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I feel as if I’ve hardly been here in August—and looking at the calendar, that isn’t far from the truth! Of course, while traveling I still have the eye and mind of a Regency author. I couldn’t help noticing some recurring themes that resonated with the Regency: excess and elegance.

The cruise was much as my husband and I expected: fun, relaxing, a bit tacky at times but the ship was big enough that we could avoid most of the silliness. No belly flop contests for us, thanks! Nor did we pig out at the buffets or overindulge on umbrella drinks; we were interested in only one sort of excess. 🙂 But many of our fellow passengers were less restrained; it makes one think of those Regency dinner parties with umpteen courses or gentlemen’s gatherings where multiple bottles of wine were consumed per person. Although I think we looked quite nice on the formal night, the greatest elegance was provided by the gorgeous sea life we saw on our snorkel trips.

Once we’d retrieved the kids from the grandparents, we toured several attractions with friends and relatives in North Carolina. Our first visit was the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC. Though the area holds a profusion of kitschy-looking gift shops, the village, a recreation of a nearby village circa 1750 or so, is well worth visiting. The setting is lovely, a beautifully shaded hillside and there were demonstrations of beadwork (I would have loved to take lessons), shooting a blowgun, basket weaving, mask carving and more. I was particularly struck by the simple and eerily beautiful animal imagery of the carvings.

The following day we went from rustic simplicity to civilized excess at Biltmore House, the Vanderbilts’ 250 room “family home” in Asheville. The tour was interesting and very long. Areas used by the family and guests are sumptuously decorated, sometimes overdone to my taste; the servants’ areas were also interesting and appeared to be more comfortable than in most stately homes I’ve visited. My favorite room was the library, one place where excess is never a bad thing. 🙂

Our next major stop was Monticello, a place that offers less pomp but far more real elegance along with a vivid sense of Thomas Jefferson, his personality, his family, his conflicted position regarding slavery, his many interests both scientific and artistic. My children were impressed that he said he “could not live without books”. Perhaps my favorite part within the house was the dining room, with its French style chairs and fireplace with Wedgwood medallions. The garden tour revealed a number of plants I wasn’t familiar with, including the lovely caracalla bean plant pictured here. In 1792, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Benjamin Hawkins about the Caracalla Bean saying it was the “most beautiful bean in the world.” I have to agree.

Now we are back, my children are (hopefully!) enjoying their first day of school and I’m trying to return to Normal Life. If I can remember what that is!

If you’ve visited any of these places, what was your most or least favorite part? If you traveled this summer, did you see anything you thought excessive, or elegant, or even excessively elegant?


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I had a wonderful time in SF, between the totally awesome and inspiring Historical Writers’ Conference, dancing at the soiree, boning up on craft and research, meeting Riskies and friends. I’m still on an emotional high but after a week of running on adrenalin my body has *crashed*.

But there is no rest for the weary. My To Do List includes items like unpacking, mowing the lawn, cleaning the fish tank, identifying and removing anything that looks like a science experiment from the fridge, preparing materials to send to prospective new agents.

Somehow I will do it all but I really need a vacation!

Fortunately that’s the other thing on my plate this week: getting myself and the family ready for a trip. Soon we will be driving to Florida where my husband and I will deposit our darlings with their grandparents and go for a short 20th anniversary cruise. We’ve never cruised before but thought it would be fun to try. Four days of relaxation and fornication can’t fail! On the return trip, we’ll go more slowly, stopping to visit relatives and friends in Asheville, where we also plan to tour Biltmore House. Then we’ll visit Monticello on the way home. My kids are budding history geeks, so I expect they’ll enjoy the historic home tours as much as I will.

So this trip will be part sightseeing, part unwinding. If I were going on holiday during the Regency, I’d still want that sort of mix. Time and budget allowing (and of course it would, because in my Regency fantasy my husband would be worth ten thousand a year) we might go to the Continent for sightseeing and shopping. But I’d also be happy rambling around the Lake District or by the seaside.

Just imagine this scene from PERSUASION:

“They went to the sands, to watch the flowing of the tide, which a fine south-easterly breeze was bringing in with all the grandeur which so flat a shore admitted. They praised the morning; gloried in the sea; sympathized in the delight of the fresh-feeling breeze–and were silent…”

So how about you? Have you been on–or are you planning–any cool vacations this summer? What would be your fantasy Regency vacation? If anyone has cruised before, do you have any advice to share?

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