Every five years or so, I pack my bags and toddle over the North Pole and drop in on London. And this being one of those years, I am about to leave again. I didn’t think I was going to go this year–the difficulties of finding a time to leave the family, the expense, was it the right year to go (okay, is there ever a wrong year?), but like my grandmother always said, when things are right, they will align for you. And so it was this year.
A few months ago, my husband came home and rattled keys in front of me and then said they were to a flat just outside London–free for me to use when I wanted. A friend of his only uses the place part of the year and she and her husband were kind enough to offer it to me. Oh, yeah, baby! And having saved enough miles and points, I had the airfare right there waiting for me.
I could see my grandmother’s hand in all this. So I am packing up and flying off for twelve writerly-indulgent days of loitering about London, York, Canterbury, Dover, Windsor and a host of castles, houses and ruins in between.
The last time I went, I came home inspired to write Tempted by the Night after a particularly gruesome Jack the Ripper walk. While on a stroll through Jane Austen’s London with a London Walk’s guide, the entire plot, and I mean the ENTIRE plot, for Confessions of a Little Black Gown fell into my lap.
I stood in front of the house on Brook Street and wondered what it looked like in the early 1800s when Felicity Langley would have need of it, which she did when I wrote Love Letters from a Duke. And I walked Grosvenor Square and Hanover Square and wondered which houses would befit a future duke-ish hero. And finally, I stood in Floris, the perfume shop that survives today, much as it did when my heroines would have shopped there, and plied the incredible staff with questions about their earliest perfumes. And then they let me smell them. My senses ranneth over. I came home brimming with the sights and sounds and smells that I indulged in, and then those spilled into the books that followed.
I know what I am looking for this trip–several things, but I have also mixed in the unexpected: a tour of Royal Richmond, medieval churches and towers to fill my crusader lust, and a bit of Tudor history because I love it so much. Oh, I’ll go in search of more Regency inspiration, Sir John Soanes’ House, Fairfax House in York, and the Thomas Lawrence showing at the National Portrait Gallery, but I know from experience in traveling that often in the oddest corners comes the most delightful surprises.
I will try to post daily photos up on my Facebook page, so check there often. However, if you are going up there to look for Jack the Ripper pics, don’t bother. I haven’t the stomach to do that walk a second time.