There's a lot to be said for the ease of having a travel agent put together an itinerary for you. On the other hand, from my perspective, there's more to be said for spending months roaming the internet, canvassing fellow Instagrammers, putting your own programme together. It's a form of entertainment in itself!
My first go-to these days is always Instagram - it’s a knowledgeable and sophisticated travelling community and everyone is happy to share favourite places. I have Janelle McCulloch's London Secrets which is the perfect travel guide and she's messaged me more ideas - she's truly one of the most generous people I know. And I'm a devotee of Luxe Guides - specially since they asked me to write a photo essay for them - obviously women of good taste -:). Then I made a list of everything suggested to me and anything recommended three times became a must-do.
We're (I mean you and me) staying for the first week in a flat in Kensington. Apart from a research-related day trip to Portsmouth Harbour with a local guide and a couple of other visits, for most of that week we'll see the sights.
We’ll stroll the pretty garden squares and mews from Kensington Palace down to Sloane Street, wander the shops, visit the Design Museum just off the High Road, The Frida exhibition at the V & A, Covent Garden and the inner city Petersham Nursery, Columbia Flower markets, Leadenhall markets, the Soane Museum, Somerset House on the Thames, St Dunstan-in-the-East and a guided tour of the Design Biennale. The list goes on and on! I know we can't do it all.
If you've travelled with me before, you know that I create itineraries which would give a maxi-hyperactive night sweats. But I always feel quite relaxed about amending or just discarding the day's programme if the whim takes me.
I’m not big on dinner when I'm travelling, specially on my own, so I plan to be in my jammies at home each night. But I’ll take you somewhere nice for lunch each day, this first week anyway.
photo courtesy psyberartist via Wikimedia Commons
In the second week we fly to Cork because part of the novel is set in or near there. We’ll be visiting the archives (I've ordered documents), the harbour, the city libraries, getting a general feel for the city.
photo courtesy Bantry House
We'll pick up a car you and I, and drive through the local Irish countryside, staying overnight in a couple of quaint hotels.
Then back to London for two weeks research at the National Archives in Kew. I'm ordering documents online now to read on the first day. After that I order as I go.
photo courtesy Coach & Horses hotel
We're staying at an English pub in Kew - it’s only steps away from the archives. The rooms look pleasant and it's mostly booked out, so it can't be doing too much wrong.
image by Diliff via Wikimedia Commons
I have no idea whether I'll need every second I've allowed at the archives, but I do want to take you to Kew Gardens and a few other Richmond attractions if I can.
photo courtesy of Berkeley Hotel
In the middle weekend of our researching fortnight, when the archives are closed and co-incidentally there were no rooms available at the pub, we’re going back to the centre of London - I have a Press pass for the London Design Fair (no idea what that means), we'll have an English afternoon tea, maybe go to the Royal Albert for a concert, maybe find a hidden garden, just soak London up.
click image above to bring up detailed itinerary - may not work on mobiles
Although the weather should be mild early in the trip, there's a possibility of colder weather at the end of September. I'm becoming practised at packing light - 7.5kg in a very small book-through bag, and a Longchamp Le Pliage zipped cabin bag for my laptop which sits on the suitcase when I'm walking.
You've seen lots of these before: Brunello Cucinelli grey velvet pants, BC belt, Fabiana Filippi jumper, Zoe Karssen tshirt, Le Tricot Perugia fabric brooch, and the grey Majestic cotton jacket which goes on and on.
Casual and relaxed in the packing department - neutral colours as usual, textural contrasts.
S'Max Mara cashmere jumper, 3 tshirts (Casa Kuma, Le Tricot Perugia, Alexander Wang), Venti6 pants.
Three of pairs of duds in grey or oatmeal, three T-shirts, a similarly coloured light cashmere jumper or two.
Brunello Cucinelli sparkly cashmere jacket (about 10 years old), Fabiana Filippi showerproof coat, Paula Ryan lightweight pants.
One decent jacket (the BC one above), one unstructured casual (the Majestic cotton one), one or two light cashmere scarves, a showerproof coat and a folding umbrella for the London drizzle. And I'll throw in my very lightweight puffer jacket just in case of extreme cold - it weighs nothing - thanks Bernie!
One pair of (waterproofed) Ecco grey nubuck sneakers and another Edward Meller pair, sox to go with them if it's chilly. No dressy shoes. Voilà!
So that's it buddies. I haven't actually put it in the suitcase, but it's all there in a heap now, ready to go.
You won't hear from me now until I'm in London next week. See you there!