The following day (5 June) we taxied to Coventry for a look around. The "city of spires" did not disappoint. Then on to Nuneaton to walk through the town where George Eliot grew up, and where a gorgeous life size statue watches over the square. It was a full walking day followed by tea.
On 6 June the Writers in Warwickshire guests, presenters, and staff gathered at Astley Castle. We were awe struck by the stone structure, and the way it had been preserved and modernized at the same time. It was the perfect place for new and seasoned authors to present their work. The program opened with John Burton talking about the history of the surrounding area and of course, George Eliot and her novels. Several other authors presented that day. I gave a talk about Karma Road: Walking Through Time with George Eliot. That evening we watched Shakespeare's Twelfth Night on the Astley Castle grounds. What a treat! Our sides hurt from laughing so much. Blankets were spread and sandwiches shared. There were even sweet treats being passed around. It was one of the highlights of our brief stay in England.
The following day (7 June) we made our way to Stratford Upon Avon to take a tour of Shakespeare country. My daughter, Vicki, especially enjoyed the double decker bus as it launched out across the vast countryside dotted with sheep and thatched cottages, and hay ricks. The one stop where we got off was the incredible Anne Hathaway cottage. We toured inside and out, and then walked back into the orchards where Anne and Will (Shakespeare) spent time. The day ended at the Red Lion as we savored meat pies, mashers, and green beans cooked with kale. Lovely! Vicki purchased a tin of Crabtree and Evelyn shortbreads from an authentic shop on a brick street along the way. We carried scones and other sweet treats back to the Griff from a little bakery in Stratford.
Vivienne Wood picked us up at the Griff on 8 June and drove us to Arbury Hall, a Gothic architectural delight I'd been longing to see for years. The grounds were incredible with hidden gardens, lime and sequoia trees, and a brick stable that is said to have been designed by a famous architect of some of England's finest cathedrals. The house was everything I thought it would be and more! We were not permitted to enter the library where George Eliot sat and read, and from where she'd borrow books to carry home to Griff. But the general architecture in the rest of Arbury Hall was enough to indicate how the library must have looked. I was mesmerized as I kept trying to imagine myself as young Mary Ann walking into the Hall for the first time. Stunning!
That evening a handful of George Eliot Fellowship members met in the Beefeaters Lounge at the Griff for a friendly dinner and chat. We posed together in front of the George Eliot wall mural and said goodnight, but the night didn't end there. Vicki and I were given a tour of the Griff attic where young Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) had played as a child. We were also shown photographs of the old brick oven Mary Ann used while living at the Griff! As we were leaving the "snug" area, we noticed that renovations had begun on Robert Evan's office area. Vicki and I are excited to see the results as work progresses and the George Eliot visitor's center is built at the Griff.
Needless to say, 9 June came too early as we set our packed bags near the registration desk and walked one last time to take in the gifts of Griff steeped in morning mist, sun coming up and a slice of half moon hanging over the attic area. We had witnessed magic in Warwickshire. I was reluctant to leave. ~ Freda www.karmaroadwalkingthroughtime.com