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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…

Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica is like a mini Pompeii conveniently situated within walking distance from a commuter railway station just outside of Rome. If that doesn't sound good enough, astonishingly you can get here from the center of town on your 1.50 euro metro ticket!
Ostia Antica was the maritime gateway to Rome and therefore an important city on the trading routes during the Empire. This is the  port where boats docked and their goods were unloaded and transported to Rome. Consequently it became a wealthy town with a  large population, a theatre, a large number of guilds, baths and temples. As the river shifted its course over the centuries and the coastal area silted up, the port was relocated which precipitated the decline of the city at Ostia.
Like so many of the place we've visited on this trip, Ostia has been somewhere we've looked forward to seeing for some time, and it didn't disappoint. In the December sunshine it was breathtaking and with no more than twenty visitors at the site it was almost deserted, our only regret was that we hadn't arrived earlier as they close at 4:30pm at this time of year.
There is a lot to see here including a synagogue which I'll cover in the next post.
Ostia Antica is heavily restored and this is what makes it so easy to  appreciate and enjoy, you can really see and imagine the life in the city.
Many of the mosaics were roughly covered (perhaps for the winter) but there were still some to see including these on a wall... 
and the mosaics below which. represented shop owners in a commercial area of the city
It is well worth having a quick look at the statues in the museum, as usual we arrived as they were closing but they were kind enough to let us in for a quick look! I loved the enormous storage jars which you can see buried in front of the museum below.
As with any of the Roman cities we've visited such as Jerash, Palmyra and Bosra  in Syria and Jordan, there is always a bath complex and a theater.
The heavily restored and still used theater from the front above and back, below.
This complex, which was saw as we raced out with the custodians blowing whistles to chivvy us along, was decorated with a fabulous floor featuring tigers and other beasts.
The whole places goes on an an with complexes of apartments,  larger homes for the wealthy  restaurants, housing for the firemen, temples and churches. 
It's  a magical  place to explore and we loved it. On a mid-week winter day you won't have to share it with many people which makes it glorious.
Resources for Ostia Antica
The Blue Guide has a good section on Ostia but I also downloaded a Guide to Ostia Antica which is available for free here. It includes a map of the site and descriptions of a route through the ruins.
It's easy to get to Ostia, you take the metro to Pyramid where you switch to a commuter light railway which only goes in one direction. When you leave the station you walk straight across a footbridge and continue straight until you reach the site. There's a highly detailed description of how to get there on Fodor's European Forum here, though you should know the audioguide they mention reamains unavailable.