Harewood House Is a Perfect Place for Tea and Scones

In the city of Leeds, there are 500,000 students. This makes the city the ultimate college town, and today we took cabs out of town a few miles to Harewood House, a family estate owned by a cousin of the Queen. This stately chateau, built 250 years ago, is filled with priceless Chippendale furniture.  Sadly, we were not allowed to shoot photos on the inside, but the exterior is nearly as magnificent.

One room was stunning with hand-painted Chinese wallpaper, which was actually taken down, put into storage, and then put back up decades after someone found it all rolled up in a shed.  How big is this place? I asked. “Everything you see, including those distant woods,” was the answer, with a sweeping gesture across the vast green stretch with a lake down in front. Eighty-seven year old George Lascelles is the ruling Duke now, with his son the Viscount David waiting in the wings.

The guide told us that Harewood House is among the top attractions in Britain. Britons voted along with

Victoria Station, high-end shopping in Leeds, England.
Victoria Station in Leeds, for high-end shopping, with lovely glass ceilings.

tour operators and local guides, it seems that the Brits never tire of seeing giant old paintings, lovely green grounds, and a glimpse into what life was like when it was all so grand and we had servants and even slaves. A part of a more recent art exhibit focused on that dark history, on the fact that much of their wealth came from the slave trade.

On the way back to Leeds, I asked our taxi driver, Paul, about England’s reputation for out-of-control hardcore drinking by young and old, but especially young. He said how right I was, and that he thinks the UK should have a 21-year-old drinking age. “You see ’em falling about, and I won’t let ’em into me cab. No, if you’re drunk, you’re not riding with me.”  One night he took a particularly bombed young woman out to a distant place…she ran inside, and then emerged stark naked to pay him. She offered him more than money, but he laughed, as she warbled about how they ‘had been together so long already.”

He said as a teetotaller, it’s just amazing how much people drink here. “They work all week and then BAM! Friday through Sunday they take the piss (get bombed).”  What he enjoys most is fishing tournaments where they compete to see who can catch the most fish in five hours. He won last week with a 110 pound haul.