Stephanie Burgis
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I've been waiting and waiting to write this entry until our photos were transferred onto the computer...but since it might well be another week before I get around to doing that, here's an entry anyway, photo-less, in the meantime.

Bristol was lovely, as always--it's one of my favorite cities in the UK, since it mixes gorgeous old buildings and Roman stuff with a cool shopping area and great independent coffee shops. (Now if only the houses weren't so godawful expensive...but it's a good place to visit, anyway.) The total highlight of the trip, though, and of my year so far (and the day all our photos were taken!) was our day-trip to Bath.

Bath. Whoa. Be still my Jane-Austen-loving-heart! Bath was amazing. For anyone who's ever read (or seen movies of) Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, or heck, any number of post-Austen Regency romances...going to Bath meant getting to see the real setting, and it was even cooler than I'd hoped for. The city itself is beautiful, and the history is even better. We started the day off at our favorite independent coffee shop, The Boston Tea Party (which has branches in both Bristol and Bath), then moved on to a mongo museum day.

The Jane Austen Center was enormously fun in its own right and reminded me of just how much I really love her writing. Now I really want to read her letters to her sister, having read many beautifully snarky excerpts in the museum. My favorite comes when she was talking about the current literary hype for absolutely perfect, pure and 100% virtuous heroines:
Pictures of perfection as you know make me sick and wicked.
The museum was also fabulous research for Congress of Shadows, since, among other things, they had lots of original, authentic outfits on display from just exactly the right time period! I scribbled notes and took photos like crazy. It's amazing how much it helps to actually see the clothes being worn on models in front of you, rather than just looking at pictures and descriptions in books. Suddenly the descriptions make sense, and everything takes on new life.

Which leads right into our next museum, which was also mind-blowingly helpful in terms of book research (this time for Masks & Shadows): the Museum of Costume. Coollest of all, this museum is actually located in the same building as the old Assembly Rooms (still beautifully-preserved) where all those Austen heroines danced, took tea and watched concerts. (And hey, where Jane Austen did all those things, too.) The museum wasn't actually as helpful as I'd hoped for with Regency outfits, but it had a fabulous 18th-century selection. Patrick and I wandered around figuring out exactly what Charlotte (my heroine in M&S), Carlo (my castrato hero) and Sophie (Charlotte's bratty younger sister, and Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy's mistress) would have worn. It was so much fun.

And last of all, the Roman baths, which had nothing to do with either of my novels, but turned out to be possibly the coolest, weirdest and most wonderful (and inspiring) sight of the day. But those, I think, really do have to wait until I transfer the pictures over.


In the meantime, I had to go back to work on Thursday (sigh). No more days off until May...

On the other hand, we have registered for WisCon--hurray! And yesterday we finally watched Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, which I totally, totally loved. I'm a huge fan of the books, and I thought this was the best of the movies by far--it got both the plot (which the last one had) and the emotional core of the story (which the first two had). And I was bouncingly happy after watching it. :)

Now I'm off to continue reading Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, which is a brilliant, compelling and gorgeously atmospheric new Dracula novel with lovely allusions to Bram Stoker...although it did give me hideous nightmares last night. (Yeah, I know, I'm a wimp.) Maybe I can finish it by early afternoon, and read something less creepy before bedtime tonight...

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