sensibility directed by Ang Lee.]

It was funny how the day worked out, since Alison and I were scheduled to go horseback riding that day, but was unfortunately rained out that morning. Instead, we decided to head to Winchester Cathedral (see previous blog). In addition to it being a beautiful cathedral, this was also the burial place of Jane Austen. [Who would have known.]

A "stone's throw" away from Winchester is Chawton, the small town where Jane Austen lived, and her old house has been turned into a small museum. In it, we saw the table where she wrote her books and letters, keepsakes from her brothers... all in all, a quaint little house with a lovely garden. In today's day, it looked comfortable enough, even if small. Jane Austen lived there after her father passed away and her family had to auction off their remaining assets to generate funds. Incidentally, Bath was also on our route!

While the rest of the group visited the Roman Baths, Alison visited the..

Stamford happened to be one of those little historic cities en route to our destination in the Nottingham area. Stamford is on this list because it was also used as the backdrop of Meryton in the Keira Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice, but walking through the town was a quaint experience nonetheless! Though we didn't visit it, Burghley House is a major estate nearby, previously an estate of one of Elizabeth I's advisors, which was also in Keira Knightley version of the movie. Below, you can see the historic architecture of Stamford, very much fitting a backdrop of 'officers' of Meryton.

The finale attraction was Chatsworth House, which was Mr. Darcy's beautiful residence, Pemberley, in the Keira Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice. Do these pictures look familiar? The visit was indeed breathtaking, backdropped by the rolling hills of Derbyshire (for real -- I "heard" that Jane Austen was inspired after visiting Derbyshire and Chatsworth House to include it in her story.) The drive here through the rolling hills of Derbyshire was so nice. The fountain in the first picture is called the "Emperor's Cascade", a beautifully long, cascading fountain, where the steps were varied for a different sound along the walk (and the water was cold!)

Ah, Mr. Darcy... though, I can't say I am completely smitten by his character in P&P... :p He is a nice guy, with sufficient funds and good relationships to allow for generosity and to pull strings behind the scenes to do stuff for the girl he likes/loves, but... is he really "man" enough? hahaha But I suppose he and Elizabeth complement each other in the end.

Epilogue -- after the bombardment of Pride & Prejudice, (which included the BBC version soundtrack), I did purchase a copy of this book (at Jane Austen House, no less) and finished it as soon as possible when I returned to Hong Kong. I very much enjoyed it -- a very charming and witty satire of social norms, great writing and dialogue -- and also watched the 'inferior' Keira Knightley version of the movie. I figure I would watch this version first, since it would be so much more inferior if I were to watch it after the BBC version of the story. Indeed, the movie pales in comparison to the original book, where a movie character's intended 'non-'expression can, in no adequate way, convey the emotional tensions that underlie the situations. While I have not yet seen Colin Firth's portrayal of Mr. Darcy, Matthew Macfadyen's anti-social quietness in his early scenes at the ball only come across as blank and empty stares. It makes me think that Leon Lai possesses the similar emptiness in a Hong Kong version of Mr. Darcy. :p

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

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