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Haddon Hall - A Glorious Country Manor House

Visiting historic houses is one of my favorite things to do in England and Derbyshire is a county that  offers an  extraordinary triumvirate of sites; Hardwick's Elizabethan glamour, the palatial splendors of Chatsworth and Haddon Hall, described by Simon Jenkins as "the most perfect English house to survive from the Middle Ages."  The joy of a visit to Derbyshire is that in visiting all three you can see the English country house through a variety of lenses and periods. 
In his definitive tome, England's1000 Best Houses Jenkins goes on to say of Haddon, "It has none of Hardwick's promiscuity or Chatsworth's bombast. It has not changed because it never needed to change". 
Indeed the house has remains in the hands of the Manners family since 1563 and is currently occupied by the Duke of Rutland's brother and his family. As they say on the website it has avoided, " fire; warfare;  family misfortune and changing fashions" and as such provid…

Just Back!

UPDATE: This post was penned in the Spring of 2011 following our visit to Syria in March. We had no idea the direction the conflict would take. When we planned our trip Syria had been undergoing an opening up to tourism. Yes, there were protests while we were there but it seemed like the beginning of an Arab Spring. We naively hoped it might be a positive transformation rather than a descent into chaos. 

We're just back from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and had a wonderful time. Yes, for those of you who were worried, our tour of Middle Eastern revolution has come to a safe end. In fact we felt safe and I'd recommend traveling in the region to everyone. I'm going to be writing lots of posts on what we've seen and learnt. We visited historical cities, crusader castles, coastal villages, Roman ruins and atmospheric souks. We experienced great hospitality and will always remember the open generosity of those we met.

The Favorite Person and Abdul at Apamea.
But before I write about the food, the places, the people and the history I want to thank the wonderful Abdul Ibrahim. Our driver and informal guide in Syria, Abdul helped translate and bridge the cultural differences.

Because he lived in the U.S. for years, Abdul's English is fluent, he understands a Western sensibility and appreciates what visitors are looking for. His care and warmth opened up the experience for us, he helped us better appreciate and understand the places we visited and the people we met. 
I found Abdul through recommendations on the internet and booked him for the days he had available, next time we'll book further in advance so we secure all the dates we need! Without Abdul's encouragement we would have missed Beirut and Baalbeck, both of which were highlights. His input shaped our trip and he gave us guidance and assistance on where to stay and how to best arrange our overall itinerary.

At Krak de Chevalier.

Overlooking Saladin's castle at sunset.
When the political situation became a little tense he discussed our options with us, organized a car and driver to pick us up and called us constantly to check that everything was alright. The whole experience was like having an amusing, flexible, intelligent and insightful friend in Syria, we can't recommend him highly enough.
On the road with the Dead Cities around.

You can contact Abdul by email at
I appreciated the fact that he has prices and details of various day trips on his website at


ots said…
Love the posts -- your articles brought me back to the Middle East, particularly Syria. The best part of having Abdul is his in-depth narration of his country.
ots said…
Abdul with us -- studying the Syria cuisine!