Thursday, September 10, 2015

Chatsworth Country Fair

This was the day for me where I felt the least like an American tourist.  One of our goals was to goals was to get just a little bit immersed in the English culture.  So we visited Chatsworth (home of the Cavendish family - a.k.a. the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire) on the day of the local country fair.

Chatsworth was significant to us because in the latest movie version of Pride and Prejudice, Chatsworth serves as the setting of Pemberley, the home of the famed Mr. Darcy.  There is also a great little documentary on Netflix right now that tells all about Chatsworth.

First of all, I had to ask some questions of our guide to get my nobility terms straight.  Turns out that a duke is the next thing to a prince.  An earl is below a duke.  You can buy an earldom for $10,000 pounds (or rather you could a several hundred years ago).  But the only way you can become a duke is if the reigning sovereign grants you that title.  This family got their dukedom from William of Orange.  They have had it for 16 successive generations, and their house is basically full of 16 generations of priceless artwork.  Good thing the house is huge!

We enjoyed looking at their artwork and collections, but really it's hard for me to take in and appreciate that much stuff.  I know you wouldn't enjoy it second-hand on my blog.

So I'll tell you the best parts for me -

Playing the duchess's Steinway.  What was really cool is that she had music books laying out.  That's really good for me because I don't play that much by memory.  Rebecca and I both took a turn.  Yes, I'm playing with a backpack on.

I also loved the dining room.  They had a table cloth on the table with names of famous people - some dead, some alive, some fictional, etc.  They asked those touring the house to take a seat and think of who we would invite if we were in charge of a dinner party,  Rebecca and I have had a lot of fun thinking about that question, and I may blog about it some more some day.

But more than the house, I enjoyed the fair.  I loved just seeing all the dogs (seems like everyone here has a dog that they take everywhere, and there is such a huge variety - I saw many dog breeds that I'd only ever seen pictures of before).  They had all kinds of dog competitions.  They had hunting trials (basically go-fetch competitions), dog agility, and "rabbit" chasing with a fake rabbit.  Only amateur dogs less than three years old were allowed to compete.  Some were good, but some were really bad.  

The emcee was also a hoot.  At one point he said "This show is basically crap.  But it's quality British crap!"  

The best act we saw was a Ukranian Cossack Riding Team.  This was not a crap act.  It was truly thrilling to watch, and we had front row seats.

The duchess was at the fair to give out some awards, and there was a private tent (basically an open bar) for the "Cavendish Club" which is I guess all the sixteen generation of relatives that weren't in the direct line for the dukedom.  

We also saw the Red Arrows (UK version of the Blue Angels) and the day ended with hot air balloons.