Visiting Biltmore, the North Carolina home of the Vanderbilts

Welcome to Biltmore, the spectacular home of the Vanderbilts in Asheville, North Carolina – although it may seem hard to imagine this fairy-tale mansion as a family home, when it has a total of 250 rooms! Ready to see inside? It’s even more impressive than the French chateau-inspired exterior suggests… Here is one of my…

Review: “Sanditon” by Jane Austen & Kate Riordan

This is such a treat of a review for me today – I’m so grateful to Grand Central Publishing for gifting me a copy of Sanditon to read and review to coincide with its release in the US on PBS. Did you catch the first episode on Sunday? I have a confession to make: although…

Walking in the footsteps of Jane Austen in Hampshire

Even though I wax lyrical on every single platform about how much I love Jane Austen, I’ve never visited her house at Chawton or her grave in Winchester Cathedral – until this week. We went on a lovely trip to Hampshire and had a beautiful day (helped by the British sunshine) exploring Jane Austen’s House…

An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at The Wallace Collection

I realised a couple of weeks ago that, even though I’ve spent plenty of time visiting galleries and museums in London, that I’d never actually been to the Wallace Collection. I have been meaning to go for ages, and decided that, last weekend, I had a free morning in London and it was time to…

Pretending to be Cinderella in Toronto: the Bata Shoe Museum

English shoes, 1760s, silk from early seventeenth century (The Gold Standard exhibition) Aside from art, country houses and Jane Austen, one of my biggest passions is shoes. I’ve loved shoes since I was very small, the more outlandish and brightly coloured the better, and relished the day that my feet stayed the same size so…

Elena Cornaro Piscopia (1646 – 1684): First woman to gain a PhD

Portrait of Elena Cornaro Piscopia: unknown artist, possibly 18th century. Wikimedia Commons: find the original here.  Today marks 340 years since the first woman gained her PhD. In wake of the wonderful #ImmodestWomen explosion on Twitter, which has encouraged women to own their achievements and celebrate their PhDs and research following a stand made by…

“C’est mon plaisir” – Isabella Stewart Gardner and her collection

Isabella Stewart Gardner by John Singer Sargent, 1888, oil on canvas (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum P30WI) Above the central portal to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum is her motto: “C’est mon plaisir” (“it is my pleasure”) This sums up perfectly the collection housed at Fenway Court: a unique and beautiful museum created by a unique…