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Friday, July 25, 2014


I am gasping for a cuppa. A cuppa coffee at Caffe Nero, that is. I can't get enough of it and now that London is once again in my sights, I'm lusting for one. Turns out that Denise Costello, who is coming along on The Duke of Wellington Tour with us in September, is also a devotee. We've struck a bargain to see who will be the first to reach the eleventh free coffee Caffe Nero awards on their loyalty card.

I have a sneaking idea we'll be reaching the target together.

Dreaming of my next cup of coffee in London got me thinking about the other London foods I usually indulge in - old favourites that never disappoint. Like bangers and mash.

As Victoria well knows, bangers and mash are my "go to" food, my comfort food and what I can be counted upon to order, at least once a day. Add grilled onions and a side of green peas and it's heaven. Of course, one can't eat bangers and mash without washing it down with a pint and, oddly enough, my brew of choice in England is Kronenbourg 1664, which sounds German, but is brewed in France. And since I drink it in England, that's most of the Waterloo nations covered.

I always try to visit London's Chinatown when I'm in London, specifically for the roasted Peking duck that hangs tantalizingly in most windows there.

I was introduced to Chinatown many years ago by Dr. David Parker, who was then the curator of the Dickens House Museum. I've been returning ever since and will no doubt be popping in again in September. You can read about the history of the area here.

No trip to London would be complete without indulging in afternoon tea and my place of choice are the Richoux Tea Rooms on Piccadilly. There are fancier places, and trendier places, for tea, but Richoux is the grand old lady of tea shop chains, dependably good, always cozy. Rather like a visit to granny's.

Regency author Diane Gaston, who also blogs at Risky Regencies, has signed up for the Tour and, along with Victoria, we're looking forward to returning to Richoux during our Sunday walking tour of the St. James's area of London.

Finally, because I'm such a cheese lover, I'm going to make a point of stopping in to Paxton and Whitfield in Jermyn Street.

It's one of those places I've always meant to spend time in and that I never seem to get around to visiting. You can read about the history of the shop - since 1797 - here.

Honourable mention goes out to the American Steak House, the Angus Steak House and the Aberdeen Steak House, three chains with outlets throughout London. They're literally everywhere.

Priced right, these places are nothing fancy, but the steaks can be depended upon and they're convenient.

Honourable mention also to Burger and Lobster, which I discovered on my last trip to London - you can read about it here. 

Burger and Lobster has a rather limited menu - lobster, burger or lobster roll. Twenty pounds each. The lobsters are cooked perfectly, the drinks ditto, so be prepared to wait for a table. They don't take reservations, but definitely worth the visit.

Do you have a favourite "foodie" destination in London? If so, please leave a comment and let us know about it!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Victoria here, writing about the presentation I am making on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, to the Beau Monde conference in San Antonio: The Battle of Waterloo and A Visit to the Battleground, June, 2010.

Hero of the day, the 1st Duke of Wellington

We have written many times on this blog about Waterloo, the battle, and our visit.  The most complete account is here.  I'll be using many of the same pictures in my talk in San Antonio.

Wellington, portrayed at the decisive moment of Coalition victory
Robert A. Hillingford Artist

However my emphasis for the writers of Regency-set Historical Novels is a bit broader.  What led up to Waterloo and what did it mean in the grand sweep of history? A bit of analysis and a lot of significance.

Napoleon in Exile

After almost a century of war among the European powers, particularly between Britain and France, Napoleon abdicated in June 1814 and was sent to Elba where he was to rule just one relatively small island.

Meanwhile, the European Powers convened the Congress of Vienna to decide what to do with the  lands Napoleon had attempted to annex to his empire.  In the midst of the Vienna consultations, in February 1815, Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France.  Within a short period he had reestablished his reign, returned to Paris, and assembled an army. The Congress declared him an outlaw, set up a new Army of the 7th Coalition, and continued its deliberations.

In June, 1815, Napoleon and his army marched north into Belgium (then the Kingdom of the Netherlands) where he hoped to take Brussels as the first step in reasserting his imperial powers.  Two of the 7th Coalition armies were nearby; Napoleon hoped to prevent them from joining together.

In the two days of battle and maneuvers that preceded Sunday June 18, Napoleon was almost successful.

But on the fateful day, Wellington's forces were able to hold off and ultimately defeat the French; the Prussians under General Blucher arrived in the nick of time. For all practical purposes, Napoleon was forever finished.

Waterloo after the battle by Joseph Mallord William Turner RA (1775–1851), Tate Britain

Turner's painting portrays the horrors of the aftermath, the wounded and dying men and horses, the mud, the searching and grieving friends and relatives, the scavengers, the essential darkness. To stand before it is to feel in your bones the horror of war.

The re-enactors of 2010

In June of 2010, Kristine and I toured the battlefields of the three-day campaign, visited the encampments of the re-enactors from all over Europe, and watched the actual staging of part of the battle itself.

June 18, 2010

Cavalry charges

After Napoleon surrendered once again, he was sent to the remote south Atlantic island of St. Helena where he died in 1821. The settlements signed at the Congress of Vienna were put into effect and there was a general peace, with short intervals of smaller wars, until the outbreak of World War I, almost a hundred years later. In fact WWI prevented any important commemorations of Waterloo, so next year will be a particularly important tribute and memorial.

For more information on Waterloo200, click here.          

A modern take of what enabled the Coalition victory under Wellington over Napoleon is here (50 mins, from Youtube).  It gives a modern take on why the French were defeated.