A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: DAY 5 – PART ONE – ARRIVAL AT BASLOW

Day 5 saw Diane and I getting the train from St. Pancras to Chesterfield, 
with our ultimate destination being Baslow and, eventually, Chatsworth House. 

From the station in Chesterfield, we made our way to Baslow and were greeted by the sight of sheep, dozens of them, in the fields behind our hotel, the Cavendish. 

Have I ever mentioned how much I love sheep? It turns out that Diane does, too. 
We were in alt as we left our bags at the door and stood watching them, and listening to their Baaaahing for some time. 

Eventually tearing ourselves away, Diane and I entered the Cavendish Hotel, owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. In fact, it was the late Duchess of Devonshire, Deborah (nee Mitford) who had worked so hard to restore, decorate and open the hotel in 1975.
Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire
The hotel began life as the Peacock Inn and bcame part of the Devonshire estate around 1830, 
when it was acquired from the Duke of Rutland. Being such a fan of Debo and Chatsworth both, I had been looking forward to our stay at the Cavendish for some time. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed. 
We were given the Burlington Room

After dropping our bags in the room, Diane and I headed out to explore Baslow further. 

The village offers two pubs, one of which is the Wheatsheaf, above and below.

Baslow is a quintessential English village, with bags of charm round every corner. 

After soaking up the atmosphere, we found that it was just barely three o’clock and so we decided that there was enough time to fit in a walk to Chatsworth House and set off in giddy anticipation, like two kids waking up on Christmas morning. Chatsworth, here we come!

You may be glad to know that a stay in Baslow and a visit to Chatsworth House are both on the itinerary for Number One London’s 2017 Country House Tour. 
Part Two Coming Soon!

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: DAY FOUR – PART THREE: DINNER AT SIMPSON'S IN THE STRAND

You may recall that in Part One of our Day Four post Diane, Jo and I had gone on a London Walk of the Covent Garden area that included a stop at Simpson’s in the Strand restaurant. I told you then that there would be more about this venerable and much loved eatery to come and so there shall be. Now.

From the Simpson’s in the Strand website:

Originally opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffee house – The Grand Cigar Divan – Simpson’s soon became known as the “home of chess”, attracting such chess luminaries as Howard Staunton the first English world chess champion through its doors. It was to avoid disturbing the chess games in progress that the idea of placing large joints of meat on silver-domed trolleys and wheeling them to guests’ tables first came into being, a practice Simpson’s still continues today. One of the earliest Master Cooks insisted that everything in the restaurant be British and the Simpson’s of today remains a proud exponent of the best of British food. Famous regulars include Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and his fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes), Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.

Known for it’s joints of beef wheeled tableside on huge, steel trollies, Simpsons has always been a favourite of those with a literary bent. From Wikipedia In E. M. Forster‘s Howards End, Henry Wilcox is a devotee of Simpson’s. P. G. Wodehouse devoted several paragraphs of Something New to the restaurant, and in his novel Psmith in the City, his two heroes dine there: “Psmith waited for Mike while he changed, and carried him off in a cab to Simpson’s, a restaurant which, as he justly observed, offered two great advantages, namely, that you need not dress, and, secondly, that you paid your half-crown, and were then at liberty to eat till you were helpless, if you felt so disposed, without extra charge.” Simpson’s is also featured in Wodehouse’s “Cocktail Time” as the restaurant that one of the characters, Cosmo Wisdom, chooses to lunch at after leaving Prison. Simpson’s also features in the Sherlock Holmes stories. Watson joins Holmes there during the story “The Illustrious Client” the detective is sitti
ng “looking down at the rushing stream of life in the Strand.”


The window in the upstairs bar at Simpsons. Possibly the window Holmes himself had gazed out from. 

So you see, it’s not unusual that I should have chosen Simpson’s as the scene of this evening’s dinner party, for a party it was to be and, as Diane and I had some time before the rest of my guests arrived, we headed upstairs to Knight’s Bar for a cocktail. Wodehouse would no doubt have approved. 

Literary connections aside, Simpson’s has also been the site of a Royal intrigue or two, the most widely known being that Simpson’s, this very bar no less, was used by King Edward VII to secretly meet with his mistress, Lillie Langtry.

Lillie Langtry and King Edward VII
Diane and I took a table by the window, which gave us a direct view of the table and mural, above. This was Edward VII’s table, as it stands by itself in a corner alcove, away from prying eyes. The mural disguise’s a hidden door, through which the lovely Lilly would slip in order to sit beside her Royal lover. 

And so Diane and I sat with our cocktails and waited for the rest of the party to arrive. Can you guess who they were? A member of the Royal Family, perhaps? Much better – my guests this evening were some of the fabulous guest speakers and guides who will be part of Number One London’s 2017 Tours.

From left to right: Diane Perkins (Diane Gaston), Kristine Hughes Patrone, Ian Fletcher, 
Nicola Cornick and Melanie Hilton (Louise Allen)

Oysters, dinner, wine and a grand time were had by all!

Full Details Regarding Number One London’s 
2017 Tours Coming Soon!

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: DAY 4 – PART TWO

Saying goodbye to Jo Manning after our lunch at the Duke of Wellington pub, Diane and I walked down the Strand to Somerset House, where we walked out to the terrace at the back and gazed for a while upon the Thames. 

Leaving Somerset House, Diane and I undertook another aimless walk round 
London – our favourite activity. 

“What’s that church up ahead?” Diane asked after a while.

I looked at the church as we approached. “No idea.”

“No idea?” she asked, sounding surprised.

“Nope. Afraid not. I really don’t know this part of London like the back of my hand, as I dare say I do in Mayfair and the West End. This is all pretty much virgin territory for me, except for Twinings. I know where Twinings is. But I do know how we can figure out what church this is.”

“How?”

“We’ll read the sign.”

After stopping in to Twinings to buy copious amount of Lapsang Souchong tea, we 
headed towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

In case there was any doubt, our main reason for visiting St. Paul’s was to pay our 
respects to the Duke of Wellington, but we took the time to visit most of the other war 
graves, as well.

Once we’d had our fill, we once more headed outside into the breach and soon found 
ourselves before the Cockpit Tavern in Blackfriars. 
“Where are we?” asked Diane.
“Well, as luck would have it, we’re at the Cockpit. Let’s have a drink.”
“Okay, but where are we?”
“We’re in London. More than that I can’t tell you.”
“You mean you don’t know where we are?”
“We’re in London and the River is that way. I kinda know where we are. Ish. I do know that the bar has to be this way,” I said, pulling her after me through the front door. 

Not only did the Cockpit have liquor, they also had a sense of humour. 

Once again, a good time was had by all. 
Part Three Coming Soon!

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: DAY 4 – PART ONE

On day four, Diane and I met our pal author Jo Manning in Covent Garden and went along on a London Walk of the area. I adore London Walks, the company has engaging guides and enough walks on a variety of topics so wide ranging that absolutely everyone who visits London can find a walk that will not only interest, but also delight. Because the Covent Garden area will feature on a few upcoming Number One London Tours, I wanted to make sure that my knowledge of the area was up to snuff. 

Covent Garden has a fascinating history, spanning centuries, and there is so much to see, if one knows where to look, point in fact the surviving herbalist’s sign below. From flower markets a la My Fair Lady to Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, the mind boggles at all who have trod here. 

If you’re in the area, do make time to explore the garden behind St. Paul’s Church, 
also known as The Actor’s Church

The tour included areas outside of Covent Garden, including the Strand, where we saw the Coal Hole.  I was first introduced to the Coal Hole decades ago by Dr. David Parker, then curator of the Dicken’s House Museum. Tip – don’t visit right at five o’clock as the place is packed then with City types wanting their well earned cocktail at the end of the day. The place is packed with atmosphere, like something right out of a Dicken’s novel, so it really is worth a visit. 

We also passed The Savoy Hotel, which has been on my “to do” list for the past five or six trips to London, but which I still haven’t found the time to visit. I’m dying to suss out the place and to have at least one cocktail at their bar. 

The tour also included a stop into Simpson’s in the Strand, the venerable restaurant venue which has figured large in both London and Royal history. But more on that later . . . . . 

The tour did provide me with a new shortcut from the Strand through to Covent Garden, 
so that’s alright. If only I remember where it is. 

We took in the Oscar Wilde memorial beside St. Martin’s in the Field on our walk. The statue is entitled A Conversation With Oscar Wilde. You can read about it here

When the walking tour ended, Jo, Diane and I went for lunch to the Duke of Wellington Pub in the Strand. You may recall that Victoria and I had lunch there during the Duke of Wellington Tour with Marilyn, Diane’s sister. And I’ve posted about my meal there with with Hubby – delicious lamb shanks. I realize that it all sounds rather incestuous, but the important bit is that the food is wonderful. 

A grand time was had by all!

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: RANDOM WELLINGTONS SEEN ALONG THE WAY

Most people think that Victoria, Diane and I go out of way when in England to find all things Wellington, but it’s just not so. Oh, sometimes we do, like when I visit my antiques dealer in London or when we go to places like Apsley House and Walmer Castle, but you’d be surprised how many random Wellington’s there are to be found in England. Here are just a few examples, most of which were randomly happened upon. 
Above, my favourite antique dealer, Mark Sullivan, holding my latest Artie-fact
Above and below, National Portrait Gallery
Above Royal Chelsea Hospital
Above, the Duke of Wellington Pub, Sloane Square
Above and below, the Wellington Pub, Strand
Above Somerset House
Above, Preston Manor, Brighton
Above lobby, Royal Horseguards Hotel

Above, moored on the Thames
Above, Apsley House