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The last few months have seen most of us very limited in terms of where we can visit. While many things are now opening back up – with care – our horizons are still a little close to home.
Therefore, I thought now was the right time to share a few places I have visited in the past and loved. We can all pay a visit (virtually) and enjoy what’s on offer, and hey, maybe even plan a trip in the future.
I thought I would start with Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, Hampshire as this is one of my favourite places to go. Yes, I think if you like the novels of Jane it’s definitely going to have added appeal, but even if you just enjoy history and visiting picturesque English villages, this one is going to float your boat.
My First Visit
I can’t remember exactly when I first visited Chawton, but it has to be about ten years ago now. I had long known the house was there, and it was on my to-do list, but I just hadn’t got around to it. The first time we drove to Alton, which is the closest town to the village of Chawton, we just simply couldn’t find the village itself. It didn’t help that it was lateish in the day and my navigation skills weren’t quite up to par ☺
By now though, my excitement level was piqued and I wasn’t going to let any lack of map reading ability stand in my way. The following Saturday we set off early and I was going to let nothing, nothing I tell you, stand in the way of me visiting the house. Even if I had to stop and ask every person in Hampshire where Chawton was, we were going to get there. As it turned out that (thankfully) wasn’t necessary and on the second visit we somehow came upon the signs to the house easily and all the pieces fell into place.
As we drove into the village, I was so excited. I love history, books, pretty villages and oh yes, tearooms – so I was at anticipation level 100!
We parked relatively easily, although in the high Summer season that isn’t always so easy, and made our way to Jane Austen’s House.
Visiting the House
For the best source of information on the house, it’s best to check out the JaneAustens.house website, as they have all the lowdown on opening hours, booking tickets, plus info on events and some great learning resources.
The house is such an important literary and historical site that it is also supported by several Ambassadors and you can read more about them at the link.
I first saw more info on this when Lucy Worsley became an ambassador (I have a little history crush on her☺) and she has done both a TV program (sometimes on BBC iPlayer for those in the UK) and written a book on Jane Austen.
Jane Austen at Home is definitely worth a read if you love Jane’s books or are interested in this historical period.
Anyhoo, I digress. The bottom line is that I loved, LOVED, visiting the house and garden. The house itself is not huge (it is, after all, a ‘cottage’ in a village), but there is so much to learn and see as you go around it.
It’s also pretty much as it was in terms of the creaking stairs and low doors, and for me that just makes it so much more real. I love thinking about how Jane worked at her tiny writing desk or helped her mother and sister in the kitchen.
The garden too is beautiful and on our first visit I just sat on a bench, closed my eyes, and listened to the birdsong. I could almost imagine Jane moving around tending to the flowers. Maybe I just have a very vivid imagination, but for me, it’s one of the most evocative places in terms of celebrating a life.
Tea and Cake
Another highlight of any visit to Chawton is having a cuppa and some cake (oh go on then, I really shouldn’t) in Cassandra’s Cup. This is a super cute tearoom opposite Jane Austen’s House and is named for Jane’s sister. This is worth a visit for all varieties of deliciousness, but also because it gives you an amazing view of Jane’s House from the window.
I have been back to Chawton many times since and I’m looking forward to visiting again once life gets a little bit back to the ‘new normal’. The house is open now though so do check it out if you want to head along and visit.
If you just want to read more about Jane and her life then I also recommend the biography Jane Austen: A Life. I read this quite a few years ago now and loved it.
Have you been to Chawton? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts below, or tell me one of your favourite places to visit, wherever you are based in the world.
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