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Mt Vesuvius Erupts, this day in history #travel

Mt Vesuvius erupted at midday on 24 August in the year 79AD. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed and thousands of Romans died during the eruption.

Quite a lot is known about the day and the aftermath since Pliny the Younger witnessed and wrote about the eruption. 14 – 17 feet of ash and pumice buried the city of Pompeii while mud and volcanic material devastated Herculaneum. Locals, who had escaped, returned later to salvage their belongings but mostly the cities were forgotten. It wasn’t until the 18th century when a well-digger discovered the ruins of Herculaneum. In 1748 a farmer found traces of Pompeii beneath his grapevines.

Mount Vesuvius remains active but hasn’t erupted since 1944. It is the only active volcano on mainland Europe.

Pompeii

Pompeii with Mt Vesuvius in background

Main street in Pompeii

The above photos were all taken at Pompeii.

Herculaneum

Herculaneum

Herculaneum

Herculaneum

Herculaneum and Mt Vesuvius in background

I enjoyed wandering around Herculaneum. It was quieter and less touristy with more to see. The volcanic mud preserved the buildings better than the ash did at Pompeii. The above five photos are from Herculaneum, and you can see Mt Vesuvius in the background of the fifth photo.

View from top of Mt Vesuvius

This is the view from the top of Mt Vesuvius. You can see how dense the population is in Naples. I’ve visited Naples three times and have yet to get a truly clear shot of the mountain. Every time I go, it’s hazy. Below you can see the crater plus me posing at the top.

The crater

Me at the top of the mountain

We caught a bus from Naples that drove almost to the top of the mountain. We walked briskly for almost an hour to get to the summit. If you’re ever in the vicinity, I highly recommend a visit to all three sites.

Get Ready for Dunkirk #history #giveaways #IARTG

Dunkirk Image 1

Are you ready for Dunkirk? So are we! And we’re not just talking about Christopher Nolan’s upcoming summer blockbuster movie. Beyond the major motion picture, there is Dunkirk Week WWII Epic Novel Sale.

Discounted Books for 99c each

40+ authors of the Facebook Second World War Club have joined together for the "Dunkirk Week WWII Epic Novels Sale". From July 21-27 (the opening week of “Dunkirk”), we will discount a selection of our books to 99c to bring you more riveting tales of WWII from around the world.
This is a great chance to discover some awesome WWII stories. To find out more, go to: http://alexakang.com/dunkirk-book-sale/
We have tons of fun and interesting online events planned including:

Prizes & Giveaways

Join us too for:

6/26 A viewing Dunkirk Promo Official Trailer

6/29 A viewing of the book trailer for “Girl at Dunkirk” by David Spiller

7/3 A viewing of the book trailer for “The Yankee Years” by Dianne Ascroft

7/5 A viewing of the book trailer for “45th Nail” by Ian Lahey

7/7 Our Authors’ Pick of the Top 40 WWII Movies of all times.

7/10 A viewing of the book trailer for “Unrelenting” by Marion Kummerow

7/13 A viewing of the book trailer for “Luzon” by Richard Barnes

7/14 The Book Speak Podcast reading of Roberta Kagan’s “All My Love, Detrick”

7/17 Part One of our special two-part blog series on Dunkrik by Suzy Hendersen

7/19     A viewing of the book trailer for “Eternal Flame” by Alexa Kang

7/21     Dunkirk Week WWII Epic Book Sale begins with The Book Speak Podcast reading of “The Girl at Dunkirk” by David Spiller

7/22    Part Two of our special two-part blog series on Dunkirk by by Jeremy Strozer

7/24    Movie review of Dunkirk by Alexa Kang

Bookmark this page and be sure you won’t miss out:  http://alexakang.com/dunkirk-book-sale/

Vintage Cars Are Sexy #travel

One of the things I enjoyed during the Art Deco Festival in Napier, New Zealand, was the huge number of vintage cars. The vintage cars always draw my eye. The muted colors – hunter green, burgundy and cream. The gleaming paintwork and proud owners. They are reminders of an earlier age, and with my love of history, I like that.

Some facts about Vintage Cars:

  1. The serious collector or enthusiast considers any car from the period 1919 – 1930 to be a vintage car.
  2. The Ford Model T was the first mass-produced automobile and dates back to 1913. The Model T was the first affordable car for the average man.
  3. Vehicles from the pre-vintage period are often referred to as Horseless carriages.
  4. Francois Isaac de Rivaz designed the first car in 1807. It was powered by an internal combustion engine and ran on fuel gas.
  5. Automobile trips were normally short, but in August 1888, Carl Benz’s wife, Bertha Benz, became the first person to drive a car over a long distance. She set off with her sons without telling her husband. Girl power!

Here is a selection of vintage cars photographed during the 2017 Art Deco Festival in Napier.

Vintage1

Vintage2

Vintage3

Vintage4

Vintage5

And this is the car we went for a ride in around Napier.

Vintage_Car

Vintage_Paul

Vintage_Shelley

Are you a fan of vintage cars?

Sally Lunn Takes Bath by Storm

Solange Luyon, a French Huguenot, arrived in Bath, England in 1680. She gained employment in a bakery and baked her own special recipe – a brioche bun, which was a dough enriched with egg. The buns were sold in the bakery where Solange worked and out in the street. Customers started to call in at the shop to request the buns, and they became fashionable amongst the wealthy Georgians who ate them cut open and spread with butter.

The buns were named Sally Lunn, and it is thought that this was an Anglicization of Solange’s French name.

These days the Sally Lunn is still a very popular treat. The Sally Lunn shop still exists in Bath and operates as a teashop. It’s a busy place and hubby and I were lucky to book a table for an early dinner.

Sally Lunn Shop Bath

This is the outside frontage of Sally Lunn’s. Diners can sit either downstairs or upstairs.

Sally Lunn Shelley

This is me with part of a Sally Lunn to go with my soup. The bun is very light and tasty.

Sally Lunn Paul

The Sally Lunn bun was used as a trencher (an old-fashioned plate made of bread) with the main course. Hubby had chicken and vegetables on his trencher.

Sally Lunn Window

This is a photo of the shop frontage and shows a basket of Sally Lunn. The tops are rounded and the bottoms flat. Of course, once I tried my first bun, I decided I needed to find a recipe. Mission accomplished. As soon as I get a free weekend, I’m going to attempt to bake my own Sally Lunn buns. Watch this space!

Have you tried a Sally Lunn?

Roll Over! Beds & Bedrooms Through History

Black and Blue Master Bedroom

The other day I picked up a copy of IF WALLS COULD TALK, an Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley. It’s a fascinating read, full of all those small social details that we often don’t hear about when we’re reading about history.

Here are a selection of things I’ve learned about beds and bedrooms.

1. Medieval people led more communal lives than us. At night they would sleep in the great hall, glad of the safe place of rest. The hall reeked of smoke and body odor, but it was safer than sleeping outside.

2. Medieval people who held jobs within the manor would sleep in their place of work. e.g. laundry maids would sleep in the laundry and the kitchen lads would sleep next to the fire in the kitchens.

3. A bed during medieval times usually consisted of hay stuffed in a sack, hence the saying hitting the hay.

4. A big bed would be shared, sometimes with strangers. Customs and etiquette developed regarding the communal bed. Families would lie in order of birth. If guests came to visit and stayed overnight, the father and mother would sleep in the middle of the bed between their children and strangers to prevent any naughtiness during the night.

5. The lord and lady of a manor would sleep in an adjoining room called the chamber or solar. It was a multi-function room but it usually contained a wooden bed.

6. During Tudor times the four-poster bed was the most expensive item in the house.

7. Tudor four-posters had bed strings on which the mattress sat. These would sag under the weight of the bed’s occupant and required constant tightening. This is where the expression, “Night, night, sleep tight.” comes from.

8. Housewives would accumulate lots of bed linen, enough to last a month so that laundry only needed to be done once a month. I’m glad I’m not responsible for the laundry!

9. During the 17th century bedrooms were on the upper floor. They led off each other, which meant the owner of the first bedroom had people trooping through all the time to get to the rest of the bedrooms. That would make for a restful night…

10. Corridors appeared toward the end of the 17th century, which meant the Georgians started to treat their bedrooms as more private spaces than those people of earlier ages. Their bedrooms were used as social rooms where they received special friends, conducted business and study.

11. During Victorian times privacy became paramount. Even husbands and wives had separate bedrooms and bedroom activities were confined to sleeping and sex.

12. Bedclothes consisted of many layers of sheets, blankets and eiderdowns until the 1970s and the introduction of the duvet. I, for one, am glad of this invention. Bedmaking takes mere seconds each morning.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I get to have a modern bedroom with my own bed. Sharing it with hubby—no problem. That seems minor when I think of those medieval great halls!

What does your dream bed/bedroom look like?

Lucien St Clare, The Spurned Viscountess @CarinaPress #historical

Meet the hero from The Spurned Viscountess, a historical romance set in 1720 England.

Lucien

Name: Lucien St Clare

Title: Viscount Hastings

Age: mid-twenties

Appearance: Tall, over six foot. Long dark black hair. Mahogany brown eyes. Tanned skin since he spends a lot of time outdoors. His face is scarred, the puckered scar running from his left eye to his jaw.

Hangouts: He currently lives at Castle St. Clare in East Sussex, England. Prior to this, he lived in Italy, near Naples on the Bacci estate with his wife, Francesca.

Reason for the move: Fragments of his forgotten memory have started to return to him, memories that place him in England. He can’t remember much about St. Clare at all. Yep, he has nasty amnesia.

Reason for staying: Someone from the area murdered his wife and their unborn child. He’s desperate for revenge.

Big problem: The Earl of St. Clare expects him to go through with an arranged marriage to Rosalind, a small English mouse of a woman.

In Lucien’s words.

“Everyone tells me my name is George, that I’m the long lost heir, Viscount Hastings. I could leave and return to the Bacci estates in Italy, but I burn for revenge. Those bastards who murdered my wife and unborn child must pay for their crimes. Someone called Hawk ordered her murder. It seems a coincidence there’s a Hawk operating the smuggling ring—too much of a happenstance in my opinion. I’m investigating, looking for clues, but meantime I have to deal with my new wife. She’s small, blond and reminds me of a mouse. I tried to put her off the idea of marriage to me, but she was set on the marriage.

She’s not very good at following orders and I’m forever running across her in places I told her not to visit. Trouble is her middle name. She’s stubborn, frustrating, irritating and she’s getting under my skin. I find myself thinking about her at the oddest moments…”

The Spurned Viscountess Blurb:

The Spurned ViscountessShe must marry him.

Cursed with the sight and rumors of witchcraft, Rosalind’s only chance at an ordinary life is marriage to Lucien, Viscount Hastings. She doesn’t expect love, only security and children of her own. Determined to go through with the wedding, she allows nothing she encounters at the gloomy Castle St. Clare to dissuade her.

He wants nothing to do with her.

Recently returned from the Continent, Lucien has no time for the English mouse his family has arranged for him to marry, not when he’s plotting to avenge the murder of his beloved Francesca. He has no intention of bedding Rosalind, not even to sire an heir.

Dark secrets will bind them.

Though spurned by her bridegroom, Rosalind turns to him for protection when she is plagued by a series of mysterious accidents and haunted by terrifying visions. Forced to keep Rosalind close, and tempted into passionate kisses, Lucien soon finds himself in grave danger of falling in love with his own wife…

Currently on sale for 99c at some retailers.

Purchase at: Carina Press| Amazon Kindle| All Romance eBooks| Kobo| iBooks| Nook|

World War 1 and ANZAC Girls

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of World War 1.

Earlier this year, Mr Munro and I visited Flander’s Fields in Belgium. It was a sobering and emotional experience seeing Tyne Cot, the Commonwealth war cemetery, and also the Menin Gate Memorial. There are so many unmarked graves at Tyne Cot—all from Commonwealth countries. The Menin Gate memorial commemorates 55,000 men who died and do not have graves. So many names, many of them very young. Just heart-breaking.

MrMunro_TyneCot

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium

Tyne Cot

A few of the many headstones. Some have names while others show the country with the name unknown.

TyneCot

The cemetery is beautifully kept.

Menin Gate

This is the Menin Gate memorial. The Last Post is played here every night and our guide said the crowds get bigger every year.

Menin Gate Top

Menin Gate again.

Menin Gat Interior

This is a shot of the interior of the gate and some of the 55000 names engraved into the walls.

Tonight we watched a new TV series called ANZAC Girls. It’s set during the time of the Gallipoli campaign. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch it, because I knew it would pull at the heartstrings. The series focuses on the nurses who traveled from Australia and New Zealand and who worked on hospital ships off Gallipoli or in Cairo. The show is based on fact and is fairly graphic and real when it comes to the medical scenes. I thought the first show was good and time will tell if I can make it through the entire series.

Golden Square, London

Visitors to London will notice there are lots of green areas in the Westminster and central city areas. Some offer workers a breath of fresh air and a place to while away their time during a lunch break while others are a private oasis available to the surrounding homeowners.

London’s squares date back to the mid 17th century. They were an English concept, copied by other cities and countries.

Golden Square (thought to originate from Gelding Close when the land was used for grazing horses) began life in 1673 when John Emlyn and Isaac Symball initiated development here.

Early residents of the thirty-nine houses that surrounded the square were the Duke of Chandos, the 1st Viscount Bolingbroke and the Duchess of Cleveland. During its early years the square was a political centre and a sought-after address. This changed by the 1750s when newer and more fashionable addresses to the west on the Burlington estates became favored.

Foreign diplomats moved in from 1724 to 1768 and later 18th century residents included dancer Elizabeth Gamberini and singer Caterina Gabrielli.

Charles Dickens used Golden Square as a setting for one of the houses in his novel Nicholas Nickelby in 1839. The woollen and worsted trade moved in toward the end of the 19th century.

During the Second World War an air raid shelter was dug beneath the garden and the iron fence taken for salvage. Restoration work took place after the war and the garden was opened to the public in November 1952.

We visited on a sunny weekday and the square was full of workers eating their lunches. Not a bad place to be during a lunch break.

Golden Square

Golden Square Sign

Golden Square

Sources:

Informational sign at Golden Square

The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

13 Facts Learned from Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England

Thursday Thirteen

I’m currently reading Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England, How Our Ancestors Lived Two Centuries Ago by Roy & Lesley Adkins. While the title mentions Jane Austen and there are excerpts from her correspondence, this book really deals with birth, life and death during the period of Jane’s life – 1775 to 1817. I find some non-fiction titles a bit dry, but I’m actually reading a lot of this one. A good sign!

Thirteen Interesting Facts Learned from Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England

1. Armed with the might of the Bastardy Act (1733) parish overseers would take unmarried mothers to the magistrate where they were forced to reveal the name of their baby’s father. The father was then offered the choice of marrying the woman or paying the parish with the costs of raising the child or a prison sentence

2. Forced marriages were commonplace – either in the case mentioned above or one arranged by parents to ensure their children were secure. Happiness was secondary to wealth.

3. Finding  a suitable husband was difficult and stressful since men were in short supply due to war injuries and fatalities.  Also those in apprenticeships weren’t allowed to marry.

4. Weddings took place in the church, and they were low key compared to our modern day weddings.

5. Weddings took place in the morning due to a canon law, which endured until 1886

6. Divorce was difficult. There was, however, a poor man’s version of divorce where a man could sell his wife. It was thought if a man tied a rope around his wife’s neck and led her to a public place then sold her this was a binding and legal transaction. Sometimes these sales were pre-arranged. Sometimes the wife was agreeable to the sale.

7. When a woman lost her husband she could be thrust into dire straits because property and wealth was generally passed to a male heir. Therefore many widows remarried fairly quickly.

8. A successful marriage was one that produced children. Women were constantly pregnant and many women died in childbirth.

9. Multiple births were rare and were to the people of the time, remarkable. The news of a multiple birth would make the paper.

10. Living conditions were crowded and privacy scarce since most of those with modest incomes housed their servants. Life was a constant round of banging doors and chatter.

11. Servants could be found at hiring fairs or by recommendations from friends or family members. In 1777 there was a tax on male servants and in 1785 those who employed female servants were also taxed.

12. Coal was the main fuel for households and a fire was the central point of each room, providing heat and light. Smoke could be a problem, filling rooms on windy days or if the chimney became blocked.

13. Unattended candles caused a lot of house fires. In larger towns there were fire brigades who mainly dealt with insured properties (those with a fire mark to prove they’d paid their insurance). 

I’ve only read a third of the book so far, and I’m sure there are many interesting facts in store for me. I really need to write a story featuring a wife sale! If you’re interested in checking out this book here is the link to Amazon – Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England

Southampton, Winchester and Jane Austen

During our recent visit to Great Britain, we stayed in Southampton and did a day trip to Winchester. These are both places with Jane Austen connections, and as a writer I was intrigued.

After Jane’s father died, the family had to move to Southampton for financial reasons. Jane, her sister and mother moved in with a married son. We stayed at the Dolphin hotel in Southampton, which is where Jane reportedly went dancing. Jane Austen’s 21st birthday party was held in the ballroom at this hotel. We also wandered along the city wall promenade where Jane Austen walked with her family.

Dolphin Hotel, Southampton

Jane lived in Chawton, Alton from 1809 to 1817 with her mother, her sister Cassandra and a friend Martha Lloyd. Jane became ill with a mystery disease (some sources say it was her kidneys) and Cassandra and Jane traveled to Winchester in order to receive better medical treatment. They stayed in a Castle Street house (currently a private residence) and Jane died at age 41 on 18 July 1817.

JaneAusten_CastleStreet

Jane was laid to rest at the Winchester cathedral. Her memorial stone doesn’t mention her writing and a brass plaque was added in 1872 to rectify this shortcoming.

Memorial Stone, Winchester Cathedral

Double click for larger version

JaneAusten_BrassPlaque

Brass Plaque commemorating Jane Austen’s writing.

There are lots of Jane Austen landmarks in Winchester and the surrounding Hampshire countryside. I visited only a few, given my limited time, but it was a pleasure and a privilege walking in Jane’s footsteps.

Are you a Jane Austen fan?