Joanna here: This month Ask-A-Wench takes us to visit any time and place in all of history. A five-year visit. The question is, where would you go? And, more important, what would you pack?
Jo has a plan:
Oh, difficult! I don't think I want to go anywhere for 5 years, so I'm going to cheat and say 24 hours.
Because it irritates me that I keep finding new wrinkles on a Regency ball and so many other aspects of Regency life, I'd find the date of a top notch one and turn up in the early morning to observe. All the right clothing and accessories will be in my period appropriate trunk, though I'm sure there'll be problems of some sort.
I'll have correct period money in order to purchase what I need, tip servants etc, and a convincing letter of introduction from some relative far away, say Lancashire, introducing me to the hostess with an "as mentioned in my last letter." Hostess will assume some terrible mix up, I hope, and give me house room and entree to the ball. I will find a reason not to dance because that would really give the game away.
I'd take a smart phone, which I could keep tucked away, but use to sneak photographs and even type in little notes. And when I come back, no one will believe what it was really like at a Regency ball!
I would pack a large trunk (because, y’know, that’s how the beau monde roll—none of these gore-tex ballistic nylon roller bags. My lady’s maid would faint from embarrassment, and she might break the vinaigrette in her fall) and fill it with fancy ballgowns and fripperies because my destination would be the Congress of Vienna in the Fall of 1814.
Oh, I would love to be part of all the fancy balls and entertainments—the medieval Carrousel, the Peace Ball at Metternich’s country estate, Beethoven’s concerts . . . Dancing with reigning heads of Europe, including Tsar Alexander would be, um, an experience (I might have to resort to some unladylike defenses if he tried to pinch my derriere!) Like Jo, I would definitely sneak in a modern smart phone to surreptitiously photograph all the gilded splendor. A few videos of the quadrille and waltzes would be fun as well.
Also in my trunk would be a lovely inlaid box of watercolors, because after a stay in Vienna I would meander through the Alps and take a boat from Calais to London, where I would contrive to study painting with JMW Turner and Sir Thomas Lawrence. (And yes, I shall gladly guide you through my retrospective show at the Met this winter!)
Mary Jo would doubtless pack a fascinating suitcase, but she's living out of actual suitcases at the moment. She sends a wave and a message --
"Mary Jo has been touring Mitteleuropa in Real Time and has mostly been concerned with stuffing clothing back into suitcase since garments double in size after they've been worn."
Anne wants it all:
Anne here, absolutely dithering about where and when to go to. Like the others, I would take essential
supplies, which in my case would be plenty of money of the day, plus gold that could be easily traded if I ran out. I'd take lots of antibiotics and also things like aspirin — and I'd make sure my shots were all up to date. I can't imagine anything worse than being stuck in the 18th or 19th century and being ill and at the mercy of what passed for medicine in those days.
Regency England appeals, for research and for fun and for sheer curiosity -- London and Bath and several fabulous country house parties as well as balls.
But Paris at the turn of the 19th-20th century, the Belle Epoque, with the explosion of painting and the arts would be fabulous, too, even though my French is schoolgirl and rusty. Early - mid 19th Century Russia, specifically St Petersburg, would also appeal. Actually, I could combine several of these and have my very own Grand Tour, though travel in those days left a lot to be desired, and I would have to add flea powder and bed-bug repellant or whatever, not to mention some ant-nausea pills for all the bouncing in carriages and boats.
Of course, in all of these situations I would have to command the same kind of living conditions of the aristocratic class — I want comfort and freedom to do what I want. I have no interest in discovering what it's like to be a Regency-era scullery maid, or a milkmaid -- except by watching from a distance.
Susan's time and place (and bag):
I'd be off to Scotland in a flash, no question, ready to roam the heathery hills in kirtle and plaidie. But choosing the time period across the long span of Scottish history is almost as hard as choosing what to bring for an extended stay!
I'd like to jump around -- 11th century, 14th, 16th, 18th, 19th . . . but if I had to choose just one time to stay in for a while, I'd leap to the 14th century, just after Bannockburn, when there's peace and a positive spirit building.
I'd choose to be around Stirling and Edinburgh for a touch of the Highland atmosphere while still having access to all the, er, modern conveniences of a royal fortress. Good stone walls and fireplaces, latrines and pine torches, beeswax candles, fine fabrics, good harp music, manuscript libraries and such. I'd like to be part of the royal household so I could meet Robert Bruce (Wallace, alas, is long gone), and hang about the court -- then I'd head for the Highlands and find a little croft there and set up as a healer or an artist. Maybe I'd make some paints and try my hand at that.
What's in my leather satchel? (A suitcase would be so conspicuous here!) -- well, for starters, plenty of antibiotics and some other useful medicines. Chocolate for sure, lots of that, and good black and green teas. Cotton undies, for sure. I'm not a fan of wool . . . A few books: a copy of Culpeper's Illustrated Herbal (Culpeper dates later than this, but I want to know what those plants are!), a Gaelic dictionary, some of my forever keeper reads for the long winter nights (Mary Stewart travels and re-reads well), and a box of my favorite pens and plenty of notebooks and legal pads. Did I say dark chocolate? I might need a separate bag just to have enough!
Pat joins us with;
I’m going to reveal my American history roots and say I’d love to go back to the end of the American Revolutionary War. Can you imagine the joy of celebrating a new nation? And the terror of deciding how to create our own government? I’d love to learn the real history behind the history books. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/convention/
This would be in 1787 and I’d choose Philadelphia. I’d love to meet Jefferson and Franklin. Their intelligence and common sense awe me. Unfortunately, as a female, I probably wouldn’t have been allowed inside the convention halls, but I bet I could hear an earful at the tavern!
I’d pack whatever gold pieces I could find, toilet paper, and leggings. Philadelphia is cold and those big gowns with no long johns wouldn’t be warm enough for me!
I do not know a heck of a lot about Augustan Rome. I am assuming it looked pretty much like that picture to the left, but I may be slightly mistaken and it looked more like the picure on the right.
Anyhow, they wore pretty and comfortable-looking clothing, which is a big plus for me.
What to bring? I got out my metaphorical suitcase and toyed with several clever ideas. I'd get me some solar panels and a recharging set up and bring my computer and kindle. That's the ticket. I'd have a whole library with me and my working tools. Everything I need to write.
But let's be realistic about this. I know how the world works. I'd arrive and everything would stop working. Give it a week.
I decided to go low-tech. I'd take ballpoint pens, because it would drive me mad to try to write with a quill pen. And notebooks. Lots of notebooks. I am as flexible as the next person, but I do not want to learn to write on papyrus.
So I packed up the suitcase with notebooks and threw in a box of pens (black, fine-line) and was ready to close the lid when I thought, "Shouldn't I bring some antibiotics in case I come down with, y'know, pneumonia?"
I threw in a couple few bottles of penicillin and started to close the lid, then suddenly thought -- "No tomatoes." Italy without pizza. This seemed just so wrong.
I tossed in some packets of tomato seed. I'd grow my own, next to the impluvium.
I was shuffling around notebooks to make room for seed packets when it suddenly struck me -- soap. No soap in ancient Rome. Could I learn to learn to make my own? Could I become an advocate of the olive oil rubdown and a good scrape? Did I want to go around smelling like a salad?
Not so much. I chucked some notebooks out in favor of two dozen bars of soap. No toothpaste. I'd chew mint or something.
But hey! That put me in mind of spices! Great Hera, I'd forgotten spices. Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper.
More notebooks gone.
That was when it struck me. This was Europe in The Time Before Coffee.
What a ghastly prospect.
Notebooks definitely out. Coffee in. I'd keep five or six notebooks. I'd learn to do rough drafts on a slate and transfer only the final work to the notebooks. I could live with that.
I closed the lid on the suitcase.
And then I thought ...
If you could go on a historical vacation, where would you go and what's the one thing you would absolutely have to pack? Some lucky commenter will receive a copy of Mischief and Mistletoe, our Wench anthology.