After two of the most difficult years I’ve experienced, my husband and I managed to get away for an actual real genuine vacation. It even involved an aeroplane! With international travel a bit uncertain, we decided to explore some of our own country, and we spent two weeks in Newfoundland, Canada. We planned to do a lot of hiking, which we did, but we also discovered some real gems in the towns and communities that dot the island.
I won’t bore you with too many photographs, but here are just a few.
What we weren’t expecting, although we should have done so, was the wealth of historical sites in the province. We knew about L’Anse aux Meadows in the far north, where the Vikings had a settlement around the year 1000CE, and we spent a day there, wandering through the site and the recreated settlement. (Did this spawn a plot bunny? Perhaps it did!) But we didn’t know about a couple of other sites much closer to St. John’s, the capital city.
Our first discovery was the Colony of Avalon at Ferryland, which was established in 1621 by Sir George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore who went on to establish the city bearing his name in Maryland. The site is an active dig. You can wander through the remains of the old buildings and walk on the cobblestone lane laid out by those early men and women who sought to settle in this vast New World and make their livings on the fish that teemed in the Grand Banks.
The second place we stumbled onto was at Cupids, a fishing village just north of St. John’s. It was first settled in 1610, only 3 years after Jamestown in the United States, and unlike Jamestown, it has essentially been inhabited since then with a gap of only a few years in the late 1700s when the French decided to burn things down. We didn’t get to the actual site because the time was getting late, but the museum near the site was amazing and we’re itching to get back. The town itself has moved a little bit over the years and the original site was discovered when a potato farmer kept finding 16th-century clay pipes in his soil.
More plot bunnies? Lizzy and Darcy in Newfoundland? Perhaps the Dashwood sisters had to go further afield than Devonshire. I have so many ideas bubbling at the back of my head. Perhaps one or two will become stories.
But I have other news as well – a cover reveal!
I was looking for art for the cover of my upcoming release, Much Ado in Meryton, and happened upon a lovely painting by Paul Sandby, titled Tea at Englefield Green. Sandby (1731-1809) was a map-maker turned landscape painter. He and his older brother Thomas were among the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768. He was a gifted artist, as these paintings attest.
Englefield Green itself was a hamlet until it began to expand in the mid-19th century. It lies about 20 miles west of central London in Surrey, near Windsor. It is also the site of the last fatal duel fought in England in 1852, between two French refugees, Frederic Constant and Emmanuel Barthélemy. The estate that Sandby painted was at that time called Elvills (now Castle Hill), designed by the architect Stiff Leadbetter (c.1705-1766) for Sir John Elwill, 4th baronet, between 1758-63. It is a fine example of the Gothic Revival style.
But back to the landscape I fell in love with. This particular watercolour is housed in the art collection of the Nottingham Museums and Galleries, where Sandby was born. For the first time, I found myself inquiring after rights to use the image and corresponding with the representative there. I am so thrilled they agreed to my request.
I loved the image of the elegant people strolling on the lawns, heading to tea. Perhaps the season is off by a month or two, but on a fine autumn day I can perfectly imagine my characters doing just this. It seemed like Mr. Sandby knew exactly what I would want, over 200 years later, and painted it just for me.
Imagine Mr. Bingley hosting a house party, where people drift in and out all day to entertain invalid Jane, stopping for tea and wandering through the beautiful grounds. Imagine Elizabeth and Charlotte huddling in the middle of such a group, chatting about everything and eyeing their host’s severe guest. And imagine Mr. Darcy, lurking – skulking even – around the perimeter, casting a disapproving look upon Miss Elizabeth Bennet and an alarmed one on the dastardly George Wickham, who we know has to show up as well.
And so, without further ado, here is the lovely cover artist Mae Philips’ creation for the cover of Much Ado in Meryton, which I hope to release by the end of September.
What places have you visited that stirred your soul? What stories do you dream about? Tell me about it.