Liz, one of our Reservation Agents and a SUPER fan of the Downton Abbey show, shares a little insight on what it’s like to wine and dine at Highclere Castle, AKA the real Downton Abbey, during the very exclusive annual Christmas Ball!
Downton fans, I couldn’t be more excited to let you know—if you want to don your finest and celebrate the holidays at Highclere Castle, as I did (and believe me, you want to!)—well, you can. For the fourth year in a row, Friendly Planet is offering some highly coveted spots to the annual Christmas Ball, and they’re on sale now! Your invitation to the 2017 Downton Abbey Christmas Ball has arrived.
1 What makes this trip so special for fans of Downton Abbey?
Visiting Highclere Castle is a dream come true for serious Downton Abbey enthusiasts. I loved making friends with other BBC-obsessed passengers, and sharing the experience with a group made it so much fun. Touring a historical site is always a treat, but getting to walk the halls of Highclere Castle in formal attire made it so special…you really feel like you are part of the show!
While in England, you’ll also have free time to visit some must-see Downton Abbey filming locations:
- Prince Albert Memorial. It will probably be too cold to have a picnic at the memorial like the Allsopps and Levinsons, but don’t miss this beautiful and important monument in Hyde Park!
- Rules Restaurant. Visit this historic restaurant used in three scenes of the show. Relive another moment of Edith with her first love Michael Gregson, as they met for lunch when she first considered writing for his magazine. Then imagine having a toast to Rose’s upcoming wedding, as she, Tom, Edith and Mary all had lunch there together. Lastly, you could always have a quick drink before dashing off, like Edith and Bertie before the magazine deadline.
- Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Serious Downton fans will recognize the towns they used for many filming locations, home to memorable settings like Crawley family home, Downton Cottage Hospital, and Downton parish church.
2 What was the Christmas Ball like?
When you arrive, you’ll be greeted with a glass of bubbly and ushered into the Saloon to mix and mingle with your fellow attendees. Local guides answered questions for us, as we nibbled hors d’oeuvres and independently toured the castle. As I posed with my husband in front of the enormous Christmas tree for the photographer, I was awestruck at how great everyone looked.
3 What on Earth did you wear?
We were advised that for men, a suit and tie is required and for women, “Cocktail Attire.” My first instinct was to go for period costume. I was thinking about something from the 1920’s, and close to the costuming on the 3rd and 4th season of Downton Abbey. Ultimately, I chose a custom black gown with a cape, and my hubby a dark suit.
But upon seeing my travel mates in their evening finery, I was downright jealous! Some had beaded vintage 1920’s style gowns, more than a few wore opera length gloves, others were bedecked with tiaras, diamonds, and pearls, and one couple had matching white tie tuxedos. The Dowager Countess would have been so proud!
4 What were some of your other favorite London experiences?
The holidays in London are amazing, and the festivities are seemingly endless. Christmas markets, winter carnivals and special exhibits are all over the city at this time. I loved visiting places like Covent Garden, Borough Market and Portobello Road. We took a Vintage Bus Tour (on one of those 50’s era double-deckers) through the city, passing by numerous filming locations and finishing off with a traditional English Afternoon tea of scones, beautiful little cakes, a selection of classic teas and a glass of champagne! But my favorite pastime when traveling is shopping, and the choices here are outstanding. As I strolled through the city, I was often treated to live music or a street performance.
5 Since the trip is right before Christmas, did you squeeze in a little gift shopping?
Absolutely! Searching for upscale gifts for perfume lovers? I recommend Geo F Trumper or Penhaligon’s—the packaging alone is worth the trip. If you love notebooks and the most beautiful stationary, Smythson’s of Bond Street is your best bet. When looking for an upscale gift but need lots of choices, department stores in London are second to none. Skip the crowds at Harrods and make a bee line for luxury at Liberty of London. For economical but awesome home goods, try places like John Lewis. Of course, when in doubt, just hit the high street and explore new places; you just might find the perfect present, for a loved one, or for yourself!
#FriendlyFiles follows Friendly Planet’s adventurous staff as they travel the world. It is crucial that our team experiences first-hand the sites, hotels, food and transportation so that we know exactly how the trip will feel for our travelers—and to help us as we strive to provide experiences, not sightseeing!