Pixie and I celebrated 4 years of marriage this past weekend. We usually have a day out, so we booked Friday off. This year, we decided to visit Coughton Court, a manor house located in Warwickshire. The family who owned the house, the Throckmortons, had links to the infamous Gunpowder Plot in 1605. The sky was a bit overcast, but the drive was pleasant enough. Coughton Court is maintained by the National Trust now, but we had borrowed Pixie's parents' membership cards and avoided the entrance fee.
The house has all the features of many stately English homes: the myriad oil portraits, ornate woodwork, antique furnishings and amazing views of the surrounding countryside. As mentioned, the most interesting feature of Coughton is it's part in the Gunpowder Plot. I didn't know much about the plot, other than the name of Guy Fawkes and that there was an attempt to destroy Parliament. I somehow had pictured the plotters as an anarchist bunch, almost proto-Weathermen. Erm..nope, turns out they were a group of Catholics plotting to destroy Parliament and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. The plan was discovered and the participants were chased over the countryside and after a stand-off (and an unfortunate accident, where some gunpowder exploded, while being dried near a fire and seriously wounded three of the group), ended in a gun battle and some of the plotters killed and others captured and executed. I suppose it shows that sombunall of the radicals of the 1960s failed to learn the lessons of earlier attempts at subversive violence.
After lunch in the car park, we had a quick walk around the grounds. Most of the gardens were closed, due to the flooding of last summer, but we checked out what we could. We were entertained by a couple of ducklings in a small pond--veering away from their parents, then 'motor-boating' it through the water back to them. We checked out the gift shop and the plant nursery--then left the Court.
Pixie suggested we stop in Stratford-upon-Avon on the way home. I hadn't there in nearly ten years, so I thought it was a good idea. We found a car park on the edge of the town centre and had a walk around. It looks pretty much the same as it had when I had been there last--especially the bit around Shakespeare's birthplace. They may have spruced up the museum entrance, I can't remember what it looked like. That part of Stratford is very tourist-y, with gift shops lining the streets and everything with a Bard-derived name. In another part of the town centre, market stalls were set up--with flowers, fruit & veg, picture frames and other wares. I was hoping for a CD or vinyl stall, but no luck. There was a musical instrument shop just off the square and I got to have a look round in there. The guitars were nice, but pricey. I noodled a bit on a digital keyboard that had an 'electric piano' setting. It didn't quite have that classic Fender Rhodes tone, but it seemed alright to me. We explored a few more shops (including a head shop and a rock T-shirt place) and then decided to leave before the rush-hour traffic formed.
Saturday (the 26th) was our actual anniversary day - so the family gathered at the local Indian restaurant in the evening for a meal. The food is delicious there and the service is excellent--the waiters seem attentive and friendly. It was sort-of a dual anniversary/birthday happening, as Pixie's mother's birthday was a couple of weeks ago and we didn't really do anything on the day. I also had a pint of Cobra beer with my food, which I do enjoy a lot. The evening wound down, we all split the bill and found our way back home. Pixie and I certainly enjoyed our long weekend--thanks to all who helped us celebrate!