... that a lot of 'tourist attractions' are deathly dull and not worth the money. Not so the two houses we visited on a recent visit to Chawton in Hampshire, famed as being the adult home of Jane Austen. The house everyone visits -and with reason - is her cottage on the main street in the village. In 1809 she moved here and spent all but the last few months of the rest of her life living here. It was from Chawton that her works were published, and many of them written.
The (dodgily named) Cassandra's Cup teashop across the road makes a mean treacle sponge and custard too.
But on the day we visited, by stroke of luck Chawton House was also open - Jane's brother Edward was adopted by the Knights, who were relatives of the Austens and had no children of their own. He changed his name (and indeed in an early example of Girl Power all the men who married into the Knight family were obliged to change their name to Knight), and apparently Jane spent many happy visits there.
These days it is the home of the Chawton House Library which focuses on "women's writing in English from 1600-1830" and has a craftily concealed gin cupboard in one of the bookshelves. We thought it might be a good place to store naughty children but the librarian was having none of it.
In one room was a portrait of Kitty Fisher, as in "Lucy Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it". Don't want to worry you Lucy, but apparently the Pocket was Lucy Locket's young man who was pinched by the naughty Miss Fisher ...
It's been gorgeously restored and you can almost imagine Jane's characters strolling around. Could this have been the "prettyish kind of a little wilderness" where Lady Catherine de Bourgh took Lizzy to task over Mr Darcy?
Chawton church is in the grounds of Chawton House and here, in a quiet corner, are the graves of Jane's mother and her sister Cassandra.
One of the highlights of the day was a dancing demonstration by a local group of Regency dancers, in full costume, who gave fascinating little chats along the way about the history of the dances and the language of fans. I tried to channel Persuasion (who could resist Captain Wentworth?) rather than Armstrong and Miller, and I nearly succeeded. Nearly. I can't find a clip of one of their dancing sketches, but since I adore them here is a clip that might make you feel better about this year's joke of a British summer.