Giveaway winner: Congratulations to Barbara Elness, Random.org drew you out the hat for the giveaway. I’ll be in touch to get your details!
As some of you know, or would have guessed by my last two posts, I have just spent the last month on a trip to Europe. It was great fun, and I got to see my family and indulge in some wonderful research and visits to the places set in my novels.
I have some videos as well. I’m going to upload them and see how embarrassing they are before sharing them with the world. They are very much a rough and ready affairs, with my filming myself with my iPhone and not a lot of slick preparation. We’ll see . . .
I was able to visit All Saints Church in Fulham, London, and see the only remaining work most likely by Susanna Horenbout, the heroine of my Susanna Horenbout and John Parker novels. Really, really very exciting, the Christmas tree blocking the brass plaque notwithstanding! I was also lucky enough to get to the V & A Museum in London, and see the Miniatures Portrait Gallery, which contained miniatures by Lucas Horenbout, the brother of my heroine, as well as Hans Holbein the Younger and Levina Teerlinc, Lucas and Susanna’s younger contemporary who later worked as a court painter to Elizabeth I.
I also travelled up to the Lake District, and almost didn’t get to leave it, because the day we headed up for Scotland it rained so hard, the lake began lapping across the road, and quite frankly, we almost got locked in. My husband and I both love the Lake District. We’ve visited there before and had such a wonderful time, we had to take the kids back. We went for a walk through the pristine Grizedale Forest, where you could really imagine all manner of mythical creatures peeping out at you, and visited the Beatrix Potter Exhibition Centre, which has been set up since we were last there and was well worth the visit.
In Scotland we celebrated Hogmanay with my cousin and her husband, and then set off for Stirling Castle. When I was in New York two years ago, I was really sorry I didn’t have time to get to the Cloisters Museum to see the Unicorn Tapestries. However, what a treat awaited me at Stirling Castle, where I discovered the Unicorn Tapestries had been recreated using the medieval and renaissance methods to duplicate them. Master weavers from all over the world have been drafted into the project, and they work at Stirling Castle itself and at West Dean in Scotland. They painstakingly copied the original tapestries at Cloisters Museum, and the result is so beautiful. Of course, these tapestries look like the originals would have looked when they were first made in the early 1500s, whereas the originals are in much worse condition, having at one point thought to be used to cover potatoes in a barn!
The reason the Unicorn Tapestries have been duplicated to hang on the walls of the Queen’s Inner Chamber at Stirling is because in the 16th Century inventories found at the castle, a series of tapestries referred to as The Unicorn Tapestries is mentioned as having been purchased. These tapestries have disappeared and it was felt that given they would also have been commissioned from the same artists and weavers who created the Unicorn Tapestries which now hang in the Cloisters Museum, recreating those works would most closely match what would have hung on the walls in Stirling. The result is spectacular.
After a bit longer in London, we headed for Istanbul to stay with my sister who has been living there for the last three years. My children had been desperate for snow, southern hemisphere kids that they are, and they finally got their wish in Istanbul with two days of constant snow. Lots of snow balls were thrown and snowmen built. We explored The Cistern, the amazing underground waterways designed by the Romans to bring a fresh supply of water to the city. At the bottom of one of the pillars is the upside-down head of Medusa, and on another, one of Medusa with her head on the side. We also got to see the magnificent Hagia Sophia Museum and the absolutely breathtaking Blue Mosque. Really, the atmosphere in all these places is palpable and the art and architecture is really lovely.
So, given that today is my day for a giveaway, I’m giving away three momentos of my trip: a keyring depicting one of the unicorn tapestries, a London keyring, and a fridge magnet of the London skyline, along with a $10 Amazon voucher. Just comment and tell me your favorite holiday destination, or one you’d really love to visit, by end of Friday this week, when I’ll use random.org to draw a winner.