Monday, August 19, 2013

Forget Your French Lessons - It's Byoolee!

Stately homes often conjure up images of stuffy old buildings, busloads of old people, and bored kids being dragged from room to room by their parents. And there's no doubt that I've visited my share of those (although I was the odd child who enjoyed these old houses).

Something old
Fortunately, though, Lord Montagu, ancestral owner of Beaulieu in England's New Forest is a savvy man. While many stately mansions struggle to attract visitors, Lord Montagu has helped Beaulieu become the ideal family day out, thanks in large part to his hobby. The avid car buff's sizable collection is on display to the public at the site's National Motor Museum, and what a collection it is. More than 250 vehicles and bikes can be seen, ranging from 19th century penny farthings to top of the range Formula One racers. And with many of them maintained in working order, you never know what you might come across being driven around the property grounds. Other vehicles in the collection include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, some wonderfully nostalgic British vehicles, and Sir Donald Campbell's magnificent Bluebird, the vehicle that set a new World Land Speed Record in 1964.

The record breaking Bluebird

Americans have the Oscar Meyer hot dog; we had the Outspan Orange!
Every car should have room for rockets!
Still not enough to satisfy your thirst for incredible autos? Get to Beaulieu before February 2014 to enjoy the Bond in Motion exhibition, celebrating 50 years of our favorite British spy. From Aston Martins that have suffered the worst of crashes to the motorbikes from Skyfall, you can relive some of your best Bond moments with this wonderful collection. 
Elsewhere in the grounds, The World of Top Gear takes you behind the scenes of Britain's best-loved car show with a display of their more...eclectic... creations. 

But remember, this is also a stately home so lets leave the cars and talk about the house itself. Palace House has been home to the Montagu family since the 16th century. Still a family residence, only a few rooms are open to the public, but they offer a fascinating look into the history of the Montagus. If you're lucky, you can also catch one of the daily musical performances by members of staff.  

Children's playroom
Once you're done browsing the portraits, the formal gardens and the remains of Beaulieu Abbey provide opportunities for peaceful strolls and country picnics. 

Finally, don't forget to wander down to the village of Beaulieu where tourists, locals, and New Forest ponies all mingle - I can't recommend the chocolatier enough. 

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