Did you know that if you are having dinner at a pub in England, it is very likely that you may be greeted by a four-legged friend? Being a dog lover, I was always delighted to share a chip or two with the little beggars. (Chips are the U.K's version of fries in case you didn't know.) I mean, how could I resist? During Spring Break, I travelled by myself. I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast called the Carpenter's Arms outside of Newbury, Berkshire and ate my dinners at the pub across the car park. While I inhaled my bacon cheeseburger, there was a little dog named Eric who kept me company. He was darling. He could have been one of the Eddie's from "Frasier" or the little Queenie from "Water for Elephants". Purely adorable--so much character too!
To avoid feeling entirely awkward sitting by myself, I would keep busy sketching my surroundings and this little terrier at my feet was clearly the most charming model I could have wished for.
Conveniently, the next morning would be the season opener of the Castle which you all know has gained acclaim for being the location of Downton Abbey. The very same Downton Abbey that springs up in many of my blog posts and conversations. Of course, I planned to be exactly where I was at that precise moment, but there was a massive hole in my meticulous planning.
Somehow, I missed the 24 hour window to secure an online ticket to tour Highclere while I was in the U.K.
The season sold out within a day.
I would only be in the U.K. for 3 and 1/2 months, but within that time, there would be no tickets available for this fanatical Downton Fan to procure.
The thought of being in the U.K--only 2 and 1/2 miles from Highclere and not being able to see it was not something that I would accept. But the reality was entirely out of my hands. It was a fate I had to consider.
Would I be able to convince them to let me tour the castle? Would I even get a glimpse of it from afar? So much could go wrong...The boxoffice told me that there would be a few tickets available on a first come, first serve basis at the door, but it was unclear how many. What if they only let in 15 people and I was number 16 because I had to walk when others had cars and could drive. The day before I had timed my 2 and 1/2 mile walk to the gates of the castle (To my disappointment you couldn't see it from the gates. That disappointment may or may not have made me cry.)Then, there were always those "people who knew people" and I didn't know anybody that would give me a ticket or reserve a spot for me. I was just a crazy girl from Wisconsin who, instead of partying in a tropical destination as normal college students do on their Spring Break, chose to freeze my tail off in the uneventful region of BERKSHIRE where nothing remotely exciting ever happens, just so I could toy with the chance of being able to walk through the house where my favourite television show was filmed. You see, so much could go wrong with this sad, pathetic situation, ergo I was anxious that night.
Before I tell you what happened the next morning, I'll finish my story about Eric, the pub dog.
The following evening when I went to the pub for dinner, the bartenders knew me as "the artist" and were showing a xerox copy of my sketch of Eric the dog to the other occupants.
I felt honoured.
Then Eric's owners handed me a great big purple bag.
Inside was this card...
and a ginormous chocolate Cadbury egg!
To be continued...