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Leaving Durham, we drove southward towards Middlethorpe Hall, a William and Mary Country House built in 1699 and now the property of the National Trust.  This would be our home base for the next few days. We had unwittingly booked our stay during the York Races, (what were we thinking??), and it turned out that the racecourse was just up the road from the hotel.  Consequently, we were met with a bustle of activity upon our arrival, and were quickly caught up in the infectious enthusiasm for the event.

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After getting settled in our very comfortable cottage suite in the converted stables, we explored the gardens.

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Spring has been quite delayed in England this year, and the gardens were bursting with fresh blooms. It was cool enough to need a light jacket – perfect weather for walking.

The dining room was lively that evening. Many of the patrons were annual visitors for the York races, and greeted one another as old friends. We were seated next to a very dapper older gentleman, who was dining alone. We were very amused to hear him order the black forest soufflé with the air of happy anticipation of one who has had this sumptuous treat many times before. As the meal progressed, we fell into conversation with him. He introduced himself simply as “Terry” and told us that he and his wife had been coming to Middlethorpe Hall to attend the York races for most of the years of their lengthy marriage.  She had passed away five years earlier, and like many bereaved spouses, he had struggled with grief in the wake of her death. He had let a couple of years go by without revisiting any of their familiar haunts, and then screwed up his courage and began to venture back to their former pursuits. This was the third year he had attended the races without her. He was utterly charming and without self-pity. What a privilege to meet him. His courage was truly inspiring.