I love being on leave, and alongside our attempts at experiencing a little Shakespeare there have been a couple of crazy outings.
Tuesday we invited Julie and the Babe, and in a nice little car from Salford Car Hire we tootled up to Keswick in the Lake District and paid a visit to The Puzzling Place: an emporium of visual delights, optical illusions and trickery, where nothing is quite what it seems and you learn that you really cannot trust your own senses (well worth a visit if you are in the area).
After lunch at a local eatery we drove up to the Castlerigg Stone Circle, build about 4,500 years ago. The stones are quite modest, compared to Stonehenge, or even Avebury or the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney, but it is still humbling to imagine the lives and experiences of the people who built it. The Lakes really are the perfect antidote to living in the city.
The Babe was desperate to 'climb a really big hill' but by this time the rest of us were more thinking about tea and cake. However I spotted a suitable lay-by and we spent an hour picking our way up a picturesque little river valley ... and nobody fell in.
Wednesday morning Monkey and I drove the other direction, across town to the Peak District, to the National Trust's Longshaw Estate and thence to the quarry at Bole Hill.
We then walked across the heath land to a bunch of rocks, cos that's the wild kind of stuff you do when you are having an adventure. It did rain on us, as is traditional in the Peak, but as Monkey said it was either rain or trolls....
though as it turned out we had both.
We warmed up in the café and then drove on, intending to visit another nearby stone circle. However, we were completely distracted by signposts for Chatsworth. Unfortunately the Darcy's were not at home, but the housekeeper did give us a little tour.
After the wow effect of the entrance hall we spend much time in rooms so subdued by curtains that you could hardly make out the paintings.
After the extraordinarily ornate public rooms we finally reached something resembling domesticity, but even that was not on any normal scale; the living room:
and dining room:
Then the period feel was counterpointed by this striking piece of modern art: thousands of individually crafted ceramic tiles that represent the DNA of the resident family:
There were ostentatious displays of wealth that disgusted me, like this cheetah skin rug:
and others that were a delight, like these over-the-top curtain ties:
And because fibre crafts get everywhere, this naked spinning lady on the ceiling:
The gardens offers many delights, but we made a beeline for the maze:
and found the middle with only a little trouble: