As I shook the raindrops off my umbrella and crossed the threshold of 40 Gay Street on Queen Square, in Bath that day, it hit me like an electric jolt. Her feet must have touched the same stones mine were now grazing and her hand must have rested on the doorframe just as mine was. Though I knew for certain that her opinion of Bath was far more critical than mine (I love the place – she disliked it!) I still felt sure that Jane and I would have found common ground to discuss over a cup of tea or two.
I am, I confess, a full-on Jane Austen groupie and visiting the home where she and her family lived during their short stay in Bath was a thrill – the kind of thrill crazy English Lit majors like me experience all over the U.K. The books and plays we’ve devoured all come to life as we see the moors on which the moody Lord Byron wandered, the austere parsonage in the Yorkshire village of Haworth where the Bronte sisters conjured up Heathcliffe and Mr. Rochester, the Globe Theater where the Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed plays written for them by one William Shakespeare, and the Irish pubs (many, many pubs it would seem) where Dylan Thomas drank, caroused and wrote some of the world’s greatest poetry. For lovers of theater and literature, the United Kingdom and Ireland feels instantly familiar, even if the visit is your first.
And that’s just the beginning of our love affair with all things British, Irish, Scottish and Welsh. In this issue, you’ll discover that we’ve put the spotlight on this part of the world in a way we never have before. By narrowing our focus, we’ve created an intimate look at lands that are central to so much of our North American culture which must be experienced, explored and appreciated. Our writers have jumped into this special issue with great enthusiasm and we hope you’ll enjoy your armchair tour through Wales with editor emeritus Tin Thomas; Southwest England with Janie Robinson; Ireland and exploits from a British coach tour with Allan Lynch, and London with me! To round it out, we’ve included the next installment of our world cruise series, a tour of the fabulous new Quantum of the Seas with our publisher Vanessa Lee, a tale from the decks of the Queen Mary 2 and an interview with a woman who provides the creative magic behind not only one of the world’s most luxurious hotel groups but also an uber-elegant river cruise line.
Though our next issue will include a much broader range of destinations, we’ve had great fun with this special issue. It’s rather like the difference between inviting a few dozen people over for cocktails or having one really close friend come for a quiet dinner. The big party offers lots of opportunities for mixing and mingling, but the tête-à-tête is where you really get down to it!