Monday, December 1, 2014

‘tis the season

Andre XmasI know it’s Christmas when Andre Rieu spreads his arms and opens his Advent Calendar.  All music, lights, and schmaltz, it’s a warm combination of theatrical excess and hometown homily.

Locally, the mansion houses across Dorset are holding their annual Christmas Fairs, with church choirs and community groups laying out festive (usually Victorian-themed) programs and baked goods. 

The weather has been clear and cold, and I’ve started exploring east up the coast past Christchurch.  Mudeford Quay is a favorite stop, crab salads and sailing clubs.

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But the Christmas-touch venue lies a bit beyond.

Highcliffe CastleHighcliffe Castle was built in the early 1800’s by a retired diplomat recreating the Romantic-style chateaus that he admired in France. A mix of Gothic arches and Gallic stones, the house suffered a series of negligent owners before suffering fire, collapse, and abandonment 60 years ago.  It was restored in the 1990s to become a museum and event centre.

Set well back from sea bluffs, the Castle looks more like a university hall set alongside box gardens.  Its well back from the bluffs and seaward views, but the stone and wood interior rooms radiating from the entry hall are warm and filled with afternoon light.  The local artists and clubs that fill Dorset had put out a wonderful display of artworks

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Cakes, teas, and a walk along the red-pebble beach round out a nice day.  The Isle of Wight was clear in the distance over the flat seas, cold wind blowing through the acacias topping the bluffs.

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It’s not quite the palace that Andre lives in overlooking the Maas, but it’s a nice afternoon destination inside and out.  Stately homes throughout the area are holding similar events, check What’s On Dorset and Visit Dorset for a full list.

And, no, I didn’t buy anyone the Figurative Frog, apologies….

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