As the Lover drove into the Nottinghamshire countryside, I was squirming in my seat. He obviously questioned my actions with a ‘what the hell are you doing’ and the simple explanation of ‘getting changed’ did nothing to explain my situation to him.
Have you ever tried to get changed in a moving car? It’s not the easiest. In fact it’s bloody difficult. Especially when dealing with tights, which let’s face it are not the easiest garment to get on and off. Let’s also not forget, that I was having to first undress myself from my leggings – another item of clothing that is hard to change in a hurry – before then getting into the tights. A tricky task indeed.
Once I was finally satisfied that I was dressed correctly, I settled down to enjoy the scenic drive. It did take almost exactly an hour and the moment we entered Derbyshire, well the moment we left the town of Chesterfield, the excitement began to build.
I would just like to mention at this point, on the way through Chesterfield we passed a tiling shop with the most ingenious name I think I’ve ever come across: Tile-a-Croc. I must admit it had me in stitches for quite a while.
The Lover obviously had no idea what he was getting himself into but the memories of the exquisite house form my childhood were bubbling up from the recesses and what made it better was the Christmas decorations were going to be up. Something that I had never seen before. And it just reinforced the fact that Christmas was coming.
Once we began to see signs, the excitement really did begin to take full hold and I was like a child. The Lover suspected we might be able to catch a glimpse of the house from the road but I assured him, that would not be the case. And so we drove down the twisting, turning roads, until we came across the entrance. Although this did not reveal much either and we drove down the road, taking a wrong turn at one point and having to go back on ourselves, before finally arriving opposite the grand house on the cute little bridge I remembered so clearly.
And this was it.
Once the Lover noticed we had to park on the grass, his manly intuition of worry for his mechanical friend set in, especially when he saw some pillocks in their mobile caravan getting stuck in the mud and requiring four of the site team to push him out.
‘That better not happen to us,’ he said, pointing. But I was too excited to really care at this point. I rummaged in my rucksack for the tickets and we cautiously approached the entrance. I presented the printed out confirmation email and they waved us through. Once we reached the end of the driveway that was lined with stone wolves, we entered a marquee that did nothing to keep away the bitingly cold wind. We queue for perhaps ten minutes or so before we were able to hand my confirmation email over and collect our real tickets.
Now we could enter.
I knew the theme this year was ‘Mr Toad of Toad Hall’ but I don’t think I was fully prepared for the utter weirdness I was about to enter into.
We walk into the unrecognisable entrance hallway that has been turned into some mystical forest from the books. It’s quite a novelty. I’m then kindly asked to carry my rucksack on the front of my body by one of the house staff. Her reasoning was so that I didn’t knock anything. As you can imagine, I was a little peeved. Firstly because there was nothing to knock over, and secondly because I was more likely to knock something over by carrying it unnaturally on my front. Well I complied, like any good house guest would but it didn’t last long and once we’d entered the chapel, the rucksack went back to where it should be.
It was safe to say we couldn’t move. There was a crowd of people inching their necks skyward to see over the person in front of them at the little display of singing mice that had been set up in the corner. No, no animatronics here, I’m afraid. Just little stuffed mice in a poise of singing – cartoon mice I may hasten to add, although they did look quite lifelike.
We hastily moved on to the next room in a desperate attempt to escape the crowds, only after I’d made sure Lover was able to look up and see not just the fifty foot Christmas tree but the gorgeous painting on the ceiling.
We shuffle forward into the next room to find ourselves face to face with a badger. I don’t mean a real one, but he was pretty convincing. Dressed in slippers and a dressing gown he was getting ready to read the evening paper by the fire.
Again we shuffled forward into the large hall that was decorated with a huge Christmas tree that reached at least two-stories. And let’s not forget the giant vase that was almost just as tall. We escaped the hustle and bustle upstairs and continued the tour, once again confronted with a strange large ad life-life rat having a bath. Odd.
We did manage to find my favourite room…the library. Obviously I was snapping away like mad, desperate to capture the essence of the room for my Instagram. And here is my favourite one:
Before we knew what was happening we came to the end of the tour and with a little bit of disappointment we quickly perused the gift shop before exiting into the grounds. Disappointed? I’d say yes. My memories of Chatsworth encumbered much more of the building and it was a let-down to only see about half. Plus the shuffling of feet that was the customary way of moving forward was not just irritating but frustrating with too many people getting in our way.
But out in the freezing cold fresh air, we decided to make the most of what the ground had to offer, and so we walked up to the water feature that cascaded down the hill. We did some obligatory photos here there and everywhere before deciding to explore the ground a little more. We climbed a secret pathway and appeared above a rock face looking out over the house. But the whipping wind soon made us want to retreat to the warm recesses of a coffee shop. Now we just had to find one.
Just outside the entrance gate was the Christmas market, set up on a hill the chalets were laid out in a staggered pattern. The cold was too much for us though and we looked towards the old stables for shelter. Here was yet another gift shop where I purchased a little something for my mother using the voucher we’d been given with our tickets and then the decision was made. A nice cup of tea was in order.
We found a table, or should I say we were taken to a table, in the little café and a menu was handed to us. Yes this place was posh. But I wasn’t going to let that deter me. The sour-faced old ladies on the tables surrounding us, enjoying their Salmon with a string of pearls around their neck. We had stereotypically been put next to the entrance to the toilets. Now had this been a movie or even a cartoon, I would have thought it was deliberate.
I ordered a mince pie and a cup of tea whilst the Lover decided he would have a latter. When my mince pie arrived, there was a twin sat on the plate next to it, and because of the Lovers protests in eating it, I was forced to have two mince pies.
My little tea pot was as cute as could be and came on a little wooden plinth. It was quite pretty and very charming so I took the opportunity for another Instagram photo – I’m not obsessed I promise.
Did I also mention that I managed to drop the mince pie not once, but twice, causing crumbs to go everywhere, including down me. The Lover sat laughing and a quick glance at the neighbouring tables told me that they hadn’t noticed so I brushed the crumbs onto the floor and attempted to continue eating with dignity.
I will skip over the details for the rest of the visit as not much else happened. It was too cold to embark outside although we did brave a quick scout round the market but the relief when we sat back in the car was immense. I eagerly wanted to take a picture on the bridge we crossed to get to the house as I remembered doing so in my younger years and it was an amazing photo. So we agreed, we would stop there briefly for another one of my Instagram moments…
To my utter dismay, the traffic leaving the premises was directed onto a different route and within ten minutes were back onto the main road and had reduced our journey home by at least fifteen minutes.
But the day wasn’t over yet and we stopped off for an all you can eat Pizza buffet at Pizza Hut along with refillable drinks. Now if you’ve not been into the newly branded Pizza Hut, then I highly recommend it. They not only have a drinks machine that can supply you with five different flavours of tango – not that I knew there were that many – they also have an ice cream factory where you can have as many refills as you like. Heaven.
After our day at Chatsworth, we had a lazy evening watching TV which meant that we were getting the live updates of those terrible events in Paris, and I do just want to take a moment to spare them my thoughts…even if you are reading this a month after the incident. My heart goes out to all those that were affected and I really hope nothing like this ever happens again.
If you missed out on Part 1, click here.