Day Six: Travel to Old Alresford Place
Wednesday was a travel day, and it was time to leave Hothorpe Hall. Because of the coach having to meet us at the end of the drive, Julie had arranged with the kind staff to have our luggage transported through the sheep to the end of the drive with a tractor and a trailer.
It was another gorgeous day, and we stopped for lunch in Newbury at The Chequers Hotel, after watching, singing and seat dancing along to Bride and Prejudice en route. We arrived with enough time before lunch to roam in Newbury or just sit and enjoy a drink at the bar. The meal was excellent, and so was the coach driver, who expertly squeezed the coach into the tiny entrance to the car park . Over lunch we learnt his wife was a kindred spirit, and so we tried (but probably failed) to explain the attraction of Austen in general (and Mr Darcy in particular) to him.

By mid-afternoon, we arrived at Old Alresford Place, Hampshire - our spiritual home. It is a lovely old Georgian house, and the drawing room was our main gathering point. Large windows open onto the garden on two sides, and there is a beautiful terrace at the back. The terrace saw many of us sitting with a glass of wine or our needlework, and there were many funny conversations. When dinner was ready, one of the staff would knock on the dining room window, since we couldn't hear the gong from the terrace.

The location of Old Alresford Place is ideal - picturesque grounds, the feeling that you are in the remote English countryside, but only a short brisk walk down public paths, past watercress streams, into the town. There was much shopping done there but the favorite place of all was the Eastern Arts shop, purveyor, by appointment, of jewelry and pashminas to the ladies of Pemberley. By the end of the week it seemed nearly everyone had come back with a little something to throw 'round their shoulders.

After dinner, Laurel led us in a game of postcards. We each received a slip of paper with the name of a Jane Austen character and a postcard . We were to write a postcard to Cheryl (who was home, ill) as if we were that character. When they were all completed, Laurel read them out, and the room was alive with the sound of laughter. Cheryl has been mightily amused by these postcards dropping on her hall floor over the past few months. The favorite by far, however, was the one someone (Julie?) snuck in from the drivers from Tuesday, nicknamed Curly and Moe: "We have been to Chester. It was Crap."


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