Our next destination on the Doyle family tour of southern England was the seaside town of Lymington, from which we planned to spend the next day visiting the Isle of Wight. “Ferry reservations?” we cluelessly trilled. “Who’ll be going to the Isle of Wight on a Thursday morning?”
Um...well, as it turned out, a lot of people. The ferry was book solid until 4 pm, which meant our plans to see Cowes and Queen Victoria’s Osborne House were shot.
It was time for Plan B. And you know what? As much as I was bummed to miss Osborne House, Plan B wasn’t so bad...not when it included a visit to a handsome stately home, Beaulieu (that’s pronounced “Bew-lee”, just so you know).
We also did a lot of driving around the New Forest, another royal hunting preserve (this time dating to the time of William the Conqueror). Though much smaller and tamer than Dartmoor, there were small moors, also inhabited by lots of sheep and ponies. And while wandering around a section of forest, I heard my first cuckoo call.
The next day we were off to another long-awaited destination: Brighton, home of the Prince Regent's beloved Pavilion, where he would spend the summer enjoying the breezes off the English Channel. He first discovered Brighton (or Brighthelmstone, its original name as noted in the Domesday Book) in the early 1780s, when sea-bathing had become the latest health fad. Prinny was charmed and bought a modest farmhouse, which he commissioned architect Henry Holland to turn into a home worthy of the Prince of Wales. Holland built him one...but evidently it wasn't grand enough, for in 1815 Prinny hired architect John Nash for an upgrade. And what an upgrade he got!
The interior is, quite simply, jaw-dropping. Where Indo-Islamic style prevails on the outside, within the decor is fantasy Chinese. There are dragons everywhere (include one of silver gilt clinging to the chandelier in the Banqyueting Room that must be at least ten feet long). In the Music Room, the central done is covered with hundreds of thousands of gilt cockles shells, which look like dragon scales. The colors are rich and saturated, and every surface is decorated; even the kitchens, which were state of the art in 1820, are beautiful.
The last installment: Hampton Court Palace, and where I'm going next time!