While at the Art Institute of Chicago, I was jarred, and a bit delighted, to see this macabre thing on the wall facing Hopper’s Nighthawks:
Ivan Albright was commissioned to paint this for MGM’s production of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (released 1945). Apparently, he painted it over the production period in order to reflect the lead character’s changes.
A closer look:
It’s by no means an appealing painting, but I do like that it’s seen as more than a “mere” movie prop–in fact, it has a long history of exhibitions (including stints in Italy and Germany) as representative of American art. As Albright’s Dorian Gray signifies two mediums–painting and film–it certainly fulfills that role.
Pretty horrifying, actually.
As I’ve noted before, Avebury offers a limited number of guesthouses (it’s a World Heritage Site. Not much room for development to appease tourists). While surrounding towns such as Marlborough* and Swindon offer a greater variety of accommodation, you’ll find some wonderful Bed and Breakfasts in (or very near) the village. TripAdvisor has a helpful listing. However, please know that very few lodgings are actually in the village. If you’re not driving, be sure to check your preferred B&B’s proximity to the village and if it offers transport back and forth. A few guest houses are some distance from the village despite having an Avebury address, and several of them are on quite busy roads.
Based on TripAdvisor’s ratings, we reserved a room for one night at Dorwyn Manor. The house is just about half a mile from The Red Lion, but we had to ring them when we arrived because we were unsure of its exact location. A member of staff drove to pick us up.
As we’d just decided to stay a second day at Avebury, we were a bit anxious whether we’d be able to stay a second night (there are only about five rooms, and they are nearly always full up). Thankfully, we were able to add a second night just as we checked in.
Our room (named for archeologist Alexander Keiller) was clean, comfortable, and quiet–fairly ideal for our needs. We slept very well indeed.
I must say that the family operating Dorwyn Manor were absolutely lovely. We found them kind, helpful, and eager to talk about Avebury and the surrounding area (including several spooky stories about the Red Lion’s alleged haunting). To be honest, I generally dislike B&Bs as I feel like I’m intruding on someone’s home. Mike and Debbie, however, went out of their way to make us feel welcome and at ease. It’s mostly because of they’re warmth that I’d like to recommend Dorwyn Manor, but I do so for a few other reasons:
You have your choice of continental and/or “Full English” (eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, tomato, mushroom, toast, etc). The cooked breakfast was easily the best I had in the UK this past trip. I usually avoid breakfast, but I had it both mornings at this B&B.
The B & B offers a substantial packed lunch if you plan on spending the following day rambling through the countryside. Request your lunch the night before your adventure, and after breakfast you will receive a paper bag with water, a sandwich, fruit, crisps, and a sweet. It’s well worth the additional £ 5.00 (we actually had our packed lunches for dinner the evening after our walk).
While the B&B doesn’t offer dinner, guests receive meal discounts at The Red Lion. Let Mike or Debbie know if you’ll be going into the village for dinner, and they will phone the pub to arrange your discount.
A welcome drink on arrival. Plentiful supplies of water, tea, coffee, and biscuits in your room. Also, there’s an honor bar in the foyer.
- Heat and pressure
The shower had more than enough hot water and pressure to ease aching muscles after a hard day’s trek over hill and through mud.
- Rides into town
Staff at the B & B are happy to drive you to/from the Red Lion (the heart of the village). Because Dorwyn Manor is located on a fairly busy road, you need to walkon the verge for about 1/4 mile (the rest of the way has a pavement– part of itthrough the stones). If you’re anxious about walking too close to traffic, this courtesy is a godsend. Addendum: the traffic is not too awfully bad in the morning and in the evening. As long as it’s light out, you’ll be fine.
We truly enjoyed our stay at this Bed and Breakfast and thought it excellent value for money. We’ll definitely return.
*Recommendation for the Castle and Ball Hotel ( @castleandball on Twitter) in Marlborough. Beautiful 15th century building, lovely menu, great staff.
Seen in Amsterdam: I enjoy this work deeply. Mary, engrossed in her book, ignores the laughing, squirming baby who seems to all but scream “pay attention to me, mama!”
This terracotta Virgin and Child (c. 1500 -1525) was formerly attributed to the Master of the Unruly Children (what a wonderful title); it’s now attributed to Giovanni Francesco Rustici.
From the Rijksmuseum website:
The nude infant Jesus playfully draws his mother’s attention by pulling her bodice open. Mary’s bare breast [behind the book] refers to her role as ‘Virgo lactans’, the suckling virgin. The role of her divine motherhood became popular through Saint Bernard of Clairvaux’s wondrous vision in which he received a drop of milk from the Virgin’s breast.
Unless you are a regular walker, cyclist, or drive a car,* Avebury might seem relatively isolated. No train services the village, and only one bus passes through. When I began organizing this leg of our trip, to be honest, I thought getting to Avebury might prove more trouble than its worth. Happily, it’s easier done than said: thanks to frequent train and bus services, it’s simple enough to get there.
Beginning at London’s Paddington Station, we took the Great Western Railway service to Swindon. On this hour-long ride, the train passes urban/industrial sites, but it also skirts some areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Once at Swindon, we crossed the road at the front of the train station and walked just over a block to the bus station. There, at bay 10, we caught the Stagecoach #49 (Swindon-to-Devizes service). After a 20 minute ride, we stopped in front of the picturesque Red Lion pub.
We crossed the road, turned, and this sight greeted us:
During the week, the #49 bus stops at the village hourly (both to and from Swindon). The hours differ at the weekends, so you might check Stagecoach’s website to ensure travel times.
** You catch the bus into Swindon at the Red Lion’s sign. You get off the bus from
Swindon in front of a shop called Elements (just beside a megalith group).
* Walking, Cycling, or driving to Avebury:
If you’re a walker, you can arrive via the treasured Ridgeway National Trail, an 87-mile-long track that was in use well before the Romans arrived in Britain. you can find more information about The Ridgeway here.
If you’re a cyclist, you might download this map to determine how you’d best like to approach Avebury.
Via auto, the busy A4361 passes through the village. If you’re day tripping, there’s a large car park near the village center; otherwise, your lodgings probably offer private parking.