My trip of a lifetime!
I’ve recently returned from my first real holiday in 20 years. Most special was spending time with my son who I hadn’t seen since early 2020, when Covid turned all our worlds upside down. He lives in Camden Town, not far from the very center of London and his flat was our base for excursions into Europe and other parts of the UK. Camden is a vibrant community with its colorful street art, buzzing markets and eclectic mix of people. My son’s flat is above the World’s End pub which was itself once an open market space and traces its history back four hundred years. Formerly known as Mother Redcap, the World’s End boasts tales of highwaymen, witches and hauntings, so it is a very atmospheric location!
We took the Eurostar from London to Paris and from there headed for Brussels and Avignon, cities where history lives and breathes all around. I’d never been to Europe before, so every sight and experience was enthralling. In Avignon we were housed in an utterly charming apartment in a narrow shaded street, but I’m a bit queasy about heights and hesitated to go too far out on the partially-ruined Pont D’Avignon over the River Rhones. Romance abounded in Brussels, with couples being married in the courtyard of the wonderful Town Hall. After the ceremony the newlyweds emerged onto an upstairs balcony and waved to the people below in the Grand Place. Our apartment in Paris was very cute with a view of Parisian rooftops from my bedroom window. We boated up the Siene to the Eiffel Tower, ate lunch in a riverside cafe, and walked back along the river through the Tuileries Garden.
Logistics and time limits meant the Regency town of Bath was off our map, but we were visiting extended family in Royal Leamington Spa, which is a kind of mini-Bath with streets sporting elegant Regency architecture and a history of mineral springs. Brighton’s Royal Pavillion was definitely on the agenda though, and what an opulent, extravagant place it is! Stunning chandeliers, gilt, marble, crystal, silver and gold. The Prince Regent’s opulent personality shone through. We wended our way through a maze of cobbled streets and enjoyed a fish-and-chip lunch on the stony Brighton beach.
On the Isle of Wight we stayed in a quirky little hotel halfway up a steep street that tested my legs, and visited Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s summer home. We saw 101 Dalmations at the outdoor theatre in Regents Park, The Lion King at the Lyceum and the amazing Jean-Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show at the Roundhouse in Camden.
If you’re the chief cook in your household you’ll know the relief of not being responsible for a meal for four weeks! We threw caution to the winds while we were away and ate out at one of the cafes, restaurants or pubs that abounded on every street. Back in Camden my son concocted delicious dinners including nightly desserts.
I was in the UK at a momentous time: Queen Elizabeth II died, a new Prime Minister was sworn in and King Charles III ascended the throne. My month away left me with so many enriching memories and experiences. As a writer, I tried to absorb everything, took multiple notes and many photographs. I know many of the sights and I saw, and the experiences I enjoyed will find their place in my Regency, and other stories.
Another adventure was travelling light. I decided to follow the 5 Kilo Traveller’s advice to travel with only carry-on luggage for my month away. I didn’t quite nail the packing, but taking carry-on only is such a bonus and a great learning experience. You can read about my travel light experience on Katherine Leamy’s 5 Kilo Traveller.