As an Australian living in a small town, I've always thought there is something magical about visiting far off lands. Recently I was extremely blessed to visit my sister in England, managing to see several places I’ve only ever dreamed about—or ‘seen’ in books, films or TV.
|The Assembly Rooms, Bath|
A writer of Regency romance, my first port of call had to be Bath. A visit to this World Heritage-listed town, filled with grand Georgian buildings and cobblestoned streets, helped me understand the need for sedan chairs instead of carriages (many streets are steep), whilst ‘taking the waters’ at the Pump Room and seeing the Assembly rooms gave new insight into Austen’s references to such activities in her novels. A visit to the Jane Austen Centre (and enjoying high tea there) also helped with those little details, such as what it feels like to put on a bonnet or write using a quill, which I hope will add greater authenticity to my writing.
|Church of St Mary and Holy Cross, Alderminster|
From Bath we travelled through the Cotswolds to Gloucestershire, the setting of my novel ‘The Elusive Miss Ellison’. I was on the lookout for the perfect church to cement the ideas I’d created on the other side of the world. With so many beautiful buildings and locales to choose from I found my camera phone running out of battery every afternoon! I found the perfect church in Alderminster, surrounded by bluebells. We arrived after a service had concluded, the kindly parishioners allowing us entry even as they departed. Peaceful, inside and out, the church’s structure, activities and mission so closely aligned with my imagined church of 200 years ago I could only smile and thank God.
|View of Gloucestershire countryside from North Nibley|
Another key place I had researched online was near North Nibley. Here a grand monument was built atop a hill to recognise the efforts of William Tyndale, who translated the Bible into English. Actually walking the path I’d written about (I’d envisaged a picnic excursion to this site) was another goosebump-inducing experience, again providing further colour to my writing through adding specific details that help make fiction seem real.
|Mansions lining Grosvenor Square|
London was another treasure trove of inspiration. I spent several hours enjoying Hyde Park (and viewing its Regency-era ‘Rotten Row’ bridle path and ‘Serpentine’ water feature), appreciating the grandeur of Grosvenor Square (where I’d set my Earl’s townhouse), and viewing various museums. The Victoria and Albert museum has a wonderful collection of clothing and jewellery through the ages, as well as showcasing furnishings and even whole rooms from particular eras. Of the many London museums I visited, I enjoyed the V&A the most and highly recommend it to anyone fortunate enough to spend time in London.
Travelling certainly deepens one’s understanding of an era or location, but when one has invested hours of research into crafting a work of fiction, visiting the places only imagined helps the dreams come alive.
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