"We need to start planning our next trip to England together."
"Yeah, but we'd need an excuse for the husbands. I mean I just went, and you just went. How could we justify another trip? Without them?" Victoria asked.
"Well, I think I'm fine on that point. Hubby's had enough of England for the time being, my good man."
Victoria and I were together, seated on the patio at Panera Bread in Ft. Myers, Florida. We stared at one another across the table for a bit, our minds getting a Lucy and Ethel type workout.
"Think!" I urged as I lit a cigarette.
"I am thinking," Victoria assured me.
"Maybe we need alcohol."
Victoria checked her watch. "It's only 10: 30 a.m. Too early even for us."
Sigh. Think, think, think, think I admonished myself . . . . . . an idea suddenly occurred to me. I grinned. "By Jove, I think I've got it!"
"Our blog. Number One London."
"Yeah, I know what our blog is called. What about it?" Victoria asked.
"A Number One London tour to England."
"A tour? With other people? Besides us?"
"Yes, Ethel, other people besides us. You know I worked as a tour guide for Patty Suchy and her Novel Explorations. You were on some of the tours I did."
"I know, but . . . I've never been a tour guide."
"But you've been to England hundreds of times. You're qualified. I'll get you a Blue Badge for Christmas. With your name on it and everything. Now come on, we have to come up with a theme for the tour. What would be a good theme?"
Victoria and I threw out a couple of (lame) ideas for a tour theme. The best of the lot was Victoria's suggestion - Great Ladies of British History.
We kicked the idea around for a while.
"I'm not thrilled," I finally said.
"You'd think that you and I could come up with something better than that."
Some minutes went by and we wracked our brains for inspiration. "This is becoming painful," Victoria said after a time.
"Are we stupid?" I asked Victoria.
"I mean you and I are really bloody stupid."
"I've already agreed with you. You don't have to rub it in."
"No, listen, I mean the theme of the first ever Number One London tour to England is so obvious."
"For God's sake . . . . . "
"Wellington. As in the Duke of. As in the guy at the top of our blog. That
Victoria let out a whoop and clapped her hands. "Yes! It has to be Wellington. Obviously."
Excitement gripped us both as we hurriedly drew paper and pens to ourselves.
"Now we have to come up with an itinerary," I said.
"We could do Spain and Portugal and then finish up in England."
I blinked. "You forgot India. Look, we have to think about this realistically. We can't make the tour so inclusive that it becomes cost prohibitive."
"You're right," Victoria conceded. "And we have to bear in mind that most people can't get away for a month at a time."
"There is that," I agreed. "So we stick with England, agreed?"
For the next hour, Victoria and I were like kids in a candy store. Once we had a theme we could sink our teeth into, we had no difficulty in fashioning a rough itinerary that included all the locations relevant to Wellington's life - London, Walmer, Brighton, Reading . . . . . .
"What about that guy the Duke and his friends were always visiting?" I asked Victoria.
"You know, the Duke of something. He had that stately home where they all went shooting and spent the holidays every year." I began running down dukes in my mind. Atholl? No. Bedford? Nyet. Norfolk? Sigh. "Rutland!" I cried at last. "The Duke of Rutland! What's the name of his house?"
"Belvoir Castle," Victoria said without hesitation.
"Where is it, exactly?" I asked her.
"It's in Grantham, in Leicestershire, but I don't want to go back there."
"You've already been there?" I asked, disappointed.
Victoria gave me a pitying look. "You've been there, too. On the Great North Road tour you did with Patty. We were together. Your daughter Brooke was also there. It's where we were held up by the highwaymen." (Read about it here
"Oh, yeah." Often the tours run together in my mind and I'm not sure where I've been. Or what I've seen. Or who I was with.
"It's too far for a side trip, anyway. But speaking of Grantham . . . . " Victoria said slyly.
"What about Grantham?" I asked.
"Where does Lord Grantham live?"
"At Downton Abbey?"
"And what's Downton Abbey when it's at home?" Victoria encouraged.
"Bingo! And where's Highclere Castle?"
"I have no idea, but if you tell me I've already been there and don't remember it, I'll cry."
"As far as I know, you haven't been there. And it's only down the road from Stratfield Saye."
"Well, I don't know if it's literally down the road, but it's close enough that we'd be foolish to pass it by. What do you know about Lord Carnarvon and the Duke of Wellington?"
I was silent for a few minutes, mulling over Lord Carnarvon in my mind. "I got nothing," I said in the end. "Come to think of it, I don't think Lord Carnarvon's name has ever come up in relation to Artie. In fact, I'd say there is no connection."
"We need a connection in order to justify it as a stop on the Wellington Tour," Victoria said.
"No we don't."
"No! It's our tour. We're planning the itinerary, right? We can put whatever we want on the schedule."
Victoria looked skeptical.
"If anyone questions it," I told her, "we'll just tell them we're going because we both want to see the room where Mr. Pamuk died. And because it's just down the road from Stratfield Saye. And Windsor."
"Windsor's not down the road from Stratfield Saye."
"No, I meant we need to add Windsor to the itinerary." And so we did.
Finally, wrung out and exhausted, Victoria and I sat back and grinned at one another.
"The itinerary isn't half bad," I said.
"Not half bad?" Victoria sneered. "Listen, if this wasn't our tour, I'd be signing up for it."
"How much fun is this going to be? This is going to be even better than our trip to Belgium for the re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo."
Victoria grinned at me and offered up a phrase of the Duke of Wellington's that we often re-use, "You may depend upon it, Madam!"
JOIN KRISTINE AND VICTORIA IN LONDON ON
SEPTEMBER 4, 2014 AND
TRAVEL WITH US ON AN EXCITING ITINERARY THROUGH ENGLAND.
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Labels: The Wellington Tour