(Ad-On to this Post, I think you might be interested in this fascinating article about Downton Abbey!) 

Get in the car Girlfriends, we’re going back to England today!  You will need your comfy shoes!  This is a long one!

When Joe and I were in England we never had a chance to go to Highclere Castle, the location for Downton Abbey, because they were filming and the house was closed to the public.  But with the season finale behind us, I thought you might be feeling a vacuum and would like to come with me to visit another of the largest and most popular Country Houses in England called Chatsworth House, in North Derbyshire.

We were staying in the Peak District, and with country views like this the whole way to Chatsworth House, we actually didn’t care if we ever got there~~~ the getting there was just as good as the being there!


But you will be needing MUSICA now and I know just the thing!  Also, on my computer, there’s a little button that has a sun-like icon on the upper left corner of my keyboard, if you have one of those, click on it and brighten up your screen for our visit . . .

It is a very long narrow drive to the house through meadows where lambs are allowed to cross without supervision, no Bo Peep to keep things organized.  As you go along you suddenly come upon the first view of the house.  This is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, they still live in part of the house, and the rest of it is open to public.  There is so much history here, it’s a fascinating look back in time.  You can get an idea of how big it is when you see the tiny people in the photo.

The house seems almost overwhelming!  But look at that lucky couple down there, sitting on the lawn next to the river, doesn’t that look wonderful?

Here we are, we’ve parked and are heading for the arched entrance.  Stay together girls.

We walked through that arch, I turned around to look back, you guys all got behind me really fast!   The countryside around the house is as beautiful as a park and goes on forever.

This is my favorite outside picture.  I just love that gnarly weeping tree coming out of the little grassy daisy hill in the middle of the circular drive,  it has so much character.  I can easily imagine Mr. Darcy strolling out that door!  Chatsworth is the house where the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice was filmed. Would you like to go inside, because we can, and guess what, we can bring the camera!!!  Shocking! (say it with an English accent.)

Everything that you can imagine one of these houses having, this has.  Here is the family car.  Can you imagine?  Look how high off the ground it is, there must have been a little step so you could get in.

You’d need help because you’d very likely be wearing this …

Even though you’d just worn it other day to have your portrait done by, oh what that fellow’s name?  Was it John?  Yes, that was it!  Such a lovely man . . .

. . . he certainly knew his way around a paint brush!

But let’s go see what’s going on upstairs … we really aren’t downstairs people anyway, are we girlfriends?  At least not today!

We can walk four abreast on this staircase!  Prepare yourself, no expense was spared in this amazing house.

 Every hallway is lined in wonderful art and furniture….

 but my favorites are the details.  This gold chair rail ran the length of the hall.  And look at the gold frame on the chair, and the fabric!

Almost like jewelry!   But I’m sure you girls would rather be picking whose going to get which bedroom, right?

This is a nice one …

With a nice fireplace, just as cozy as can be . . .

And there are your perfect little hand towels, I could be happy in here.

Oops, I hear footsteps  ~~~ Time out for breakfast here at Spring Street Abbey . . .

I did not dress for breakfast!  But Oh My!  But my butler pretends not to notice and does a magnificient job!  Yum yum ~~ OK, tummy is warmed up now . . . let’s go see another bedroom~ I feel a nap coming on!

Lovely little beds, draped in beautiful fabrics, and look there’s a nightgown all set out.

To Die For.  Original hand-painted Wallpaper.  Please.  I don’t even want to tell you how many pictures I took of this!

In case you need to write a letter . . .

Or would like to take a bath (a modern convenience, the water closet) . . .

You’ll have help … the Ladies Maid will get you dressed, pop you into that bustle, because,

That painter guy is back and you need to be beautiful for your sitting!

I had a nice long chat with the Lady’s Maid there — I asked if there was jealousy among the servants; did she, as “Ladies Maid to the Duchess” (the part she was playing), feel ostracized by the others?  She answered that she did!  She was in a difficult position; the downstairs people, who should have been her friends, wanted to know all the gossip and secrets of the house and everything they could about the Duchess, but if the maid breathed a word, she would be fired.

What I wonder is what they told their families about this place when they went home to “real life” and what did they really think about houses like this?

Most of the ceilings are hand painted with cherubs and angels.

Look at the size of this mirror!  And the beautiful hand-carving around the door.  I am the only thing that looks a bit out of place in all this grandeur.

I walked through three more doorways and then took the same picture of the mirror.  This house is huge, this is maybe a tenth of what there is to see.  Besides the paintings, the hallways are filled with displays of silver urns, huge engraved platters, covered dishes, ice buckets, it truly goes on and on.

Look at this carving … the whole wall is like this, but it was the birds and the tiny flowers around the fireplace that I loved.

  This is where thirteen-year-old Princess Victoria had her first grown-up dinner.  The table is sent for twenty, but you could easily have gotten forty people around it.  (Sixty might have been just the right amount of cozy for grilled-cheese night.)  I have had backyards smaller than the tablecloth.  Can you imagine ironing that?  No wonder they needed so much help.  Which is why today, if these large houses are to keep going, they have to think of creative ways to keep themselves afloat, such as opening the rooms to the public and charging admission, or becoming a Hotel, or, like Highclere and many other Country Houses, rent them for movie and television locations.

I took close-up photographs of the huge fringed tiebacks in every room, and later, when I looked at Joe’s pictures, he did too!  Quite amazing little bits of art.

There were two gold-trimmed fireplaces in the dining room.  It was easy to imagine them both ablaze, firelight glinting off silver and glass on the table. The view out the windows went far up the hillside, we could picture it blanketed with snow, horses and carriages coming up the drive . . .

As we leave the dining room, on our way to the gift shop we go through this amazing marble room full of statuary.

The gift shop is in what used to be the “Orangery,” a greenhouse, where orange trees and other exotic plants wintered over harsh winters.  They had full size faux lambs in the store, it was all I could do not to try and bring one home!

Everything was beautifully cared for, there were acres of garden walks too, and a huge maze.   But I bet you’ve had enough and you’re probably ready to sit down.  When we were here, I waited for Joe to come out of the gift shop, in one of these purple chairs writing in my diary and playing Words with Friends with my girlfriend Lowely on Martha’s Vineyard.

It’s like a food court area just inside that large arch we came through when we arrived.  And in case you’d like to keep in touch with Chatsworth House, you can follow them on Twitter …  @ChatsworthHouse  Also, here are some interesting overhead views of Chatsworth House, so you can see how big it really is.

I ordered sandwiches for everyone, so rest your feet a bit because I do believe it’s time I go get Vanna . . .

Oh my, Girlfriends . . . Almost 2,200 entries for our drawing, and every one of them a pearl.  It’s amazing!  You are so wonderful, so many nice comments have brought tears to my eyes more than once!!!  Thank you, thank you!  And thank you for being so excited about the book. I’m just thrilled, you bought a kazillion of them!  Did you know that would happen?  Because I didn’t!   It’s been such a surprise, honestly, I never realized such a nice thing could happen!  Writing a book “with blog” is about a thousand times more fun than without.  Now I can’t wait until it comes out so Joe and I can start wandering the countryside to meet as many of you as possible.  I have a lot to do before then, so we’ll be keeping in touch! 🙂

OK, here goes,  I’m lookin’ at YOU Vanna, dig in there you sweet thing, and make someone’s day.

Alright, here we are.  Oh my, it’s a girlfriend from California who loves red and white.  Does that sound like you?  Is your name Gail???  Because if so, then YOU are our lucky winner.  You should find an email in your box from me —  Let me know where to send the first copy of A Fine Romance.  CONGRATULATIONS!  SO HAPPY FOR YOU!

And don’t worry if you’re not Gail!  There are going to be plenty of other surprises in the future, you know there will be, and really now, after our long trip . . . isn’t it time for a comfy cup of tea?  That’s where I’m going!

 XOXO Love you Girlfriends.


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  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    A big congratulations to Gail!! Susan, thank-you for this amazing tour of Chatsworth House today. How could you tell I was suffering from Downton Abby withdrawal? The images of the last 5 minutes are emblazoned in my brain and it will be sooooo long until season 4. So much tragedy piled on, that I admit, I was stunned at the finale of Matthew. Julian Fellows is such a gifted writer that I know he has great intrigue planned for season 4. But I read this week in the New York Times that he will most likely accept another writing opportunity and leave Downton. Say what??? Matthew dies and Julian Fellows is telling us he is leaving??? I can’t think about it any more. So wandering through the lovely Catworth House and then having a bit of tea, was quite helpful. Old beauties remain in the midst of our desire to keep the present as it is. I am not liking the possibility that Downton is on the last glide path!

  2. Anne Branco says:

    Oh, THANK YOU SOOO much Susan for such a wonderful blog! It’s a snowy, dismal day here in Maine. Just finished reading your blog and it transported me for that hour. Such a lovely, lovely way to spend my lunch time. Congratulations to the book winner. I can’t wait to receive my copy that I’ve ordered. Have a wonderful, wonderful day and thank you so much for being you! Anne

  3. Carol Maurer from Eureka, CA says:

    Hi Susan~~~

    Before I forget, I want to congratulate Gail on being the winner of your book “A Fine Romance”. She must be very happy about now! The pictures of the castle were beautiful. I can’t imagine living, for reals, in such a large home as these castles are can you? I love the fact that some are still owned by the orginal family and are STILL lived in.

    Will you be waiting until your book comes back from the printers before you and Joe start to travel? I know that you will have the most wonderful time meeting as many ‘girlfriends’ as possible.

    I hear that another ‘noreastern is coming your way. I don’t know if you got hit with the storm that is in progress now or not. Take care and stay nice and cozy in your home with Jack and Girl Kitty.

    Carol M

  4. Kathy Fletcher says:

    So happy for you Gail- but i have my copy already ordered and paid for- so just to wait….ha….
    Susan- these photo’s remind me of my trip to Holland…..i toured the Palace Et’ Lu
    (the royal palace there) and the rooms and art and gardens are like this place (-:
    so very beautiful and makes you wonder how much the electric bill is to run those places…..or the gas bill…hahah – i guess that is why the homes are now open to the public to help finance the upkeep.
    I can’t wait to get your book- and i enjoy every blog and Willard so very much!@! You do wonderful work…..and you make me smile !@!@! Love and hugs-
    Kathy in KY

  5. Susan, thanks so much for such an amazing tour! I loved your commentary! Did we do good in keeping up with you? I tried not to dally too much but it was really hard because there was just so much awesome stuff to see. BTW, I loved watching the video but it was a little scary going over the hills and around the curves on the “wrong” side of the road. lol How long do you have to be there driving before you quit feeling like you’re on the wrong side? 🙂 Kudos to Joe, he was a pro! Gorgeous countryside…I could just watch that over and over for the views. You are so sweet to take all us girlfriends along! XOXO

    • sbranch says:

      You are the perfect traveling people. Never have I seen such a large group be so unobtrusive, quiet as mice! Everyone LOVED you! As for the road, I always felt like I was on the wrong side! Joe was great though, I think it’s just me.

  6. Deborah Norling says:

    Yahooo for Gail ! Loved the post as always…Love your Dad’s comments…has your Dad, Jack….actually met your cat-child, Jack…?…both are very entertaining characters !

    • sbranch says:

      They haven’t met … they are stay at homers!

      • Judy Young says:

        I guess with time constraints I haven’t read ALL the comments but through the ones I have read, I have not seen where Gail (who won the contest) has acknowledged winning! I wonder if she hasn’t seen the blog yet??

  7. Carin from Central California says:

    Congratulations to Gail from California! I must admit that my heart skipped a beat when I read that the winner was a girl from California. Just not this girl from California this time. No worries, though. My birthday is in November and it will truly be a special birthday treat to see you in Cali in November with my copy of A Fine Romance. So many favorite things about this post, but I think I’m the most fascinated with the fringed tiebacks, beautiful fabrics and wallpaper. And, the scenery, and the music, and, and, and . . . .

    • sbranch says:

      Carin, you and Cathy from Orange should meet each other . . . hopefully your two comments will be together!

  8. Kathy, Orange CA says:

    My heart skipped a beat when you said someone from California is the winner. Oh well, Congratulations Gail. It was fun and exciting to think I had a chance. Thank you, Susan for the lovely castle pictures. I was in England about 6 years ago. What fun and so beautiful.

  9. Tisa at Seattle Retro says:

    What a lovely morning tour to take with my coffee mug in hand….those photos of the home from outside (your link) are breathtaking, no wonder Mr Darcy wanted to bring his beloved Elizabeth to share the home with him…seeing those inside details (your forte) really made me feel like I was there too, good job, great photos, Susan! And The Artist JSS who knew he painted landscapes too, all I’d ever noticed were portraits. I wonder if they filmed The Dutchess (w/ Keira Knightly) there, since it was her (Dutchess of Devonshire, not Keira’s!) home as well. One must do a little sleuthing to find out 🙂 And I won’t even go into how I feel about Downtown Abbey’s latest development…..

    • sbranch says:

      I know. They probably should have taken a vote before they did that. I just found out they have a Twitter address, I wonder if they are getting all kinds of comments about it! I think it’s @downtonabbey — I’m going to go look!

  10. Carilyn Wolski says:

    Hello Susan! Oh my goodness, what a beautiful open house tour you have just given!!! I just love the minty green handpainted wallpaper in the bedroom!!!!! And, the purple chairs waiting outside were so cute!!! Thank you Susan for such a cheery afternoon surprise on such a cold, wintery afternoon in Dearborn, Michigan. Congratulations to Gail, the grand prize winner!!!! Haven’t preordered your book yet, I hope they will not run out before I can do that!

    • sbranch says:

      You’re fine Carilyn, that’s why we’re doing the pre-order…so you girlfriends will definitely get them when they come in — before the bookstores — because your orders are already in! And you can always wait if you like — my publisher is not sure how many to order.

  11. Jennie says:

    Yay- another Susan post! 🙂
    Gorgeous, amazing place! Thank you for taking us on the tour. Incredible the detail worked into every corner. I adore details and the tassels and wallpaper and fabric- all of it was breathtaking. Sadly though, I’m guessing I’m more of a ‘downstairs’ kind of gal . . . I think all that is a little much for me. I need something a little cozier and easier to maintain, perhaps with thatch and brick. Really, I need to live in the rectory and come visit for Lady Susan for tea! 😉

    • sbranch says:

      I like simpler too. Although the bedrooms were very cozy!

    • Diane from Poulsbo, WA says:

      Jennie, I loved what you wrote….most women want the huge homes and formal atmosphere, so it was adorable to me that you want the thatch and brick house! I have to agree…although I must admit to longing for the huge gardens and walking areas and I sure wouldnt mind a nice stream flowing outside my house either! After all of this travel I am beginning to feel that I must be English….. 🙂

      • sbranch says:

        The little houses, Hilltop and Jane Austen’s house, those were my favorites.

        • Susan Ericksen of Bainbridge Island, Washington says:

          For me, I have always dreamed of a small old stone cottage with small paned windows, an arched front door , low ceilings, a steep stair way upstairs, small dormer bedroom with white ruffle curtains, a small kitchen with a farm style sink, a culinary garden , picket fence and of course wildflowers, lavender, wisteria Lilacs, hydrangea and a little clothesline….and all of this by the sea!

  12. melissa quarles says:

    Congrats Gail you lucky lady!! Thanks so much Susan for the tour…I keep thinking I will see Mr. Darcy coming out of that pond soaking wet in that white shirt….oh how I go on!!! What a feast for the eye! thank you thank you

  13. Lady Dorothy says:

    Oh, I just adored this post! Love the house, but cannot even imagine having those grounds to take walks, picnic, and just laze about in. Sigh.

  14. sbranch says:

    I just added on to the top of this post … something I heard from my Twitter girlfriend Maria — interesting article I think you will like — it explains EVERYTHING! Thank you Maria!

    • Shannon (Pennsylvania) says:

      Great New York Times article….thanks, Susan and Maria!

    • Maria M. says:

      You’re so welcome. I was glad to read that Julian Fellowes will begin the next season six months later. To watch Mary’s (or Isobel’s) immediate reaction to Matthew’s death would be too sad, especially after Lady Sybil’s death.

      • sbranch says:

        I’m sure he feels stuck between a rock and a hard spot, but what a creative person he is!

        • judi says:

          Thanks for the postscript article. It was very interesting . . . and helps with the disappointment a bit. Ha, can’t believe I got so wrapped up in that series.

          • sbranch says:

            He did seem to be caught between a rock and a hard spot… worrying about whether to “kill” him at Christmas! Just think, Mary can fall in love again, and this time maybe it will be with Heathcliff.

      • Deb Surman from Illinois says:

        If you saw the Maggie Smith interview on 60 Minutes last week, you had to laugh when she said if Julian Fellowes keeps advancing the series the way he has been doing, she’s going to be well over a hundred years old. Can you believe she has never watched Downton Abbey? She’s such a professional, it’s an acting job for her. Once she’s finished, she moves on to the next job. Seeing the interview did make me want to watch ” The Prime of Miss Jean Brody ” again. She was so young but gave an amazing performance even back in 1969. When they kill off her character in Downton I will truly be sad – her character is the one I so look forward to seeing and she gets the best lines!

  15. Angie(Tink!) says:

    ♥ Good Evening Sweet Sue…. I just Flew By to Check~In…I posted a Comment in the Morning Hours…I Hope You Can Find Me…Thank You for The Downton~Abbey Article…. 🙂 I Played The Musica most of The Day! Wishing You & Joe & The Kitties a Lovely Evening! Have a Wonderful Weekend! Pixie~Dust Everywhere! Yay! xoxo Poof! ♥♥♥ 😉

    • sbranch says:

      Hello Angie! Nice to hear from you, as always! Wishing you and Herbster happy evening! xo

      • Angie(Tink!) says:

        `♥*¨`*¨♥*¨`*. Hello Sweet Sue! Thanks! Happy Weekend! More Snow Might Be Headed Your Way…Bundle Up & Make Snow~Angels Yay! (Kitty~Angels too!) 😉 Twirling into The Weekend The Snow & The Oscars! Yay! xoxo Poof! `♥*¨`*¨♥*¨`*. 🙂

  16. Barbara (WA) says:

    It is all so mind-boggling and amazing but the thing I’ve never seen before is the gold chair rail. OH my. They just didn’t have enough things to gild, did they?

  17. Sheryl from Chico says:

    Dear Susan,
    This was great! I really enjoyed it all; especially the Downton Abbey music. You sure are getting good at this blog thing. Thanks.

  18. Holly says:

    Susan, I just discovered a great series on Youtube. It’s called Royal Upstairs Downstairs. Basically, the people on the program visit all the great houses that Princess Victoria was taken to as a teenager by her mother. The first show I watched was about Chatsworth House. If you’d like to see it search on “royal upstairs downstairs chatsworth house” and it should pop up. It’s a bit quircky, but a bit fun too!

    • sbranch says:

      That sounds really fun! I love quirky!

    • Carin from Central California says:

      There is a 5-part mini series on HBO called “Parade’s End” set in the same time period as Downton Abbey. Haven’t seen it yet, but sounds interesting.

  19. Faith rose says:

    These pictures are beautiful! I love the bedrooms!Although id more like to be the maid and take care of everything! I’ve always been like that i just love to clean!Although i love to lay around too!Even though the sun and blue skies look beautiful i don’t think i m ready for winter to be over yet! But it’s lovely to look at!Thank you for the deliteful post! Keep warm and cozy, now its time for tea ! Faith

    • Diane from Poulsbo, WA says:

      Faith…you are one of my new and dearest girlfriends here on FOSB….here’s my address so you can come and visit and I will show you where all my cleaning supplies are, okay? lol. Have a wonderful cup of tea!

      • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

        Gee, Faith–you are welcome to come visit me, too! I’ll even give you a whole POT of tea with shortbread, scones, etc.,–just name it!!! 🙂

  20. Susan in SC says:

    Congratulation, Gail!

  21. Terry says:

    Hi, Susan!

    What a wonderful tour! I must admit that I absolutely loved the tassel.
    I pre-ordered your book. I soooooo hope to see you when you go on your book tour.


  22. Oh, how I enjoyed this tour, Susan! I listened to the Downton music all the way through, even added it to my YouTube channel. Handy-dandy suggestion: If you ever get to North Carolina, you simply MUST visit Biltmore Estate in Asheville. It’s so grand, and it’s so much closer than going all the way across the water!

  23. Peggy Cooper says:

    Oh Susan, those bedrooms took my breath away. When I have visited the British Isles, the one thing that stands out for me is the beautiful fabric used for drapes. Hmm, I shouldn’t say the one thing, because there are so many wonderful things. But I noticed even in the smallest pubs they seem to have such elegant fabric at the windows. And in those bedrooms, I would love to have those drapes pulled around the bed at night to keep out the drafts that I’m sure they have in such a large castle. When you wrote that you took so many pictures of the beautiful wallpaper with the birds, I thought that was something you could paint on one of your walls.

    Now we have another long wait for the next season of Downton. They sure made the last few episodes heart breakers didn’t they?

    • sbranch says:

      They sure did. I hope they do some happy things next season. Dances. Dresses and Babies, and big big desserts.

  24. Gail from California says:

    Oh my Gosh!!! I got so excietied and thought this Gail, from California had won our wonderful book, A Fine Romance right off the press and signed by Susan, and than I read the part about liking red and white and my heart just sank. I’m truly happy for you Gail, and Congrats!!! to you really. I really enjoyed the tour you took us girlfriends on. What a beautiful estate that is. The gardens are delightful. Thank you for the fun contest.

  25. Sherry Palla says:

    Thanks for sharing these moments with us…on such a winter’s day! [Isn’t that from a song by the Mama’s and Papa’s???] Well, I liked the details very much! And you gave me such a giggle when you said, “We’re upstairs girls!” Anyway, was very sad that Downton Abbey has ended it’s 3 rd series…but happy they are filming for season 4!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yipee! Spring is around some corner now, so think I can wait for Downton Abbey….it’s sure worth it. Your England trip was such a good blessing. You have so many wonderful pictures and memories! Happy February! xo

  26. dottie in the OC says:

    Not on topic here — but has the Willard gone out to all — I didn’t see it come into my e-mail and thought maybe I’d somehow fallen out of the loop. Then again — my e-mail got overwhelmed a short while ago and maybe Willard bounced back. Anyway — point me to the latest one, please and thank you.

    • sbranch says:

      Hi Dottie, you are not the first to say this, we are trying to figure out why — I published a link to it in the PS on the post just before this one. Scroll down and you can click on it.

      • dottie in the OC says:

        Finally got back to see where Willard would be found — thank you, thank you for responding, sweet Susan branch.

  27. Laura Croyle says:

    W-o-w!! What an Amazing house (castle?) It’s incredible to think England is filled with such places! Thanks so much for sharing all the lovely details! Can hardly imagine living in one of those immense estates! I’d be happy with a sweet little cottage surrounded by a white picket fence in that beautiful rolling countryside! Loved the video of your drive up to the house, too. Also, thanks for sharing the link to the Downton Abbey series. After such a heartbreaking ending to season three, it’s a bit of a comfort to know the creator was “forced” to end it in such a way. But I was still was Mad! Can’t believe how I’ve become so addicted to it! Now we have to wait until next season to see how Mary fairs. Guess it’s a lesson in patience, like waiting for your book to get published! Congrats to the winner, Gail, who gets her copy early! Lucky Ducky!!

    • sbranch says:

      Look at it this way, they now owe us. I think we should request one or two extra episodes as payback! We can tell them at @downtonabbey on Twitter!

      • Joan Lesmeister says:

        I hadn’t seen it yet, hopefully Sunday I can catch up. At least now after all the comments, I’ve been forewarned & I won’t be sobbing, just sniffling!

  28. Barb, EW ...CT says:

    Hello Sue,

    Congratulations to Gail…how lucky you are! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing this post…..everything is just Beautiful.
    Have a Happy Weekend…Sue & all the girlfriends! 🙂

  29. Donna Ray from Hamlin, NY says:

    Hello y’all,
    I’ve been away (volunteering with Red Cross in NYC with those displaced by Sandy….sooo many months without the comforts of home! …..many are being very brave, hanging on to hope that they’ll be settled soon). So I had lots of catching up to do.
    Kinda hard to go from being with folks whose homes were destroyed to seeing photos of such an amazing home as Chatsworth! Kept thinking how much could be done with the money from just one of those silver sets! But thank goodness these lovely places are still around to show the maginificance of “homemade” England. Think of the zillion craftspeople who worked to create all that beauty!
    I’ve ordered “our” book! You are so kind to include us in this whole adventure of “research” and creation of the book. I have loved every minute of it and somehow feel proud of “our” accomplishment, just like somehow me only reading along has been a real contribution. That’s something so generous and special about you, Susan, that you let us tag along. Thank you!
    My daughter and her family do not have a TV, but she got so hooked on Downton Abbey by watching episodes on Hulu that she sat in the grocery store parking lot (using their WiFi) for hours catching up! Luckily I had read that the actor who plays Matthew was leaving the show, otherwise I would not have been able to handle the shock of that last episode. How ever will Lady Mary recover? So far both of her lovers have died. What will we do now on Sunday nights? : )
    As always, DonnaRay

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you Donna, what a wonderful thing you did, I’m keeping those people in my prayers, but there you are, actually doing something about it.

      I don’t know what we will do Sunday Nights! I almost feel like blogging on Sundays and making up characters, that I won’t kill off!

      • Donna Ray from Hamlin, NY says:

        Love, love your tender heart! You’re a fantastic storyteller….Go for it! Guess we’ll have to watch the Oscars this Sunday. I’m cheering for Amour.
        I just opened a carton of half n half and thought of Jack. I bet he would LOVE that little plastic ring and lid thing. Feel like I need to mail it to him! Happy Saturday! It’s dreary, snow melting grey here, but I’m cooking up a pot of Estofado so at least it smells good and if the melt continues we’ll have SNOWDROPS, the first elixir of Spring. As always, DonnaRay

        • Chris Wells from West TX says:

          Had to look up Estofado on the web! Looks delicious! Some recipes with chicken, but I guess pork is the traditional dish.
          Definitely a great winter-time meal!

  30. Deb Surman from Illinois says:

    I remember seeing the Marble room in Pride and Prejudice and your picture really looked like a scene right out of the movie. I have my book pre-ordered and can’t wait for it’s arrival! If your latest post is any indication of the book, look for it to make the NY Times best seller list! Your girlfriends are doing their part to get you there where you deserve to be after all these years of putting out beautiful books.

  31. Georgie says:

    Congratulations to Gail! How exciting to get the ball rolling with A Fine Romance!

    The journey back to England was just breathtaking. I loved the scenery along the way. Walking up the driveway to the “house” was breathtaking. My favorites… the dinner table with all of the silver. My Oh My! Sometimes I play Let’s Pretend (I guess from the Gene London storytime…) I can imagine myself sitting there talking to Mary or to Matthew LOL!

    The one room I would avoid at night would be the marble statue room. That would be too eerie 😉

    It’s been a busy week here. Mom has her LAST radiation treatment tomorrow!YIPPEE!!

    Susan, I am rambling. Thanks for the journey. I’m resting my feet tonight reflecting on all the wonderful sights. What a wonderfully optulent time!

    Keep painting… the end is in sight! In the blink of an eye you and Joe will be on that train!

    XOXO Georgie
    Yardville, NJ

  32. Julie (Omaha) says:

    Lol, I was watching the video of your ride thru the countryside
    and my husband looked at me there smiling and said
    “That must be from your friend Susan”. I said “yes, it is!”
    Thank you friend!

  33. Jack says:

    As I sit here musing — guys do muse, right? I’m taken by the national and international impact of sensational feelings I get, resulting from the commentary of all who love your Blog. Vicarious travel to the elegance of England, soon to become a tangible hands-on experience with your upcoming book, “It’s a Fine Romance.” Which brings me to my point — ! I don’t know how these various “awards” for literature are determined, like the Nobel Prize for Literature, or how any of the other annual awards for Literature are determined in this country — but with an unheard of pre-sell of so many books, prior to print, and with the heartfelt meaningful backup bond of friendship, companionship and downright love for Susan Branch – Heart of the Home – which does look like a “two-way street” as she puts it — expressed by you and these thousands of ladies who comment and are so looking forward to the upcoming Booksigning — that this portrayal of the best England has to offer their guests who elect to travel in their country should certainly be nominated among the best, for Literature Awards for 2013!
    Sueie – Please publish this comment for me. Perhaps if all these ladies were to unite you could get a nice trophy in recognition for all you have done!

    • sbranch says:

      My dad. This is my adorable father, I have no power over him. I love him to write on my blog. He really likes me. And I really like him too. so, now you know, he wants me to have a Nobel Prize, so sososososo cute! xoxo

      • Linda from Lancaster Co. PA says:

        “And why not???” I say. I’m in total agreement with you, Jack!

      • Julia says:

        Susan, now I see where your talent for writing started,
        your sweet dad. I have to say, I agree with him. At
        least #1 on the best seller list. We’re working on it !

      • Joan Lesmeister says:

        I think she deserves a trophy too, Jack! Your daughter’s books are beautiful, hand-written, heart-felt, humorous, touching, great recipes, gorgeous art, inspiring, & lovely literary works! She gets my vote for a Nobel Prize!

    • Carrie says:

      I’m with you 100% Jack! I’m going to look into this and see how these literary honors are bestowed, based on what criteria and if we readers can nominate such a beautiful book/author. Maybe someone out there already knows? Look out, the wheels are spinning 🙂

      Susan deserves a literary honor far more than Hilary Mantel who wrote cruel and scathing remarks about Kate Middleton in her Man Booker prize winning book, desribing her as “‘a shop-window mannequin, with no personality” “perfect plastic smile” and “…appears to have been designed by a committee”!!! Let’s see… Kate shone academically, gaining 11 GCSEs and three A Levels (in Art, Biology and Chemistry). She graduated in 2005 from St. Andrew’s University with what is described as a 2:1 (Upper Second-Class) MA (Hons) degree in History of Art, outshone William academically and will be the first Queen Consort with a univeristy education and for that matter forget consort, no Queen has had a University education.

      P.S. Did you know that Dan Stevens, AKA Matthew Crowley, was on the committee for selecting the Man Booker prize? He had to read something like 143 books while working on Downton. Quite the brainiac having attending Cambridge University and also joining such illustrious English actors as Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson as a member of the Footlights.

      • sbranch says:

        Good for you Carrie, sticking up for her … I really don’t like the negativity against people like that, it’s so unfair … what they did to Princess Diana for example. Terrible. When she died, the people showed what they truly thought of her.

        • Carrie says:

          Oh Susan, you have opened the floodgates I’m afraid.

          Here it goes: When Princess Diana died, I first bought a transatlantic airline ticket to London for x2 as I knew where I belonged. Then I drove to San Francisco and in the same day got my passport. My neighbor went with me at the last minute with her mother in law insisting she would take care of my neighbor’s children.

          This was a particularly sweet gesture as they all knew I hadn’t flown in 10 years and might not.go if someone didn’t accompany me.

          It was surreal to walk to Buck House at midnight, night before Diana’s service. Thousands of people in front of the palace but utter silence. Make shift memorials already piled up against the wrought iron gates.

          The day of the service we stood at Horse Guard’s parade. Will never forget how quiet it was until we heard the horse’s hooves clopping in the distance and then shrieking/wailing from bystanders overcome with grief.

          Seeing the boys walk behind the gun carriage, heartbreaking.

          We walked to Westminster Abbey and stood amidst the throng of mourners listening to the service. We cheered in response to her brother’s beautiful and poignant.eulogy, at one point the cheers stopped the service in the Abbey.

          We went to Kensington Palace and saw the sea of flowers
          that at points were knee high and went out nearly to the high street.

          No Royal death since Diana has seen that outpouring of grief. She seemed to reach all communities.

          BTW…so glad your father gave us some indication of the magnitude of your sales!

          • sbranch says:

            I loved what her brother said. It needed to be said. How wonderful for you to be there, right in the middle of history. My English girlfriend Rachel made me cry when she bought a peach colored rose for me and put it at Kensington Palace with all the others. There was no email then, and she and I just faxed each other all day during that period of time. I still have our letters. The horses hooves, I can hear them now. Thank you for that memory!

    • Deb from Dixie says:

      I agree Jack!….and I also think…..
      The Queen should invite Susan to tea at the Palace….and maybe bestow a title…..”Lady Susan, of Romance and Travel”….or something like that… honor of all the inspiration, wonders unveiled, beauty of England revealed to so many….and for the love and heart Susan has shown for England!
      Cheers…blimey that would be a fine day!

      • judi says:

        Ah, Deb, tea with the Queen:) The Queen should be so lucky. Susan, I hope you have a huge publicity campaign planned so others (who need a ray of sunshine in their lives) can find you too. Lucky for us we are on the ground floor:)

  34. Linda G. says:

    Suggest you post this link in one of your posts. This year PBS broadcast a special on Chatsworth House. I think there were 3 episodes. Very interesting what goes in to running a house of this size. I don’t think the episodes are currently running in the U.S., but folks should be able to click on this link and watch them on their computer:

  35. Loved the tour; thanks so much! Fun to see on a cold cloudy day. Also love the last pic with the tea service.

  36. Julia says:

    SOS Girlfriends. Seems most of you are listening to the Musica while
    you scroll down. When I click on Musica I get the video and lose my
    blog. How do I do that? Please help, I am a Newbie ! I have a Mac
    laptop. I was just kidding about a field trip, although it would be
    wonderful but I can just hear Joe now, Oh myyyyyyyyyyyy NO !

    • sbranch says:

      The video comes up, but your screen with the blog on it is right underneath it. Move the video screen over, and click on the blog and it will be back on top with the music still playing. Very tricky! 🙂 To move the screen, put your curser (the little arrow) on the grey band at the top of the page, left click, and you can move it with the arrow. Hope this helps! ALL the screens you open can stay up, when you want to see one of them, just click on it, it comes to the top! I love Macs!

      • Julia says:

        Thank you so much ! It works ! Makes my day and it’s
        not even 10:00 !

        • sbranch says:

          You’ll be a Mac-genius before you know it!

          • Chris Wells from West Texas says:

            Susan, Is it the same with the IPad? I’m like Julia, I didn’t think I could do both.

          • sbranch says:

            I don’t have an iPad, I’ve used my dad’s a little bit, and it seemed like it has lots in common with my laptop.

          • Chris Wells from West TX says:

            It doesn’t work that way on the IPad. My 15 year old IT person (my granddaughter) patiently explained to me, that You Tube is an Ap on the IPad, so it will default to the Ap…….or something like that. So I will just have to continue to listen to the music and while it is still resonating in my head, switch back and read the blog. Aren’t children wonderful?! Even my 4 year old grandson can work this IPad better than I can! But I love this little thing even if I don’t know all the ins & outs and probably never will. Old dogs learn VERY SLOWLY!

          • sbranch says:

            You can’t have two screens open at once on your iPad?

  37. Gert~Iowa says:

    Oh how I loved this amazing tour through this beautiful English home! And congratulation to Gail…how lucky she is!


  38. Jan from Northern CA says:

    Oh what a house….home….palace! Thank you for the lovely tour! All of your lovely photos inspire me to upgrade my little digital camera to one that can take pictures like you and Joe. Note to self…must make a subtle hint to husband for birthday…lol. Thank you again. I have preordered your book… am hoping to meet you for an “in person” signature. Please include Northern California in your tour!
    Be safe.
    Jan from Northern CA

    • sbranch says:

      The best thing of all is how easy it is to organize your photos with a Mac — You can keep them by subjects and it’s really easy.

      • Jan from Northern CA says:

        I’ve never had a Mac…..but my IBM PC is getting older…..hummm, maybe a Mac is in my future especially with a more sophisticated digital camera…..:) Thanks for the advice.

        • sbranch says:

          I’m wild about mine. I was a little nervous coming from a PC, but it’s all the same stuff, just in a different place. You just start pushing buttons til you find it!

  39. Mary S. says:

    Thank you for the Downton Abbey add-on!! VERY interesting!!!

    Love from Mary S. in Fresno, CA

  40. Lynda says:

    Susan you are a wonderful tour guide! Thank you so much for posting this blog! It was wonderful to feel the ambiance of the UK, again. Wondered it you would share the type of camera you used – such clear detailed pictures! I’m in the “market” for a new camera – and I’m totally a novice!
    Congratulations Gail – enjoy your book! 😀
    Thanks again Sue for the splendid tour! Lynda

  41. GardenGirl (SE Massachusetts) says:

    Happy Friday everyone,
    Gorgeous post Sue – loved everything. But the details just amaze me – the golden chair rail and the wood carved wall – fantastic! I keep going back to look more closely. You did a wonderful job capturing the grandeur of the place. The surrounding countryside is intoxicating – so green and expansive. I want to take a walk – especially as we are gearing up for another snowstorm. Stay warm and cozy by the fire. -Kathy

  42. Sue R. from Maine says:

    Good Morning! Sunny morning in Maine but snow is on the way again. Thank you for the wonderful visit to England, adding more places to see on my “to do” list. Did you see the coming attractions to the new show “Selfridges”? Looks like it could be another “must see”! Wish I could just pop over for a day of shopping 🙂

  43. KarenP (Wisconsin) says:

    Beautiful and very Downton Abbey-like! I love the pic of the fringe tassels that both you and Joe took! Those little details are amazing! I could be very happy there, too!! And I love the sheep pics…love that someone else shares my fascination with the sheep! I must have a thousand pics of just sheep! Ha! xo

    Congrats to Gail!! Lucky girl!

  44. Linda from Lancaster Co. PA says:

    Whew! It took awhile to read all the comments, but I really hate to just jump in talking without listening to everybody. I feel like I’m interrupting!

    What fun, Susan, to hop in that cute red car and buzz about the English countryside again with you and Jack. I agree, we all were so good (except Chris W and Pat M were pinching me with excitement, but I just pinched them back–in a nice way–out of excitement, you know!)

    My heart soared as I took in all the beautiful countryside. I couldn’t get enough! And then to know we were going to tour Chatsworth–my heart is full to overflowing. I’m telling you right now that I’m staking out in the bedroom with the beautiful green curtain around the bed, which is called a lit a la polonaise (just so you girlfriends know that this Lancaster Co. gal has SOME culture in her!!). With the fire cracking, and a good book–like A Fine Romance–I will lie abed for awhile, reading; and when I need a break, I will gaze at that beautiful wallpaper.

    Susan, this blog was a feast for my eyes and with lots of links, you have kept us busy for a long time. Just like you to keep all of us so happy!

    And speaking of happy, I am so happy for YOU and the initial success of your book! I just can’t wait to get my hands on it, but for now your blog is quite a delight!
    Girlfriends forever!!xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      I just have to finish it, and then all will be well! Only a few more pages to go!

    • Chris Wells from West Texas says:

      Now Linda, I did not pinch. I did scream in excitement once and bounced up and down on the seat.

      • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

        I didn’t pinch, I’m not a pincher! Must have been someone else! 🙂 I was busy keeping my eyes on Dawn and Deborah H. I was trying to avert my eyes from the road as watching was so scary… 🙂

        • sbranch says:

          You guys are so funny!

          • Linda from Lancaster Co. PA says:

            Oh my goodness! You Girlfriends!! I was wondering how long it would take before I got replies! haha Not long at all!

            Truthfully, we all were perfect travel companions because we all want to get invited again!

        • Dawn from Minnesota says:

          Hi Pat! Oh!…..but You did join us in singing along to the car musica…..and You did laugh too….as we kept giggling everytime we sang the “dancing cheek to cheek” part… because we were squished in so tight…. that we actually were…. dancing cheek to cheek and cheek to cheek! Memories…hehehe! 🙂

    • Deb from Dixie says:

      I admit it, now that you brought it up Linda….……it was me…..I pinched you all……because you know the old saying….”sometimes you just have to pinch yourself, because you cannot really believe something that has happened, because it is so good… us all going to Chatsworth House. So I pinched myself and you all too.
      Hope that clarifies it….they were “heartfelt” pinches!

      • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

        Gee, and I thought all the bruises were from being crowded in the suitcase–now I know that they were “pinch bruises!” And Dawn, you are so funny! “Cheek-to-cheek…” Is this why the English use the term, “Don’t get cheeky with me?” LOL! 🙂

      • Linda from Lancaster Co. PA says:

        Aw, “Dearest Deb”, I loved being squished in with Chris, Pat, Dawn, Deborah H, and YOU! (plus hundreds more!!) What can I say?? We all were so excited–being with each other and going on a trip of a life time! I loved every minute of it! And think of the fun it will be when we all can reminisce over Susan’s wonderful book!

        How have you been Deb? Still with your mother? And is she doing well? Just found out last week that my youngest son and DIL are having a Baby Boy!! Yay!
        Love ya!

        • Chris Wells from West TX says:

          Wonderful Linda, Congrats! If I remember she hasn’t been pregnant very long, when is the baby due?
          I have 3 grandchildren, my brilliant and beautiful 15 year old granddaughter in Ft Worth and then, in Ohio a 4 year old grandson, smart as a whip, with eyelashes to die for and a 16 month old granddaughter, just beginning to make her mark on the world! So much fun, and I don’t know what I would do without FaceTime! As much as they brought me kicking and screaming into the technology age, it keeps me closer to the grand kids!
          Keep us posted on the arrival!
          Love, Chris

  45. Joan Lesmeister says:

    “Heaven, I’m in Heaven”, reading & singing to this beautiful blog! I’ve sneaked in for bits & pieces, & finally get to comment! Golly, we loved England too when we were there! Riding along on the wrong side of the road, then a big WOW, when a gorgeous old home would pop into view! Joining you & Joe on a trip has been amazing, you even play my kind of music! The tour inside the Chatsworth House is a jaw-dropper! Thank you for a wonderful blog! I’m still in Heaven! xoxoxo

  46. Oh. I was just going through my pictures of chatsworth last night!! I have a picture of me lying down in the grass in front of the fountain just gazing at the sky unable to believe I was there. I sat by that pond, looking at ducklings staring at the grand house in the distance with actual tears streaming down my face. Did you see the Darcy bust in the marble room. I have of picture of me hugging it. Haha. What a beautiful place! And the gardens…well that’s a whole other story, no?

    • sbranch says:

      Love your memories Joanne! I actually picked up a duckling, finally I got the nerve — and its mom didn’t get mad and let me do it. Like a little living feather!

  47. Joyce Maloney says:

    Hi Susan, oh, this is so funny, hope you don’t get the same message from me THREE times. First I tired a message under “contact” info. but don’t see it there so now posted another under what I thought was you latest blog only to find it under the July 15th one which I bookmarked???!!!!! That one always comes up first. ANYWAY, I just wanted to tell you where you can find some life-size sheep and even a little lamb statues for the yard, that is. Maybe you already know about this but if not, you may be interested since you saw one in England and didn’t bring it home. They are in the web catalog for Wind and—-maybe under Garden Statues but I think it was Grand Gardens!! They are really nice looking!! Really enjoyed your last blog (and all of them). So very interesting to see so many interesting things thru your eyes!! Great pictures!! Have a great weekend.

    • sbranch says:

      I saw them, we are trying to decide if they are big enough. Little bit small, we want them to look really real…they are pretty darn cute!

  48. EsSuzy (from South Carolina) says:

    Amazing how Vanna always picks the right girlfriend! Congratulations Gail!
    Susan I loved our trip to Chatsworth. It reminded me of my England trip in 2007, even though Chatsworth was not one of my stops. The workmanship on those fireplaces and beds leaves me speechless. As I read the blog I was imagining which bedroom I would choose as a houseguest, but each one had its own best feature, so I’ll let the host & hostess assign me one! LOL
    In other news, I made your Ginger Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Master Gardeners Social we had last night. They were delicious and a big hit! Thank you!

    • sbranch says:

      Every girlfriend here is the right girlfriend, Vanna couldn’t miss! Nice to hear about the cookies Susan!

  49. Lnda says:

    I’m sitting here just amazed and shaking my head, too. The house is remarkable but my utilitarian part of me thinks of how difficult it had to be to keep clean!! All that carving, heavy drapings, tassels, and bric-a-brac would have been a never-ending job. I can’t even imagine how many people worked hours and hours each day trying to keep up! Absolutely beautiful, though. Love all your posts; thanks for the great read.

  50. Marianne says:

    Many thanks for the Downton Abbey interview/article addition at the top of the post. I was flabbergasted at the ending of the last show. Sybil, and now Matthew? So interesting to read Julian Fellowes interview and learn a little of what was behind it all. I always think that actors will want to stay with a successful show, but if there’s something more promising, or challenging, or interesting to them, on the horizon we have to understand why they would want to move on. It actually helped to read the article and understand why it had been written that way. Nonetheless – no matter what – I’m looking forward to Season 4.

  51. Deborah Norling says:

    I watched the last episode of Season 3 again this morning, since I already knew of Matthew’s fate, I was especially touched when I saw the scene at the train where Matthew is seated inside and his Mom waves good bye to him with an especially warm and loving smile and wave..and he returns in kind. I couldn’t help thinking it was a special good bye to one another, not only for the script but for their real life farewell.

  52. Jane in Pennsylvania says:

    What a beautiful post. I’m fascinated by the centuries-old history of these places. I think I’ve seen “Pride and Prejudice” and “The Duchess” about a million times, and now you pop up and unexpectedly show us these breathtaking pictures of Chatsworth to tie it all together. I love how things always seem to have a way of coming around and connecting themselves eventually. Now, I’m reminded that I want to read about Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Susan, I imagine your blog must take a lot of time and work, but, honestly, it’s so beautiful and much appreciated. (Looking forward to your lovely book.) xxoo

  53. Dawn from Minnesota says:

    Susan, I love how your mind thinks ….. you make beautiful…even more beautiful! Thoughts into words….you are masta! I think of you at your art table….getting lost in your watercolors…..enjoy these last sweetest of days in England. xox

    • Dawn from Minnesota says:

      Even people who don’t know you ……Love you! Your book “Grandma Tell Me Your Story” was on sale in our teachers lounge this week…and it was a big deal! I shared the news about, “A Fine Romance” coming out this fall and you may want to make some more books! I did not, however, bring up the part, where I was in your suitcase with a few thousand girlfriends! And while making scrapbook pages for the High School Dance Team…..the hostess had some of your stickers….Hello! Had to use those! The fall page has your letters spelling….FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and your little baby face head with a lightbulb coming out of the top….. and on the page with the girls in the air doing russians…was your poem about having two things….one of which was wings! While we sipped our wine and ate our chocolate….I told them that the cute stickers are made by a really cute lady!!!! You made some new friends this week and didn’t even know it! Or maybe you DO know…..did your nose itch Monday or Wednesday night?

      • sbranch says:

        That’s too much! I never think like that, love hearing about it! You didn’t tell them how you were in the suitcase? I keep thinking that might have been the best part! Thank you for making me some new friends, maybe we’ll get some new girlfriends! 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      It’s just how it feels! And I am 🙂

  54. Rinde Campbell-Maes says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes interview article… I feel much better now knowing the truth behind the story. Isn’t that true of life… so often upsets are caused by not having all the information… the full picture of things. Julian is doing a brilliant job. I’m just sorry to hear that Downton will probably not go on & on given his other interests & time constraints. But, c’est la vie. Well, to sooth everyone’s Downton Abbey withdrawal… in case you haven’t heard… “Mr. Selfridge” is coming to Masterpiece on March 31st. It looks, as my husband called it, like the “retail version of Downton Abbey.” 🙂 Here’s a peek of what’s in store for us… again that level of detail we so love & adore is here once again… If for some reason this link doesn’t work, just go to & click on “Schedule” to see the “Mr. Selfridge” clip. Enjoy! xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      That’s going to be WONDERFUL! A turn of the century department store for a set–brilliant idea! Thank you Rinde!

      • Judy Young says:

        Yes, thank you Rinde! Selfridges is a fabulous London store, with Harrods being top dog, Selfridges has to be second! My favorite floor was the Miss Selfridge one. Beautiful!

  55. Carrie says:

    Did you see the Veiled Lady in the statuary/sculpture gallery? In P&P w/Keira Knightley & Matthew MacFadyen, she stops in front of it. It has an etheral quality and yet somehow the veil is diaphenous – how did they do that in a sculpture?

    Loooved the vid of you guys driving in the Peak District with “Heaven” playing. How much better does it get? Not one ioda in my book! Thanks for all of your time and hard work making this so fun for us – it’s been a ball!

    • sbranch says:

      I sure did see that, just amazing! The brain that perceived that detail and structure! I’ve also watched that video about twenty times, love that song, love the wildflowers!

  56. Jan says:

    Congrats to Gail! Yay! Amazing! Amazing and beautiful pictures! Oh how I love old houses, old places, old things. Not to mention the scenery, also beautiful. Loved your Dad’s comment too – how adorable! Have a great weekend!

  57. Hello,
    Thank you for the beautiful post.
    The photos are great!

    Yay for Gail!

    Have a great weekend.

  58. Jody says:

    What an elegant tour! Thank you, Miss Susan.

  59. barbara miller says:

    congrats to the winner but I feel like I won a free trip to England right in the middle of a very gray day. so thanks to susan!

  60. Asha says:

    Hi Susan: Hope this gets to you. I sent one earlier but didn’t see it “waiting.” If this is a copy, sorry! We are so blessed to have you share your wonderful “England” experience with us! Thanks so much, Girlfriend! The ad-on was a great added touch! I am a “Downton Abby” fan! Can’t wait for season 4. Also can’t wait for “A Fine Romance.” Pre-ordered as have many others! Love you, Susan. oxoxoxox to you, Joe and the kitties! Gearing up here in New England for another weekend snow storm. We will be in front of the fireplace and I’m sure you will too! 🙂

  61. shelly says:

    Thank you for the tour~Counting the days till your book comes out. I think you should do one on Paris next.

    • sbranch says:

      OK 🙂

      • Judy Young says:

        No, next book should be a “Winter” book, with snowstorms and Christmassy stuff. I think you would find such delight in doing that kind of book Susan! Maybe next year, if not this year??

    • Sharon B. says:

      Me, too Shelly. I have been to London but not to the country.
      We got stuck in Paris with volcanic ash in 2010! Not a bad place to be stuck.
      Versailles is so beautiful! Paris is gorgeous and the food…OMG!
      Congrats Gail!

  62. Miss Pat in Indiana says:

    What a lovely blog today. To those of us whose hearts are really in Great Britain, this was a wonderful tour.
    As to Downton Abbey, killing Matthew was a mistake. The family has had so much tragedy. I would have preferred to keep the character and changed the actor. If Mr. Fellowes is leaving the “Abbey” there may be trouble ahead for all. He is brilliant, most of the time. DA has been a God-send for PBS, possibly more viewers for a series than ever before and certainly much in the way of recognition with the awards and award nominations that they have received. I am sure that the trickle-down effect of the show has been felt all over England in tourism and souvenirs. It is wonderful for the country that television and movies have come in to rent the beautiful stately castles and then leave them for us to visit and enjoy. I could get lost in this one for a week or so, just to look at the art work. The ones you shared are so very special. That “John” is one of my favorite artists. One question, did either you or Joe get a picture of any of the ceilings with the angels. Surely no one would have minded if you were lying on the floor to take a picture!

    • sbranch says:

      Oh yes, we sure did! Amazing everything that was there! The thing about Downton Abbey … I’ve never seen a show like this where the action moves along so fast, every week there’s a major something. Did you read Mr. Fellowes is leaving? I agree, I hope not!

      • Colleen says:

        Everything I’ve read this past week suggests a strong possibility of Fellowes leaving and I fear NBC is to thank for that. They have “reportedly” courted him with a new series over here and when you are talking $, the good old BBC is unlikely to be able to match pence to penny to what NBC is likely offering. Fellowes has said he can’t see DA going past 4 series…based on an ancestral home that is passed on generation to generation, that’s a bit hard to swallow in my book. Perhaps the upshot is that American TV may benefit with some quality programming if Fellowes is involved. Here’s hoping DA lives on a good long while regardless.

        Susan, with the enthustiastic and industrious lot here who have articulated eloquently yet passionately their utter devotion an admiration for you and all that you bring via your words, art, photography and approach to daily living if they were to unite in their efforts it is doubtful there is anything they couldn’t accomplish. And by gum if there is an avenue to be pursued to have you works recognized, I believe wholeheartedly one of your intelligent and committed readers will find it.

        Are you at liberty to share the name of your publisher for “A Fine Romance”?

        • sbranch says:

          The should court him, this is the best writing I’ve seen in a long time for this genre .. he keeps it moving. But I hope he doesn’t go soon. He’s done such a good job but, as we know all too well, nothing lasts forever.

          • Colleen says:

            Their is such higher quality film making and television programming in England and their sensibilities diametrically opposed to the titillating and gratuitous violence that plagues American TV and films. While Amerian networks could learn a great deal from the likes of Fellowes, I hate to see American networks plucking these brillaint writers away from their more idealistic and artistic homelands when the motiviation of the networks is driven more by profits/Nielsen ratings then artistry.

            Guess I’m just being a purist. Unless there is a massive paradigm shift in the American “entertainment” industry, and I use that term loosely, I hate to see Fellowes being pulled from a beautiful program such as DA. If, however, his exquisite writing is recognized, influences or even changes the networks choices for programming, that would be wonderful.

          • sbranch says:

            I’m not so sure that he is being pulled as much as going, if that’s what’s happening. Maybe he hasn’t learned that money isn’t everything. Maybe he won’t like Hollywood!

  63. jeanie m says:

    Thank you, Susan for the Downton update. Was so sad when they killed off Matthew. Feel better somehow knowing that it was because the actor wanted to leave. Loved the beauty of this blog. Enjoy your wk-end. Spring is on the way!
    (shovel still on porch, however)

  64. Rinde Campbell-Maes says:

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” I see this whenever I post a comment… what does it mean? I see the comment I left yesterday evening still says that… sorry I’m new to all this & don’t know what it means or how everything works yet. Thanks!

    • sbranch says:

      Because this website gets so much crazy spam, I have to “approve” the comments — and I like to read them! Sometimes a lot of comments come in at once and I only get half done, that’s probably what’s happened. Squeezing in the book-finishing along with blogging! 🙂 I promise I will get there!

      • Rinde Campbell-Maes says:

        Oh… bless your heart… here I was pestering you with yet another comment about how comments work… Thank you for explaining things. You are such a loving, kind, giving person… taking the time to read every comment here amidst all you’re doing with your spell binding blogging, book writing, twittering, et al! Thank you for continually enriching my life with it all. (I’m so glad you liked the clip on the forth coming “Mr. Selfridge” series too. Something to look forward to… :-))

  65. Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

    There was a hilarious cartoon this morning on the editorial page of the Mpls. Star Tribune. It was an office setting, one woman was sitting with a little British flag on her desk and was crying, wiping her tears. Another woman was standing nearby and a man was standing there. The man said to the non-crying woman, “Why is she so sad? And who are Matthew and Lady Sybil?”–and the coworker answers, “If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.” 🙂

  66. Karen B says:

    What a delightful and unexpected journey to Chatsworth House! I’m sitting here in Utah on this very snowy day typing up the 1875 journal of my great-great-great-grandfather. He described visiting Chatsworth House on July 26, 1875 so I decided to do a search and stumbled on your wonderful blog. What a find! Now I feel like I’ve been there and walked through those magnificent halls with my ancestor. Thank you!

  67. Susan F. says:

    Love this post:) Highclere Castle, and now Chatsworth are on my “must see” list for when I make my first trip to England. Do you have any favorite English blogs or websites that you could recommend for those of us who are longing to visit (and eagerly awaiting your book)?

    • sbranch says:

      I have lots of them, and as soon as the book is turned in and truly finished I’ll compile them and put them up.

  68. Rae Ann from northern in Minnesota... says:

    Hi Susan~Thanks for sharing the NYT article about Downton Abbey…I think…I had been holding out hope for Matthew, but after reading the article I now realize the end was really the end…we will have to wait and see what happens in the next season…xoxo…

  69. Bonnie L says:

    WOW! What a wonderful blog!
    Congratulations to Gail!
    I am so glad you could have the pre-order….that was a very good idea!!
    Excuse me, but I must re-read this blog 🙂
    Again and Again!

  70. Arlinda says:

    Thank you for the Julian Fellowes link!

  71. Sweet Pea says:

    I want to live here… at the very least spend a weekend…but “what is a weekend???”

    xoxox sweetpea

    Can’t wait for our book …I”m on pre-order so the ink won’t even be dry!!YAY!

  72. Dawn from Minnesota says:

    Happy painting Susan……wanted to send a smile and whisper a little, “baa” into your ear. xox

  73. oh wow! That was Heaven 🙂 It does flip my belly with those roads and then the camera moves lol! You should see me when that happens lol Gasp Here! Gasp There! Gasp Everywhere!

    that place is so beautiful! Oh I hope to get to England one day. and did you know your musica lasted right to the end. I finished the last word and the delicious music ended too lol

    There’s so much to comment on with the pictures that I adore. I loved them all and will be dreaming it’s my castle away from home 😉

    Congratulations, Gail!

  74. Sharon B. says:

    Thanks for the blog. Almost as good as being there…kinda!
    Anyhow, I find the cast of characters on Downton soooo needy.
    Really, you cannot dress yourself without help?
    That’s how it was back then. Pitiful but entertaining in any case.

    • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

      Well, look at it this way–it provided employment for a lot of people and probably put bread and butter on their plates. Where else would they have worked if they didn’t have the great houses to staff? It was a way of life for all levels of the population…

      • sbranch says:

        It also had a lot to do with the belief system going back to the beginning of time, that some people were born to be better than others. It gets ingrained after a number of generations.

        • Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

          This is true…but isn’t it interesting that this STILL is an operating belief in a lot of places today… 🙂

          • sbranch says:

            It’s ingrained — if your mom says it’s true, and her mom did, and the whole neighborhood did, then everyone acts as if it’s true, then it actually IS true, because even if you manage to not believe it, you probably find little support. So you run away to America and live happily ever after! 🙂

            Just like anything, you go into your house where you make it just the way you like it, and forget the rest.

  75. Marsha MacLean says:

    Hi Susan,
    Our PBS station is showing the special about Chatsworth House this week. So you KNOW I have it set to record… Hooray, another visit. 🙂
    So much fun reading the girlfriends write about pinching and sitting cheek to cheek! It was fun to be in the suitcase, girls, wasn’t it? We are really grateful that you invited us all to come along, Susan….
    Can’t wait to get my FOUR copies of A Fine Romance! One for me, one for each of my three closest girlfriends….(I guess I could have ordered about thirty, actually, I am so fortunate.)
    Happy painting, Susan, and hope you have a wonderful train trip here to California, where the oranges are hanging beautifully on the trees with snowy mountains in the background! Spring is so pretty here….and just around the corner.

  76. Robin from Yorba Linda says:

    Just a note to let you know how much I enjoy seeing England through your “lens”.
    I would have no other tour guide but you. You see the details….the flourishes…the simplicity of life and point it out so well. I just love the individual photo of the Duchess’ hand… lovely. I did this with a favorite painting from the Getty Museum with the intention of framing the photo parts. This picture reminds me to go find those pictures and frame them for a nice wall grouping.

    I am putting my order in soon for your book. Sooooo excited!!

    Thank you, sweet girlfriend.

  77. Carrie says:

    Cheers on yesterday’s milestone!

    Is that England I hear calling you back for an encore?

  78. Jean D. says:

    Dear Susan,
    Thank you for the tour of Chatsworth House! I recently watched a PBS special on Chatsworth (fascinating). Your wonderful pictures provided me with a more intimate sense of the beauty and opulence of that magnificent estate. It also helps to ease the withdrawal I am going through tonight with no Downton to look forward to!!!
    – Jean

  79. Rinde Campbell-Maes says:

    Oh, I’m happy to see that discussing Downton Abbey & Julian Fellowes still abounds since I finally got to watch our recorded season finale last night with my husband who has been out of town. I was certainly glad you shared Julian Fellowes interview this week because otherwise Matthew’s death would have been a horrible shock & ending as far as I’m concerned. I found myself wondering what impact having these 2 actors leave the series had had on Julian’s writing… his inspiration & vision for how he’d seen his Downton Abbey story unfolding. I can’t help but wonder if Julian’s moving on to other things is,
    at least in part, due to him not being able to tell the story he had wanted to, but maybe I’m wrong. I also wanted to say, that being a Campbell, I immediately recognized Duneagle Castle as Inveraray Castle! — “the historic home of the Dukes of Argyll and seat of the Campbell family, or clan to be more precise, since the 17th Century. It’s the family home of the current Chief of Clan Campbell, Torquhil Campbell, the 13th Duke of Argyll. But large parts of the castle and its gardens are also open to the public, offering a fascinating insight into the history of one of Scotland’s most powerful and influential clans. The Duke, his wife Eleanor, and their three children have private apartments on two floors between two of the castle’s circular towers. The Duchess has a big say in the running of the castle shop and tea room, and her maiden name is Cadbury. Yes, she’s from that Cadbury family — so you’d be right to assume there are some very tasty treats on offer.” And speaking of “Duneagle Castle”, I laughed so hard at Mosley’s “dancing” at the Ghillie’s Ball! (What will become of him now that’s Matthew’s died?) It was one of my favorite scenes as was Mrs. Patmore & Mrs. Hughes sharing a pot of tea, laughing heartily at the shopkeeper who wanted a good cook rather than a wife! I was glad there was still some humor amidst the sorrow… Thank you for sharing Downton Abbey with us girlfriends along with your fabulous book…

    • sbranch says:

      I thought the season finale was the most beautiful of all the episodes, when they were leaving Downton Abbey, the props were wonderful, the train station was so exciting, walking through the countryside, all the gorgeous views, even the darling little car Matthew was driving along the little winding lane — it was never prettier. I was glad I knew too, I think I would have been mad if I didn’t already know. “Humor amidst the sorrow” — just like life.

      • Rinde Campbell-Maes says:

        I completely agree… those scenes leaving Downton Abbey, the train station, the breathtaking countryside, the little car… absolutely picture postcards every one of them. I love to record DA so that I can freeze the images & just savor the scenes. It is all so magnificent. So very fun getting to share all this with you… xoxo

        P.S. Oh! BTW! Did you see that this Sunday & next PBS is doing a Downton Abbey “marathon?!” The first 3 episodes play for hours on end this Sunday night & the last 4 episodes play next Sunday! We all get to watch Season 3 all over again!!! Whoo hoo!!! 🙂

        • sbranch says:

          Do you have “on Demand” on your clicker? Because if you do, you have Downton Abbey at all times. I found this out relatively recently considering I’ve had this clicker for at least five years! We just found “Parade’s End” and started watching it last night. Tell me if you have On Demand, and I’ll tell you how to find things.

  80. erica says:

    Good day Susan!

    WOW! If a picture paints a thousand words, (then why can’t I paint you? LOVE that song….remember….) this post was an entire library! There is so much depth that it’s going to take me some time to digest. I love all the links you’ve included, too!

    While Chatsworth certainly looks stately and beautiful, I’m not so sure I would want to have a home that massive. Not now, nor then….what was it the mid 1500’s? Think of the maintenance! Give me a crooked a little house, with crooked windows to match a few crooked animals to care for and a sweetheart, and fun money in the bank and I’m content. I think, God must’ve known all that because it hasn’t been my destiny….so far. That being said, I suppose we create our own destiny in some way, but I couldn’t really pull all that shutz-pah off! I’d be a nervous wreck!

    Did you see that staircase? Of course you did! There were many talented and hard working people doing that construction, but wow…..I wonder if the main family lived upstairs or downstairs? I’ll need to go back and read the wikipedia page to find out. Just imagine going to bed and climbing those stairs when you’re beat out tired from the day? Stair master.

    I absolutely LOVE the ceilings, woodwork and artwork within. It is absolutely stunning and beautiful. Most of my ceilings are either stucco white, or some other white ceiling material. It would be heavenly to lay out on those floors and look up, wouldn’t it? Did you? Probably not allowed, huh? Maybe it would be rather difficult to explain ….

    Gail must’ve been over the moon with her name being drawn on your most recent giveaway. Congratulations Gail! I’m happy whether I win or lose….besides that’s not the point. I’m here for the fun and inspiration which you share, and I thank you for that, Susan! xo

    Bye for now.

  81. Patty galas says:

    You are toooo much… the video driving through the England countryside. Thank you, thank you. Too much fun!!! Love it, beautiful, hurray for you!

  82. Pam K says:

    *Sigh*…Miss Susan, it’s all so beautiful. Since I won’t be going to England anytime soon I will have to live vicariously through you and buy your lovely book. Maybe one day! Your photos are gorgeous. I must’ve been British in another life! Pam K. from Dallas, TX

  83. Angela W in Oklahoma says:

    I really enjoyed touring Chatsworth with you. Oh, how I wanted more time in the gift shop!! What I really appreicate is that you always know just what we want to see and the details we want to know…Thank you for that!! I’ve shared the Downton printout with friends…Thank you for that as well!!!

  84. Wendy Louise says:

    Dear Susan,
    So many things go through my mind to say to you, you are such a Dear Friend, I would just go on and on and you don’t have that kind of time. I will just keep it to a few things. I was wondering if you plan on any book signing in the New England area. I know you mentioned one on Martha’s Vinyard, would you be having one on the mainland ? I do have a particular place in mind. I live up in the northern part of Massachusetts. There is a lovely little city of Newburyport and it is the home of a wonderful British store called: The Best Of British. What a delightful place for a book signing. It is close to New Hampshire and Maine. I know the owners, they are lovely British people ! It is my favorite store, it’s where I get my tea ! I know many fans of yours up here too! I think you and Joe would love the area. You know you also have a guest room in my home anytime. It is of course my version of the Peter Rabbit room. 🙂 Love and blessings, Wendy-Lou

    • sbranch says:

      If they wanted me to come to their store for a signing, I think that would be wonderful! What would be better than a store with British things!

      • judi says:

        YES, DO IT:)

      • Wendy Louise says:

        I will speak with them right away and see if we can get a book signing connection going ! I would love to help in anyway to get this wonderful ball rolling ! My energy needs something like this, I have so much of it and I sometimes don’t know what to do with it!!!! I’m off and running be back later today sweet Susan ! ox

        • sbranch says:

          That’s great Wendy Louisie … You’ll see in the next post, after you wrote I thought, what a good idea, the girlfriends! That’s who to ask! How silly of me! 🙂

  85. Pat Mofjeld from St. Paul, Minnesota says:

    Congratulations on almost being done! I’m sure it has been a push but what a wonderful way to go into this Spring–another book finished!!! 🙂

  86. Ruth Thomas says:

    Oh, Susan. What a lovely blog!! How are we going to stand to wait for this lovely book. I read in Wikipedia that you grew up in the San Fernando Valley in California. Do you mind letting me know which city? We have similar lives – I grew up in RI, you grew up in California; I lived on Spring St. in Newport, RI and moved to the San Fernando Valley when I was 12. You left California and moved to an island – very similar. Unfortunately, I don’t have a bit of creativity of any kind; absolutely nothing as fabulous, meaningful and beautiful as you. Thank you for your inspiration and caring for your “girlfriends”.

    • sbranch says:

      Well, you definitely created an interesting and meaningful life for yourself! That counts! 🙂 I was born in Long Beach, moved to Reseda when I was 7, moved to Woodland Hills when I was 14, and then to San Luis Obispo when I was 23, and here to the island when I was 33. I came here, you went there, keeping the balance!

      • Ruth Thomas says:

        I moved to Burbank, CA when I was 12 then lived in Glendale and North Hollywood over the years until we moved to Indiana in 1988
        . Too funny how similar our lives are but in opposite directions.

  87. So glad I stopped by this morning, with plans to revisit Chatsworth . I had a mug of tea and a large slice of freshly baked Victoria Sponge filled with home made raspberry jam to hand, which is just as well for there is the added extra about Downton Abbey! Hurrah! Ever hungry for anything to do with Downton Abbey I’m afraid the plans to revisit Chatsworth are now put on hold. I have all the books, dvd’s and anything else “Downton” I can get my hands on.
    My one concern, however, is that, no matter how much I would love Downton Abbey to continue for ever, I hope that Kilwillie (Julian Fellowes) will end it before it becomes too modern (if that makes sense) I’d really rather not see it enter the period of WWII, although it would make interesting viewing with the ever changing world of the aristocracy and breaking down of class distinction. I would love to see the Dowager Countess and Lord Grantham sit down to a meal of Mock Duck (stuffed marrow) followed by a Mock Apricot Tart (grated carrots). Make up would be challenged, as three decades would have passed, and it might defy logistics to keep the Dowager Countess alive, although our own dear Queen Mum went over her own century. I mean, nobody seems to be ageing very much at all at Downton . . they just get killed off very young and tragically too . . which makes me wonder if Julian Fellowes has shares in Kleenex 😀

  88. Elaine in Toronto says:

    Susan, had to let you know that i just received your book “Celebrations” in the mail. I love the bright red grosgrain ribbon bookmark with the little star on the end – so sweet. The book is pre-loved but in excellent condition. I’ve ordered four copies of “A Fine Romance” and looking so forward to receiving them. I was in England in 1969 and my favourite memory is having our pictures taken in Trafalger Square holding the sweetest monkeys dressed in little pants and hand-knit sweaters (the monkeys, not us, lol). The pictures were to be sent to us. Our tour guide told us that it was a scam and they wasn’t even any film in the camera. But I somehow knew we would get those pictures. And sure enough, they arrived in the mail a few months after we got home. I’m cuddling the monkey like you would cuddle Jack. My cousin is holding hers at arms length thinking it might do you know what on her shoes. Every time I look at the picture it makes me smile. Enjoy your day.

  89. Joy Pence from Ohio says:

    Congratulations Gail! How wonderful for you.
    Thank you for the lovely tour Susan, that was amazing. And the sandwiches were so thoughtful, cause I was very hungry after our tour! Hope you put Southwest Ohio on your book tour list; but I would go anywhere in the state to meet you!!
    xoxo Joy

  90. Sonya Hewes says:

    One of the sad things about living in Alaska is you’ll probably never get up here to do any book signings. 🙁
    That would be a dream come true to have a book signed by you. I have all your books and just adore you and all of your ideas about everything.
    My sister-in-law lives in Long Beach, California and I’ve been to the Queen Mary. Beautiful ship for sure.

    Have a great day! 🙂

  91. Tiah Foster says:

    Dear Susan,
    You didn’t mention where your Father’s home in AZ is, but I’m hoping up by PHX. There is a lovely bookstore called Changing Hands Bookstore, either in Tempe or Chandler. I’d love to go to a signing and meet you there. Any chance of you going there?

    I used to live in VT and love seeing the snow.

    Please put in a picture of Girl and what she is up to, too. I know Jack is so charming he has us all wrapped around his little paw, but I think Girl needs to know we care, too.

    All best,

  92. Julia D. says:

    Thank you SO much for taking me along to visit the Chatsworth House! It was so much fun and you were a terrific host on the journey. Those tiebacks on the bed curtains were to die for, as well as the woodwork and gardens surrounding it. I just love your blog site and it is so delightful to be one of your girlfriends in all that you do.
    Thanks again…

  93. Erika Laing says:

    In Love! xos :~)

  94. Cynthia says:

    Hope you’ll be able to get to Arizona for a signing–maybe Tucson? Well, whether you do or not, the book looks wonderful–I really look forward to it.

  95. Cynthia says:

    Hope you’ll be able to get to Arizona for a signing–maybe Tucson? Well, whether your do or not, the book looks wonderful–I really look forward to it.

  96. Pat Bates says:

    Considering your fondness for sheep, I just couldn’t resist sharing the following website with


    Patty Cakes

  97. Sharon B. says:

    Thanks for your fab blog. I love the photos.
    I also take pix of the view from the windows in my house.
    Not sure why..I just like the view, and if I ever move, God forbid,
    I will have these to warm mt heart.
    Technology is great!

  98. Teri Ellen from Carmel CA says:

    Thanks for all the magnificent pics of the Chatsworth House. I was there once as a child, but my mom did not get as many pictures as you’ve shown us. Good memories!♡

    • sbranch says:

      Digital cameras make it so much easier! No film to deal with or carry around. Really wonderful! Glad you like them Teri Ellen!

  99. sherrill says:

    Just wondering, Susan, if you and Joe saw the violin hanging on the wall, although it isn’t really a “real” violin at all, but a painting!! When I was there, I could hardly believe my eyes….it was so realistic! I felt as though I could just reach out and pluck it off the wall! You must have seen it!
    I have a small painting-like photo in a frame on the wall of our front hallway of Chatsworth that one of our daughters gave me when she came home from England quite a few years ago. I have always loved it! Just love your site, by the way. Thanks so much for sharing.

  100. Terrie Trebilcock says:

    Have you read about the current Duchess of Devonshire? She is the youngest of the in/famous Mitford sisters (LOTS of good stuff to read about them, Love in a Cold ClimTe, for example). She became Duchess when her brother-in-law, Billy Cavendish, and his wife, the former Kathleen Kennedy, were killed at different times during WWII. The current duchess, Deborah, has written several books herself, including some work about her chickens! She was great friends with the war hero and travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor.
    I love how one wonderful book pours me into many others, as yours just has!
    Happy New Year!

    • sbranch says:

      We toured her home (castle), Chatsworth … yes, that family has some history!! Lots to learn about there. Happy New Year Terrie!

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