Tag Archives: tour
September 10, 2013

Off to England!

Jane AustenI’m headed to the UK to lead this year’s Historical Fashion Tour. My group will be in Bath for the opening of the Jane Austen Festival, then in Winchester and London. You can follow us over on my Facebook page, where I’ll be posting pictures and insights from the trip.

Come along with us for a virtual tour of England and all things Jane and historical fashion!

February 6, 2013

Catching up…?

Yes, it has now been over four months since I promised to finish blogging my last trip, but I plead Kenyan Internet! It has been turtle-slow since October, which has made it difficult to do very much at all, especially with photos. But I’m busily organizing pictures this month and hope to complete the final few days of our trip soon.

In the meantime, check out this year’s tour at http://sensibility.com/2013tour. We only have a few spots left, so let me know if you’d like to join us! It’s a great year to go with the 200th Anniversary of Pride & Prejudice and lots of Jane Austen-related stops on the itinerary in addition to historical costumes. :)

September 17, 2012

Charming Lacock Village

On our way to our hotel near Bath, we stopped for several hours to enjoy a leisurely afternoon in Lacock Village. It was a gorgeous, sunny day with a light breeze–perfect for tea and strolling around!













A wonderful pause before our big Regency day in Bath!

September 10, 2012

We’re here!

20120910-171112.jpgIt was quite an adventure getting from Kenya to Manchester, including the last-minute surprise of a child’s expired passport, a long walk through Dubai Airport, and a running dash for the train to Manchester, but we did manage to get here at last. We met up as a group Sunday night for our first get-together and a marvelous evening of Show and Tell, starring Suzi’s gorgeous collection of historical bodices and corsets and some added attractions brought in by special guest Cathy Hay of YourWardrobeUnlockd.com.

My laptop decided to crash on me the day I left, so I’m blogging from my iPad, which is going to keep posts short and sweet this trip, I’m afraid! I can’t align photos as nicely as I can from the laptop, but I’ll try to do photo highlights from each day’s fun the day after. Here are shots from our gathering last night!

20120910-171824.jpgOne group member examines an 1870s bodice up close.

20120910-171802.jpgCathy Hay arrived in a reproduction Ginger Rogers ensemble–too adorable!

20120910-171929.jpgThis is a ca. 1900 skirt Cathy picked up for a song at a vintage clothing shop. Look at that gorgeous Chantilly lace! (sorry this one’s a bit blurry–I’ll see if I can find a clearer one later on….)

20120910-174653.jpgThis set of stays was made by Jean Hunnisett for Ann Margaret to wear in a film. The fabric is original and from the 1780s!

20120910-172009.jpgInside of the stays.

20120910-171952.jpgSuzi talks about the significance of each piece in her collection. Everything has a story!

20120910-171751.jpgAll ears…in spite of jet lag!

Cathy even brought a part of her famous work-in-progress, the Peacock Dress!

Today we toured Quarry Bank Mill, which evokes images right out of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. I’ll do my best to post on that tomorrow!

August 28, 2012

Off to the UK in September!

The 2012 Historical Costume Tour begins on September 9, and we’re so excited about the wonderful itinerary! I’ll be blogging during the tour as time permits, so check back here to see what our group gets to enjoy–including an original 19th-century cotton mill, two famous historical costume collections, and tapestries created by Bess of Hardwick and Mary, Queen of Scots!

August 31, 2011

2012 Historical Costume Tour!

Beautiful Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire boasts an incredible collection of original Tudor/Elizabethan tapestries and embroideries. We’ll be visiting!

I’ve got all the details posted on the Tour Pages, so pop on over if you want to see what will be on tap in September 2012. I opened up the tour to my waiting list first, and all slots filled within two days. However, I do keep a “just in case” waiting list, as we have had drop-outs each year due to schedule conflicts or other difficulties. If you really want to go in 2012, please drop me a line at contact AT sensibility.com, and I will put you on the list. If slots open up, they will be offered to each person on the list in order until filled.

Looks like it is going to be one FUN trip! I’ll be posting details about our itinerary over the next few months, especially as I want to showcase wonderful Manchester and Derbyshire! We will have a short London extension at the end of this tour, but London will not be the focus, especially as the V&A’s costume collection is not available for private study until they finish moving it to its new storage facility. So we’re headed northward to enjoy new stops, and we’ll bookend with the opening of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath with its Costumed Promenade–always a blast!

March 3, 2011

Preparing for 2012 Tour!

There just wasn’t time to plan a 2011 tour, as our family moved overseas to Kenya in January and has been settling in since (very exciting!). But I’ve got 2012 in my sites and am planning for a very new and different tour to places not yet visited with a “bookend” in Bath for the Jane Austen Festival launch, which is always a hit.

If you are interested in joining us in September 2012, just drop me a line through my contact form, and I’ll put you on the info list. Those on the list get first dibs on tour spots before I post here or on my message forum. And if you have ideas of what you’d like to see in England, don’t hesitate to share by posting comments here!

September 23, 2010

Monday in London

We were once again greeted by the sun as we rose to meet the day. Truly, the weather this trip was nothing short of spectacular. The temperature was neither too warm nor too chilly, and we had a lovely breeze all day. After a yummy breakfast at our hotel, we headed to the Gloucester Road underground station for our journey to St. Paul’s and walk to the Museum of London. Just as the tube was pulling into Holborne station where we’d change lines for St. Paul’s, the loudspeaker announced that Holborne had just been closed! So I did some rapid rethinking and decided we’d switch to another line at the next stop to disembark at Barbican. It would be an equal distance to the museum from that point, but we’d be a tad bit later due to the longer tube ride. Ah, the joys of the London Underground! We did manage to arrive just a few minutes past ten a.m. to find Suzi awaiting us in the museum’s main hall with curator Hilary Davidson on her way upstairs. Dividing our group in half, we sent a bunch downstairs with Hilary while the rest of us toured the new ground-floor exhibit hall. It is absolutely incredible–better, I think, than the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History (the MoL’s displays are far more child-friendly and so nicely laid out). Here’s my photo tour:

18th-century court dress on display. A screen next to it showed a video of a woman wearing all the proper underpinnings of the era and moving gracefully about to demonstrate "courtly" movement. It was lovely!

Close-up of the court dress bodice--stunning!

18th- and 19th-century shoes on display in a floor case. There were several floor cases in the exhibit, many showing things that have been dug up during excavations around London.

Close-up of another floor case--this one filled with China that has been dug up at various London sites.

Another gorgeous 18th-century dress on display...

And a close-up of the bodice and sleeves...

18th-century officer's "red coat" uniform. The embroidery work was so intricate.

Off the gallery’s opening display is a room dedicated to fashion. It is a recreation of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, a famous place where social climbers and royally connected people once mingled and showed off their taste. The historical clothing is behind glass and rather difficult to photograph due to the low lighting designed to protect the garments. The lighting does cycle up to brighter several times a day, but, unfortunately, we were shoo’ed out to make way for a school group before we got the good lighting. You’ll just have to put up with my attempt at low-light photography here! Later in the morning I saw some photographs in the costume workroom that showed how this exhibit was designed. Live people were put into costume (reproduction–not the real thing) and “blocked” just as though they were in a stage play. After trying out several arrangements of people, the final display model was photographed from several angles so those setting up the final exhibit would know where to place mannequins. It was really fascinating to see how this was done.

1780s gown in the display...

Close-up of the gown...

Amazing embroidered man's suit...

Outside the glass cases were several reproduction outfits for up-close inspection. This girl's dress could easily be reproduced with my new 1780s Girls' Portrait Dress pattern!

Original boy's "skeleton" suit.

1780s gown with unique inverted "V" front lacing.

And a close-up...

1780s court dress with unbelievable amounts of trim...

Lovely 1780s gown with sash. My new womens' pattern (coming soon!) will easily reproduce this one...

Close-up of the gown...

Sorry this is so blurry; the lighting was just so low. Gorgeous 1770s gown with long elbow ruffles...

Here's another angle. The underskirt was so ornate with ruffles and embroidery (white on white).

A reproduction costume with an amusing display angle!

And a close-up...

This reproduction is really a fantasy dress when it comes to the fabric, but it was a lot of fun to study up close. The antlered head-dress is one of many outlandish hats designed for this exhibit by the famous milliner, Philip Treacy...

After leaving this exhibit, we went back to the rest of the displays to finish out the hour before our meeting with Hilary. The MoL is extremely child-friendly with hands-on things to do around every corner. My girls had a wonderful time opening secret doors, pressing buttons to turn on lights, trying on hats, and playing with train sets. Well done, MoL!

Peeping into doors and windows in the Georgian London exhibit.

Looking into the London Underground model...

Yet another children's area filled with antique toys and surprises...

An 18th-century bodice on display in another case. Gorgeous fabric!

One entire section of the new gallery is devoted to Victorian storefronts. Here you see my older girls gazing into a London toy shop. They only wished it was open for business!

My 2009 group saw this same lavender dress down in the costume storeroom last year when it was being restored for this display...

A beautiful antique automobile on display in the early 20th-century section...

A selection of Victorian, Edwardian, and 1920s garments on display...

A detail shot of the center dress from that case. The embroidery on the skirt was simply stunning.

A darling 1940s girl's dress on display...

There are several interactive displays like this one in the new gallery. If you touch areas of the table, they come to life with illustrations and descriptions. This table was a map of things near the Thames. My girls loved it!

A lit-up model of St. Paul's on the table...

And the famous London Eye...

We made it through the new gallery in time to enjoy a short refreshment break in the cafe’. Then we traded places with the other half of our group, heading into the treasure room that is the MoL costume storehouse with Hilary. As before, I am not allowed to share any photographs of what we saw, but I can tell you everything was drool-worthy. We enjoyed seeing an unusual 1730s corset, a pair of Queen Victoria’s ball slippers, three 1820s bonnets, a lovely 19-teens evening gown, an 1890s evening gown bodice, and an absolutely breathtaking 1880s evening gown that looked brand new, it was so well-preserved. There were lots of “oohs” and “ahhhs!” as Hilary removed the protective coverings and held things up for our admiration.

After finishing our visit at the MoL, we walked a short distance to the nearby El Vino Alban Gate restaurant for lunch. Joining us was Cathy Hay of Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, who had brought several vintage pieces for hands-on study. We passed opera cloaks and an 1850s dress around the table while waiting for our meals. El Vino did a fantastic job with our food, which was oh-so-delicious and provided in a timely manner (no small feat for a group this large!). Hilary joined us, so we all got in a delightful visit, sharing costume stories and swapping history. It was wonderful fun. Cathy didn’t bring anything for dress-up this time, as we didn’t have room enough for trying anything on. Maybe next time…!

Cathy shows off one of her beautiful opera cloaks...

After lunch, our group divided up once again, some ladies going with Suzi to the Museum of Childhood to meet with Noreen, the curator of the costume collection there. The rest of us had tickets for the special Grace Kelly exhibit at the V&A, so we said good-bye to Suzi and dashed back to the tube at St. Paul’s, glad to find that Holborne station was open once again so we could take a shorter trip to the museum. The Grace Kelly exhibit contained several of her film costumes but focused mainly on her life as Princess of Monaco. I was disappointed that the Philadelphia Museum of Art had not loaned Grace Kelly’s wedding gown to the exhibit, as I’ve always wanted to see it. I also wished there had been a wider representation of her film costumes, but it was still delightful to see what was on display:

An outfit from "To Catch a Thief"

Another beautiful film dress...

I believe this dress is from Grace Kelly's trousseau, but I'll have to double-check my book to be sure...

Low lighting made it very difficult to photograph much in this exhibit–especially the hats and accessories. It was also crowded to the gills with visitors, so I didn’t get a whole lot of good pictures. Oh, well! After finishing up at the V&A, I took my daughters back to the hotel to await the rest of the group. They began to trickle in around 5:30, most of them ready for an evening’s performance of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at Shakespeare’s Globe. Because my mother had never seen the Globe or attended a performance, I got a ticket for her this year. I was sorry to miss out on the performance, which is a yearly highlight, but I am tickled pink Mom got to go. Christopher Benjamin (who played Sir William Lucas in the A&E “Pride & Prejudice”) performed as Falstaff to great critical acclaim. With everyone off to the Globe or out to eat, I took my girls on a little jaunt to Fortnum & Mason, where I knew they’d be astonished at the beauty of the displays (chandeliers in a grocery store?!). We’d hoped to grab supper at the delightful Parlour, but they’d closed up early that night. Instead, we walked down Piccadilly, looking for an interesting place to stop. My middle daughter stopped me suddenly with a “Mommy, look!” so I turned to see what she was pointing at. Next to us was an adorable restaurant called “Cilantro,” just begging us to come in and take a seat:

Colorful and comfy--my kind of eatery!

As we walked through the door, we were immediately greeted by someone at the counter. I asked if they were closing up (it was already 7:30), but he said they didn’t close until 8pm and invited us to come and take a seat. A huge selection of sandwiches and drinks awaited us behind the counter, but the waiter urged us to get comfortable so he could show us menus and take care of us. We were waited upon with such friendly service that we felt right at home and knew this was going to be a real treat. My girls ordered spaghetti bolognese, while I got a chicken and tomato panini.


Baby Girl is obviously enjoying her supper!

The whole atmosphere of Cilantro is cheerful and restful with lots of books around that customers are free to browse while they wait. We dove into our food, which was delicious and inexpensive (another plus!). After finishing up, an obliging waiter told us about the dessert selections, leaving our mouths watering in anticipation.

Can she eat the entire fudge cake alone? Oh, yes, she can!

A splendid hazelnut chocolate mini-cake for me. Heavenly!

Looking back toward the front of the cafe' with its cases full of tempting food.

It is always a delight to find a new favorite place in London. I thanked my daughter for pointing this one out. If you’re anywhere near 193 Piccadilly, be sure to stop by. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The food is fantastic, the prices are right, and the staff is incomparable. We left satisfied and happy with our special evening out. After returning to our hotel, I put the girls to bed and waited up for the group from the Globe. They came back bubbling over with excitement at the evening’s performance, leaving me quite envious. It is something not to be missed if you ever have the chance.

And so the 2010 England Tour officially ended. We couldn’t believe how quickly our week had gone by. I said good-byes to several ladies Monday night, as they had early flights. We departed friends, and I know we’ll all stay in touch. I’ll finish up later with one last post to tie everything together. So many good memories!

September 23, 2010

Sunday Night’s London “Dash!”

We drove from Lacock Village straight to our hotel in Kensington, encountering a bit of traffic on the last few miles into the city. That put us at Gloucester Street around ten ’til 6pm. We quickly unloaded the coach and bade farewell to our excellent driver, who had spoiled us all week with his expert driving and amazing ability to get our entire group into tiny places. We knew we were going to miss him! We also said a short good-bye to Suzi, who headed home for the evening. She would rejoin us the next morning at the Museum of London.

Westminster in the twilight--my favorite hour in London!

I had promised to do an evening “dash” around my favorite places in London with any ladies willing to get their walking shoes out and keep up the pace. So after checking in and stowing our bags, a group of us headed out of the hotel for the Gloucester Road tube station to commence our little expedition. Our first stop was the St. James’s Park underground station. We hopped out and walked the short distance down to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, stopping just long enough to take a few pictures. You will have to forgive mine here — they are definitely “impressionist” views of evening London, as I am no expert with this new-fangled camera and all its settings…nor do I have the ability to hold my breath through long shutter exposures! ;-) As you can see, the sun had set, and the amazing blue of the evening sky made a breathtaking backdrop for the cathedral.

A closer view of Westminster....

Another view around the side of Westminster Abbey...

The clock tower across the way -- home to the "Big Ben" bell...

The tallest tower above the Houses of Parliament...

We continued down past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I missed my first turn back up toward St. James’s Park and took us on a two-block “detour” (oops!), but we enjoyed navigating through some pretty and quiet side streets before once again hitting St. James’s Park and turning north towards Buckingham Palace. At this point, Jenny, Nancy, and Stephanie had to bid us adieu and rush back down to Westminster Bridge to cross over to the London Eye, as they had tickets for a ride at 8:30pm. The rest of us forged onwards, skipping walking through the darkening park and instead skirting ’round it to reach the palace.

Buckingham Palace by night with the Victoria Memorial all lit up in front...

Just to prove they'd been there! Five of my seven ladies pose in front of the palace...

We now turned our steps eastwards, walking down the Mall along the perimeter of St. James’s Park, passing the Horse Guards, then going through Marble Arch to reach Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately, I never managed to get a clear photo of the famous Nelson Memorial in the dark! We walked across the street to grab a bite to eat at Pret a’ Manger before continuing towards Charing Cross Station. After passing the station, we turned right to head back downhill towards Embankment. There we turned northeast to follow the Thames around to St. Paul’s. With the dome in sight, dear Karen decided her feet had had enough and asked directions back to our hotel. I pointed back to Westminster and explained how to grab the tube at Westminster station for Gloucester Road. So now we were whittled down to six ladies and yours truly. The walk along the Thames to St. Paul’s is a long one, but it affords a marvelous view of the London skyline, the Eye, the Tate Modern, and Shakespeare’s Globe.

The skyline along the Thames with the London Eye...

So we kept putting one foot in front of the other, headed towards the goal of the beautiful domed cathedral in the distance. It was a fun walk as we chatted and shared tid-bits about London’s history. We ended at the foot of the Millennium Bridge, where we climbed up the stairs to finish the walk uphill to St. Paul’s:

Part of my group walking up towards St. Paul's...

The front of St. Paul's all lit up at night...

The majestic front of St. Paul's with the statue of Queen Anne looking over the city...

We walked around the front of the church to head back toward the St. Paul’s underground station, stopping for a moment to snap some pictures of Temple Bar, one of the older entrance gates into the city of London. It was dismantled in the 19th century and sold when it became impractical for modern vehicular traffic. It ended up languishing in a forgotten garden before the City of London purchased it back and erected on this spot in 2004:

Temple Bar at the entrance to Paternoster Square...

After boarding the tube at St. Paul’s station, we disembarked once again at Piccadilly Circus. I wanted the ladies to be able to say they had seen it at night. To me, it’s more of a very scaled-down Times Square and meant for tourists, but it’s still fun to see. We then boarded the tube for our home station at Gloucester Street, where I snapped the final photo of the night:

Time to rest our feet!

It was such a fun “dash” — nearly two hours of walking a good part of London in good company. Let’s do it again sometime! I promised the ladies I’d create a map to show all the ground we covered, so here it is:

The solid blue lines represent our walking path; the dashed lines show where we traveled underground on the tube.

Next time I’ll talk about our last day together in London on Monday. So hard to believe how quickly the week flew by!

September 20, 2010

Let’s all move to Lacock!

Passing briefly through Lacock Village at the end of last year’s tour only whetted my appetite. I knew immediately that I’d love to stay there or in the vicinity, and I figured my tour guests would enjoy seeing “Meryton” and “Cranford” as much as I did. So after packing up and checking out Sunday, we met the rest of our group in Lacock at their B&B, loaded all the suitcases on the coach, then gave ourselves four hours to thoroughly explore and enjoy this lovely medieval village. Every nook and cranny in Lacock is charming. Inns that have existed since the 15th century sit nestled next to woolen shops and bakeries. On this day we happened upon a craft fair and a local art show, much to the delight of several artisans in our group. Here’s a little walking tour of some of my favorite spots:

Approaching Lacock from the car park behind the Red Lion Inn (which is on the left)...

The garden patio behind the Red Lion...

One of the famous half-timbered houses in the village (recognize it from "Cranford?").

I do love all the multi-paned windows, painted doors, and flower pots!

An abundant garden spills over the wall of one cottage.

The Stable House Tea Room behind the Red Lion. Delicious food and great atmosphere!

Love the Dutch door and window box overflowing with blooms. Ah!

One shop behind The George carries all kinds of hand-made furniture and other English goodies. I adore the hutches!

My girls were absolutely thrilled to find a children’s play area tucked behind a fence across the street from Lacock Abbey (thank you, Trish, for pointing that out!). They played and played until we were ready for lunch:


Around she goes!

After a yummy luncheon in the Stable House Tea Room, my mother, my girls, and I made our way to Lacock Abbey, which I’d never been able to tour. Our National Trust family cards got us in for free (this was a great investment, by the way, as it got us into Killerton and Berrington Hall free as well!). The Abbey is quite an imposing building from a distance, built over 800 years ago by monks and used as a monastery for centuries. But it also has some inviting nooks and little surprises, as you’ll see:

The Abbey from across the fields...

Rounding the side of the Abbey to reach the entrance...

Close-up near the front entrance...

My daughter finds a hidden door just her size at the base of the tower!

Beautiful leaded glass windows...

The cloisters are breathtaking.

Looking through the cloister windows into the courtyard...

I'd love to take the library home with me!

Can't you just picture a Georgian or Regency lady seated at this beautiful harp?

It was hard to get a clear shot of the wonderful music room because of the lighting (no flash allowed!)...

Looking through the doorway into the long gallery....

The Abbey is absolutely crammed with portraits--lots of historical clothing to study here!

I can't believe I managed to pull off a clear shot of the dining room, as it was so dark. The ambiance is absolutely amazing.

This is the last room in the house, filled with sculptures in niches and an amazing carved ceiling.

I could just curl up here with a good book on a winter's night!

My oldest daughter really enjoyed all the trees and shady nooks on the grounds of the Abbey.

Both my daughters loved all the "forts" under the trees. They kept wishing their brothers could be here to join in the fun!

Cyclamen beneath the trees...

The Abbey garden is beautiful, filled with fragrant flowers and herbs...

Down the garden path toward the greenhouse -- heavenly fragrances and colors!

I have to say that Lacock Abbey is one of the most child-friendly “great houses” you can visit. Our girls found an “I-Spy” game card that took them through the house looking for hidden objects in each room. It was a blast! One of the docents told me they love having school groups and children come with parents, and I could tell. Photos are now allowed inside (no flash, of course),  because the Abbey changed its no-photo policy earlier this year after realizing they couldn’t stop all the surreptitious mobile-phone camera shots people were taking and posting online. As the docent told me in a conspiratorial whisper, “We’ve just decided to ‘go with the flow,’ as they say!” I am glad, as it allows me to share what’s inside this beautiful National Trust property with you! If you ever have a chance to visit, I can recommend it highly. One more bonus we enjoyed: a men’s choir group was traveling around singing in famous abbeys and churches and happened to be at Lacock at the same time we were. When I re-entered the cloisters to retrieve our stroller, they were singing a beautiful hymn in harmony. The acoustics made it an incredible experience.

All in all, it was a marvelous day in Lacock. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves before heading back to London to check in at our Kensington hotel. Later I’ll post about Sunday night’s “London Dash!”

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