Last week I landed back on U.S. soil, thus completing my travels through Jane Austen’s England. What began as a long-desired wish to visit Austen’s home and burial place during the year of the 200th anniversary of her death, became a reality when I was invited to join the BBC as part of their upcoming documentary, My Friend Jane. I can’t thank my friend, Dung Vu, who I connected with several years ago through our mutual love of JAFF, for not only taking this journey with me, but for being the most supportive, helpful, and thoughtful companion I could have ever imagined sharing this journey with. I also must thank Richard George from the BBC, Joana Starnes, and Sophie Andrews for connecting the dots of our lives in a way that allowed me to be part of this unforgettable experience. The tears I shed as we said our farewells will hopefully one day be replaced by the joyful anticipation of future visits back to England. I am grateful for sharing my love of Jane Austen with each of you!
As this was my first trip overseas, I was so eager to see as much as possible and for five straight days, we traveled from one location to another, taking in the sights and sounds that brought to life the places in England that helped shape Jane’s life, as well as her stories. Imagining these places as they were during Jane’s life really wasn’t difficult. Walking through Bath, Winchester, Alton, and even London, one can happily transport him/herself back to Jane’s time, taking in the many natural beauties, combined with the architectural features that represent the Georgian period, and even earlier.
We stayed in Winchester, right next to Winchester Cathedral, and we were able to connect with a few of our favorite people here in town. For a Janeite, Winchester is filled with plenty of connections to Austen, and from visits to the cathedral to an Austen exhibit at the Winchester Discovery Centre, Winchester is a place where we spent many happy moments discussing Jane Austen and lots of the JAFF that we have come to love so dearly!
In Bath, there was so much to explore and the connections to Jane were abundant there too. One can easily imagine the people represented through Jane’s characters in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion strolling to the Assembly Rooms to mingle with their friends and acquaintances. Throughout London, it took a little more creativity to imagine what Jane may have seen throughout this city, but with the help of a wonderful taxi driver, a map and a copy of Walking Jane Austen’s London, we saw quite a few of the sites that are connected to Jane’s life.
The place we felt most connected with Jane was the Jane Austen House Museum because here we were able to become fully immersed imagining how Jane lived in this house based on what we’ve read over the years about her life at Chawton. This visit was also made even more memorable because I was able to meet Joana Starnes for the first time ever and walk through the house with her. Last, but not least, my future post on our visit to Chawton will reveal the identity of another special person we were able to meet at Chawton. Let’s just say this was quite an emotional visit for all three of us!
What trip to Jane Austen’s England would be complete without a trip to Pemberley, I mean Lyme Park, as well as attending a Jane Austen Ball? Derbyshire is a significant journey from southern England and one we gladly took in a train and not in a horse-drawn carriage. As we entered the gates and gleaned our first glimpses of the grandeurs of Pemberley, a strange sense of familiarity washed over us. How many times have we strolled through these gardens on the big screen with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, only to find ourselves wishing to run into our own Mr. Darcy wearing a moist linen shirt and a confused look just for us? Well, we didn’t run into him, but we certainly had lots of fun capturing all of the beautiful images that helped Elizabeth Bennet date her own love for Darcy from her “first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” I am so grateful that Joana and Mira were both looking forward to this visit even on this very wet and blustery day!
Concluding our visit at a Jane Austen Ball was possibly the best way to end our trip! Not only was it terrific fun to prepare for our first Regency ball, attending as guests of the BBC made it even more memorable because we were able to connect with so many other people who love Jane Austen and the really neat thing was that so many of us connect with her in very different ways. I look forward to sharing more details about this event! You can also check out #MyFriendJane on Twitter for updates about the documentary.
So please look for a new post for the next several weeks, as I share lots of photographs from our trip and expand upon our visits to each place, as well as sharing some insights into Austen’s own connections to these places. I did plenty of shopping along the way (I actually had to buy another bag to carry everything home with me) and each post will offer a different variety of giveaway for my readers. I am really excited about these posts and I can’t wait to share these with all of you!
Week of June 19th / To Winchester We Go!
Week of June 26th / Assembling in Bath
Week of July 3rd / Going Home to Chawton
Week of July 10th / #MyFriendJane
Week of July 17th / Jane Austen’s London
Week of July 24th / To Pemberley, We Go…
(The dates and titles are subject to change)
Please feel free to share in the comments below anything you’re hoping that I include in these posts, so I can make sure to include them for my readers.