The first day of Advent on Sunday marked the beginning of my favorite time of the year! As we don’t have a permanent house to decorate or a place to put up a tree, the kids and I made some white, paper trees that can move easily, wherever we go. 🙂 In addition, we have two lightweight Christmas stockings (from our friends in Finland) that add to our traveling decor! 🙂
As we didn’t have any specific plans for Sunday, we decided to visit Waddesdon Manor, which isn’t too far from Wendover (where we are now) and we’d read that it has some special Christmas events, including the manor recreated in gingerbread!
Here’s a photo from their web site of the manor and grounds:
Although the tickets for both the house and garden tour were sold out online, we thought we’d see if we could get tickets onsite (they release 300 at the opening time each day). We figured if we couldn’t get into the house, we’d enjoy the gardens and other activities.
When we stepped up to get the tickets, the woman told us that they’d sold the 300 tickets in 15 minutes!! In addition, the online house tour tickets sold out 3 to 4 weeks ago! Pulling into the parking areas, we realized it was quite a popular destination as it was packed! Although there were shuttle buses to take us up to the house, we opted for the 15-minute walk. Now pause here for just a second. We were already on the grounds of the house…but it was going to take us 15 minutes to actually get to the house because of the amount of land owned by the house!! And what beautiful land it is! Rolling hills, big trees, just amazing! As we got up the hill, there was a fairy-tale French Renaissance château perched on top. It is absolutely beautiful!!
It was built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild and was completed in 1883. He used it as a summer house away from London. To read more about it because there’s just too much to say, you can visit the web site at: https://waddesdon.org.uk/ It’s worth a look as there’s lots and lots of information, pictures, history, etc.
We walked through the Christmas Fair going on along the pathways to the front of the house. Lots of fun things to purchase for food and fun, but we kept moving. 🙂
Once we got to the front of the house, we realized we were right by the wine cellar, so we decided to have a look, as it was part of the garden pass.
The cellar is a beautiful, sparsely furnished area with a short movie playing about Rothschild wines with various pictures of the Royals among others at a special tasting for the 40th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. One bottle on display was signed by Thomas Jefferson that apparently he’d ordered but never received in America due to the French Revolution. There are three huge cellars full of wine — one has bottles from 1870 – 2007, another has bottles from 1868 – 2008, and the third has more present-day vintages. We were trying to figure out who will ever get to drink the one from 1868? If they’ve already been preserved that long, what are they waiting for and how will they taste??
Next stop, the Woodland playground. This was definitely a selling point about going to the Manor in the first place. 🙂 The playground and the giant gingerbread house! The playground is fabulous!! It was a dream playground for G and L set in the middle of the “forest” on the grounds with a zip line, a giant slide, a spider swing, etc., and all connected via wooden stairs that continue to lead you right down to the stables.
Here are G and L doing the zipline!
At the stables, Mike, G, and L got us hot chocolates and coffee, while I stood in line for the Gingerbread house, which was amazing! It was a two-meter long replica that used more than 30kg of butter and sugar, 240 eggs and 216 kg of icing and took 500 hours to make! The level of detail and patience required to pull off something like that is hard to imagine but so fun to see!! It included the most detailed replicas of Waddesdon’s famous rooms including paintings, furniture, and treasured objects of art.
While standing in line to see the gingerbread house, I started talking to an older couple, who couldn’t have been any nicer. They bought their tickets to see the actual house in August! No wonder there weren’t any tickets left for us today! After viewing the gingerbread house, we talked for a few minutes longer and then they wished us well on all of our travels, wished us a Happy Christmas, and wondered where we’d be. When we said we weren’t sure, the woman said, “Well, I’ll be thinking of you.” Lovely!
We worked our way back up toward the house, with a stop at the playground, of course, and then to the Power house, where there was a short film playing about artist Bruce Munro’s holiday light installation. When I was reading about the manor, I saw his name and thought it sounded familiar…the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is what popped into my head. So I googled it and his name and voila! He has an installation there as well…right now! It opened November 12. Go see it! I’m sure it’s beautiful! The one at Waddesdon Manor was!
Anyway, before seeing his light installation, we walked back to the front of the house, where beginning at dusk and every 15 minutes, they light up the house and trees surrounding it with various colored lights set to music. It’s really beautiful!
We watched one of the sets and then walked over to another garden — the aviary glade — where Munro and his team “planted” 9,000 stems topped by frosted-glass spheres. We thought they looked like tulips with no leaves. 🙂 It’s just fields of “flowers” (the installation is actually called Field of Light) as far as you can see, especially when it’s dark!
And finally, there was a parade of Midland Bernese Carters Dogs. They pull their carts (thus “carters”) all decorated with lights and tinsel for Christmas. 🙂
As we headed back to our car via the path of lights, I thought it was a beautiful way to spend the first Sunday of Advent.