Planning My London Adventure, Part II

My previous visits to London having been far too short, this year I took the plunge and rented a flat for a month in late spring. Not cheap, but far cheaper than staying in a hotel, and it’s centrally located, near many of the sites I plan to visit. My aim is to write in the morning—as I do now—and visit in the afternoons. Since my intention is to include as much as I can in that month, I’m keeping a spreadsheet of information about places I want to visit, including those farther afield, like Leeds Castle and Chatsworth. I thought perhaps some of my readers might be interested in some of the resources I’ve discovered.

Scenes of Iconic British Estates

iconic estates

While each featured estate’s remarkable beauty is noteworthy, it’s the hidden stories within the homes that set them apart.

Do you have Amazon Prime? If so, you should be able to watch this wonderful series by PBS. The first season consists of fascinating tales and footage about three prominent British estates. I’ve been to Hampton Court, and plan to take in Chatsworth this year if I can.

Secrets of Henry VIII’s Palace, Hampton Court

A Tudor palace built by the infamous Henry VIII together with a European-style baroque palace built by William III. There are plenty of secrets here with Henry VIII alone. The last king to live here was George II. Magnificent gardens with yew trees and and a fabulous maze.The kitchens alone are worth the price of admission, as Henry loved his food and he also had to feed about a thousand others.

Secrets of Althorp: The Spencers

Althorp is the country estate of the Spencer family. The late Princess Diana grew up here after her father became Earl Spencer. Her brother Charles is the current Earl. She is buried on the grounds here.

Like most of the British aristocratic families, the Spencers of Althorp and the Cavendishes of Chatsworth are related. The infamous Georgiana Cavendish was the daughter of the 1st Earl Spencer, who was the great-grandson of the 1st Duke of Marlborough.

Note: Be sure to visit Spencer House, on St. James Place in London. Tours on Sundays only.



Secrets of Chatsworth

I’ve read quite a bit about Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, but didn’t know that much about the rest of this majestic home’s history. Apparently, the estate was so large (one-fifth the size of Rhode Island) that even after Georgiana’s (pronounced George-ayna) heavy gambling debts were paid after her death, there was still enough money for her son, the Bachelor Duke, to spend millions renovating the grounds.


Adele and Fred Astaire

Did you know that Fred Astaire had a sister named Adele who was his dancing partner for 27 years? She married Charles Cavendish, the second son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire. After their marriage, she was called Lady Charles Cavendish, or Lady Charles.

PC 309 (crop)

Kathleen Kennedy

Did you know that Kathleen Kennedy, sister of John F., Robert, Teddy, etc. married the eldest son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire, and bore the title Marchioness of Hartington? Unfortunately, he died weeks later in WWII, and she was killed in a plane crash four years later. She is buried in the Cavendish family plot near Chatsworth.

chatsworth grounds


I also discovered that the BBC aired a three-episode documentary on Chatsworth in 2011, but the programs are not currently available. Bummer!

Chatsworth website

¡Breaking News!

I just booked a room at the Devonshire Arms on the Chatsworth estate for my birthday! A steal at 99 pounds! Do I know how far it is from the main buildings or the train station. Nope! But I guess there must be some sort of transportation. Not sure I want to try driving in England, on the left side of the road, but hey, I’ll do whatever I have to to get there!

devonshire arms

The Devonshire Arms at Beeley

Frommer’s Memorable Walks in London

I’ve also been reading this 2006 book, which is unfortunately no longer in print. I guess they figured out Americans don’t want to walk as much as all that. But you can still get a used copy on Amazon—mine cost one cent plus the $3.99 shipping, for a total of $4.00. The walks here are a bit longer (up to three hours) than in Louise Allen’s book, and as you might expect, the two books do overlap. The historical information is priceless. Checking the current hours online or in a more current book is a must, however. Tours included are:

  • frommersThe City
  • Dickens’s London
  • A Historic Pub Walk
  • Westminster & Whitehall
  • St. James
  • The East End
  • Clerkenwell
  • Bloomsbury
  • Soho
  • Chelsea
  • Hampstead

What resources have you found helpful in planning your trips to England? Please share!

Planning My London Adventure: Part I

As a longtime reader of historical romances set in London, I’ve picked up bits and pieces of the city over the years. Names like Astley’s Amphitheatre, the British Museum, the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, Carlton House, and Covent Garden are as familiar to me as my own house. Of course, I’ve never actually seen them—most of them no longer exist, or if they do, they do not bear much resemblance to the places my Regency heroines would have visited. And since my previous visits to London have been of short duration—no more than four or five days at a time—it was impossible to do much more than visit a few museums and places that do exist

But this year, I decided to go all out and rent a flat in the center of London for a whole month! I had to draw a few deep breaths before hitting “Pay now”—a flat on Baker Street during the tourist season carries what I consider an astronomical price—but it is considerably cheaper than the Sherlock Holmes Hotel where I have stayed in the post, and I am familiar with the neighborhood.

However, since I am paying through the nose for this fabulous trip of a lifetime, I’m determined to have a detailed plan of places to visit while I’m there. I’ve purchased several travel guides and researched online, and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you, in case you too get to travel to London at some point in the future.

Daily Schedule

First of all, I’m definitely not going to spend my entire day visiting one sight after another. My back won’t take it, and when I’m in pain, I get cranky. No way do I want to spend a month in London being cranky. Not to mention that I want to be able to get some writing done while I can still feel the magic of the past. (Yes, I will take my noise-canceling headphones with me!)

So the plan is to write in the morning and do my touristy stuff in the afternoon. Of course, I’m planning some trips afield, like to Leeds Castle, which features in my current WIP, but for the most part I’ll be doing my visiting in the afternoons.

The Plan

In future posts, I’ll share some of the places I’ve noted on my spreadsheet, and I hope some of you will share your favorite “must-see” places as well. I’d rather have too many places on my list to choose from than not enough. This won’t be my last trip, but I want to make sure I make good use of the time I have.

Walking Jane Austen’s London: A Tour Guide For the Modern Traveller


AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Louise Allen’s book comes in print as well as Kindle. I bought both. My original intention was to leave the print book at home and use the Kindle edition on my iPad mini while there, but I’m reconsidering. The iPad is slippery and the screen is hard to read in the glare of the sun, and I’m always bumping something accidentally and losing my place. The print book isn’t heavy, so I might just have to save on suitcase weight some other way. [Sigh]

The book offers eight walks through various parts of London, designating places of interest to Regency era fans. Many of these are mentioned in Jane Austen’s writings, as places visited by herself and/or her characters. The book is chock-full of images from drawings or paintings, so even if the actual building no longer exists or has significantly changed, you can look at the picture and imagine what it used to be like in the early 19th century. Priceless!

front door

Beau Brummell’s front door on Chesterfield Street

I feel like I know London so much better by just reading the book! Imagine how exciting it will be to actually be there!

Have you tried some of these Jane Austen walks yourself? What are some must-see places I can put on my spreadsheet?