» Blog http://www.pandptours.co.uk Sun, 13 Oct 2013 09:26:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6.1 Competition winner joins Downton Abbey Tour http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/competition-winner-joins-downton-abbey-tour/ http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/competition-winner-joins-downton-abbey-tour/#comments Sat, 31 Aug 2013 08:22:54 +0000 Helen Porter http://www.pandptours.co.uk/?p=1808 edith wedding  I love a good news story and was privileged to be involved in one during a recent P and P Tours Downton Abbey tour.

One of the people on the tour, a lovely young lady from Chile, turned out to be the winner of a British Embassy competition to write a short Downton Abbey script. Her prize was an all-expenses paid one week trip to the UK, which included the P and P tour to Highclere Castle, aka Downton Abbey.

Claudia Arenas, from Cocepcion in Chile, is an English pedagogy student and her winning script transposed Downton Abbey to a modern day London pub with a story line concerning anti-discrimination, promoting tolerance and respect. She received high praise for her creativity and the quality of her writing.

Of course it was pleasing for me personally and professionally that PandP Tours were chosen by the British Embassy to be part of the prize for Claudia, but I was more pleased for her that she was able to see ‘Downton’ at first hand for a change, rather than on the television.

This only serves to reinforce what I said in my recent blog about the power of Downton Abbey and its growing popularity around the globe. Who could have imagined that a British TV drama has the ability to inspire a South American student to enter a creative writing competition?

This story also demonstrates how the world as we know it is shrinking. Modern communications now make the other side of the world accessible to us all. The rise of Scandanavian dramas in recent years, such as Borgen and The Killing, shows that there is certainly an appetite for foreign cultures and they are a hit as much for their alien-ness as the quality of the writing and production involved.

P and P Tours sees this desire taken to the next level at first hand. We have travellers from all over the world on our private, bespoke and escorted tours. Folks from China, Australia, the US, Europe, and now South America it seems, have seen the television programmes and now they want to visit the filming locations and experience what it is like to walk around Downton or Longbourn.

Well done Claudia. It was lovely to see you on our tour and I look forward to more people from all four corners of the planet enjoying P and P Tours’ exclusive Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice tours.


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Appalachian Trail: the ultimate solo traveller experience? http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/appalachian-trail-the-ultimate-solo-traveller-experience/ http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/appalachian-trail-the-ultimate-solo-traveller-experience/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 12:19:41 +0000 Helen Porter http://www.pandptours.co.uk/?p=1803 aaa

As a great fan of the author Bill Bryson in general, and his Walk in the Woods book particularly, I return to that story regularly because of the feelings it evokes in me.

I’ve travelled quite a lot on my own and, as you’ve no doubt guessed from this blog, I really enjoy the different experience solo travelling brings. However, I think I would draw the line at tackling the Appalachian Trail on my own, as several of the people Bill encounters, are obviously doing.

The Appalachian Trail, or AT as its known to hiking aficionados, is a 2,200 mile wilderness hiking trail along the eastern coast of the United States that begins in Georgia and ends in Maine taking in the geographically ancient Appalachian mountains including Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Bear Mountain State Park and the ominous sounding Hundred Mile Wilderness.

To me, who can barely walk around Bath on a warm day, the prospect of using my feet as the sole means of propulsion on a 2,200 mile journey that takes in significant portions of sub-alpine climbing as well as some more challenging peaks. Put it this way, if Ben Nevis were on the AT it would be regarded as a minor obstacle.

However, each year some several hundred determined souls actually walk the entire length of the trail IN ONE GO. I repeat, IN ONE GO! These through-hikers as they are called usually take between five and seven months to accomplish the feat, whilst others, who come back year after year, starting off from the point at which they finished the year before, are called section hikers.

What’s most amazing about the accomplishment in my mind is the fact that many people do this marathon hike alone. They carry a pack weighing at least 40 pounds, containing food, water, clothing, a tent and everything else they may need to survive. As Bryson recounted in his book, the weather is unpredictable in the mountains, with snow an ever-present danger in the spring.

Why am I talking about this on a blog about solo travel you may ask? Well, one of the characters Bryson and his now famous friend Katz encountered on their adventure was a woman named Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen is portrayed as casually obnoxious and despairingly ignorant and under-prepared for the Herculean task she is attempting. For a few pages of the book she provides excellent entertainment as Bryson describes her amusing lack of self awareness.

But, and it’s a big but. She is a woman attempting to walk 2,200 on her own, carrying a huge, weighty pack, daring the wilderness of the AT and its black bears, her only company being the strangers she meets on the trail, some of whom do their best to avoid her. Whilst she is obviously hugely annoying to Bryson and Katz you can’t deny her courage and determination, albeit she did drop out after a few weeks. Lets face it though – most who attempt the AT stop after just a few days.

Bravo to Mary Ellen I say and all those woman like her who are taking to the idea of solo adventure holidays. I had a brief look on the internet and couldn’t believe how many companies are out there catering to the more adventurous female traveller. As well as hiking, you can go cycling, white water rafting, paragliding and pretty much anything else you can think of and not be deterred by being a lone female traveller.

So, I would urge all of you single women out there, and even perhaps some attached women who desire a change, to do two things. One, read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, its just brilliant. Two, seriously consider a holiday on your own. It is empowering and enjoyable at the same time. You’ll make friends and grow as a person.


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Austenland – Men need not apply! http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/austenland-men-need-not-apply/ http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/austenland-men-need-not-apply/#comments Sun, 18 Aug 2013 11:20:08 +0000 Helen Porter http://www.pandptours.co.uk/?p=1782 Austenland

Branded as a film made by women, about women and for women, Austenland, the soon to be released  rom-com movie based on a fictional Jane Austen theme park, is the latest cinematic adaptation of an Austen inspired novel to hit the silver screens. Unlike previous offerings, such as The Jane Austen Book Club, Austenland is causing a bit of stir.

Conventional rom-coms may be predominantly aimed at the female market, with the occasional nod to the male audience, but Austenland looks to have gone a very large step further in actively discouraging men to watch the film at all.

I’m not sure whether I like this idea. Are men truly from Mars and women from Venus? I’m sure we can enjoy such things together.

Whilst there have been some significantly successful female dominated films in recent years, such as Bridesmaids, these have been enjoyed by both men and women, even if the plots of these films were undoubtedly female-centric.

Can a film entirely aimed at women, one that so loudly proclaims its disinterest in the male viewer, actually be successful? Until the film is formally released and we can see what sort of viewing figures it gets we won’t know for sure, but the critics already appear divided.

Apparently the male critics hated the film but that was fine with the film’s producers who make no secret of their indifference to male reaction. Women critics, surprise, surprise, love it.

Irrespective of whether the film flops or not the central premise of the story, a Jane Austen inspired theme park, certainly piqued my imagination and I’d have to agree that, to some people, such an idea  may be nirvana.

Me, I’m not so sure. Whilst I do love dressing up in Regency gowns, as do many of my loyal clients on P and P Tours, I suspect that the inevitable commercialism of a theme park, no matter how tastefully put together, would destroy any semblance of historical accuracy or sensitivity towards Austen and her masterpieces.

I can just imagine it – the Longbourn Gift Shop stocked full of bonnets and reticules, the daring Fanny Price Carriage Ride, complete with sea views and a near miss with a highwayman, or the Emma Matchmaking Game where you have to put the correct couples together or face societal disgrace. The thought makes me shudder.

No, whilst I hope Austenland is a success and I’m sure I’ll enjoy watching it and will take some visceral pleasure from the idea of such a theme park, I maintain that the best way to get close to Austen and her characters is to come on a PandP Tour, where our expert guides will lead you down the streets in which Jane walked whilst imparting their vast knowledge of Austen, her novels and her life and times.

No theme park could recreate the splendour of the 1995 BBC Pemberley or the thrill of having tea and dancing at THE one and only Longbourn. You can do these things and so much more on a P and P tour where we offer private tour, escorted tours, bespoke and chauffeur tours.

At P and P Tours we offer the genuine Austenland experience!


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Top Ten destinations for solo travellers http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/top-ten-destinations-for-solo-travellers/ http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/top-ten-destinations-for-solo-travellers/#comments Fri, 09 Aug 2013 15:08:31 +0000 Helen Porter http://www.pandptours.co.uk/?p=1773 aaa We have had a lot of feedback after our recent blog about the benefits of solo travel and I wanted to revisit the topic with some ideas of the best destinations for the female solo traveller.

I recently read somewhere that the perfect type of holiday for solo woman traveller is an escorted tour, such as the ones offered by P and P Tours. The reasons elite tours and escorted tours are so popular with solo travellers are simple – there are ample opportunities to meet like-minded individuals, and the very nature of an escorted tour, with the presence of a tour guide, means that security is less of an issue than with other types of holidays.

We always give a lot of consideration when we receive a booking from a woman planning to undertake one of our tours as a solo traveller. P and P Tours offer bespoke private tours, escorted tours and chauffeur tours of London and England so there is always an element of catering for the needs of the individual. That consideration is even more at the forefront of my mind when looking to meet the needs of a woman on her own.

But there is a huge range of solo travel packages, from historical escorted tours to adventure trips, white water rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, as well as the more typical hiking and cycling holidays. Not my cup of tea, but nirvana for some I’m sure.

Some destinations crop up time and again when looking at the best locations for woman travelling alone, with repeated mentions of the friendliness of the locals, the sense of safety they provide, the range of activities on offer and, equally important, affordability. It really depends upon the type of holiday experience you’re after.

So, here’s my list of the top 10 destinations for woman solo travelling, apart from a holiday with us of course!

Ireland – the Emerald Isle is renowned for the warmth of the locals who will bend over backwards to help visitors amd although the climate is not what you’d choose if you are a sun-worshiper there’s plenty to do in Ireland. Dublin is a lively, warm city with lots of history as well as a fair few bars, all of which sell pints of ‘the black stuff’, Guinness. Ireland is chock-a-block full of cosy B&B’s with landlady’s who would rival Father Ted’s Mrs Doyle for their hospitality.

Las Vegas – perhaps a surprise choice on the surface with its reputation for gambling and seedy strip joints. Actually Vegas is one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations for families and also has a huge conference industry meaning that it’s not unusual for people to go to shows and eat on their own. The city also has a fair smattering of museums to go with its better known attractions. Some of the more unusual things to do in ‘Sin City’ are visit Mob Attraction or CSI: The Experience, sky-dive indoors or take in a walking gourmet food tour. One thing’s for sure in Las Vegas – you’ll never be bored.

Thailand – with this being my next choice you could be forgiven for thinking I’m just following the Hangover movies. However, Bangkok putting aside for one moment, Thailand is a great destination for solo woman travellers with beautiful beaches, luxurious hotels, stunning landscapes and relatively inexpensive spas. The country has some of the most iconic places to see in Asia including Phang Nga Bay (site of James Bond Island), The Grand Palace and Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.

Amsterdam – a wonderfully relaxed and liberal city perfect for single travellers of both sexes particularly as nearly everyone speaks English. Amsterdam has something to satisfy all tastes – take in some culture by visiting one of the city’s great museums including the Rijksmuseum and the home of Anne Frank, do some shopping in one or all of the numerous flea markets and bazaars or just relax in one of the city’s fantastic parks, or elegant bars and restaurants.

Jordan – another choice that may surprise people given the common perception of the middle-east in terms of being a trouble spot where women’s rights are not respected. Jordan is a beautiful country although the employment of a tour guide is recommended. Jordan has some wonderful historical attractions such as the famed city of Petra, the well-preserved remains of the Roman Amphitheatre in Jerash and the Citadel at Amman. Alternatively visitors can bathe in the Dead Sea or go diving in the Gulf of Aqaba.

Vietnam – another beautiful Asian country where the locals could not be friendlier which enjoys bountiful affordable hotels, restaurants and spas as well as awe inspiring landscapes. Like its better known and more visited neighbour Thailand, Vietnam has an abundance of beautiful, golden, sandy beaches. The prices of hotels, spas and restaurants is very low in comparison to the West and the country has an extremely low crime rate.

New Zealand – back packing around the Land of the Long White Cloud is thoroughly recommended and probably safer for lone women than it’s antipodean neighbour Australia. Once there you’ll understand why director Peter Jackson chose his homeland as a filming location for so much of his adaptations of JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The landscape is awe inspiring but contrasting between the North and South Islands. The Kiwis are very friendly and the country has a reputation for fine wine and good food.

Iceland – another destination that may surprise readers as it is one of the most expensive European cities to visit and it’s climate is certainly not attractive to sun-worshipers. However, the country is certainly beautiful with glaciers and lava rock healing pools (such as the famous Blue Lagoon) whilst Reykjavik is a modern city with smart hotels, restaurants and bars as well as several interesting museums.

New York – the Big Apple is perhaps the world’s most vibrant city with everything on tap. You want shopping – it’s got Fifth Avenue. You want culture – its got so many museums it would take you months to explore them completely. Fine dining – there are currently 66 Michelin starred restaurants in New York. Architecture – are you kidding? Sightseeing – Central Park, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, etc, etc. Entertainment – Broadway. I could go on but I think you’ve probably caught my drift by now.

Scotland – it would be remiss of me not to consider our own shores in this list so I’ve gone for a different type of holiday here. Scotland is, of course, renowned for the ruggedness and beauty of its landscapes, particularly in the Highlands. There are a number of activity breaks available in Scotland including hiking holidays, skiing (snow permitting) whilst those in search of solitude and relaxation could do worse than take a short break in Durness, a small village in the North-West of the country.

There you have it – my personal choice of the Top 10 destinations for solo travel for women. Modesty forbids me from extolling the virtues of PandP P Tours too much but if it’s a private, escorted tour that you’re after give us a call.


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Downton Abbey takes China by storm http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/downton-abbey-takes-china-by-storm/ http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/downton-abbey-takes-china-by-storm/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 12:47:04 +0000 Helen Porter http://www.pandptours.co.uk/?p=1766 downton picIt seems that the emerging middle class in China has developed a taste for Downton Abbey, the award winning ITV costume drama and subject of some of P and P Tours most popular tours.

We’ve long known that the drama has been a huge hit in the UK and across the pond in the United States but it now seems that, possibly spurred on by their increasing economic dominance and the opening up of their society to increased western influence, the Chinese are lapping up Downton Abbey which follows the fortunes of the Earl of Grantham and his extensive family.

Of course China hasn’t been a communist state forever and it’s no surprise that the educated classes in that country would be interested in following a television drama which is centred on extreme wealth, entitlement and gentlemanly behaviour. It must resonate with a country whose culture, pre the Cultural Revolution, was as class dominated as our own.

It looks like the embracing of Downton is as much a status symbol in China as the owning of a top-of-the-range luxury car and the possession of other western luxuries. On a recent visit to Harrods I was amazed to see that nearly all the customers for designer goods such as handbags, watches and jewellery were Chinese. Apparently, if you want to appear on your uppers in China its best to show that you watch British television drama, and Downton is regarded as the top offering with thousands of young Chinese mobbing a recent British Film Institute event in Shanghai, particularly when they were shown an image of Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham.

And, it’s not just British television that appears to be a badge of class in the Orient. Top British universities and schools are full of Chinese students, the British Royal family are absolutely adored in Shanghai and Beijing, whisky club membership is growing exponentially and Polo is as fast a growing sport among the Chinese middle-classes as you will find.

With the fourth season of Downton Abbey now hotly anticipated here in the US and in China the drama must rate as probably the most watched TV programme in the world.

This should be good news for P and P Tours with our three separate Downton Abbey tours – the one day Downton Abbey Tour, the Gems of Downton Tour and the Scotland Downton Abbey Tour.

Of course, as a provider of private and bespoke guided tours I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upsurge of Chinese clients for both regular and private tours. I’d better brush up on my Mandarin.


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Jane Austen to grace our £10 note… http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/jane-austen-to-grace-our-10-note/ http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/jane-austen-to-grace-our-10-note/#comments Thu, 01 Aug 2013 12:37:03 +0000 Helen Porter http://www.pandptours.co.uk/?p=1723 Jane-austen-Note  Good news or a safe choice?

The announcement that Jane Austen will feature on the Bank of England £10 notes, probably from 2017, is fantastic news for women in general and fans of the novelist in particular.

After the announcement that Elizabeth Fry will be replaced on the £5 notes by Sir Winston Churchill in 2016 it looked like that there would be no female representation on the nation’s paper currency and, unsurprisingly, this caused a little consternation in some quarters.

However, it would seem that there was always a long-term plan for Austen to feature at some point, although it’s unclear whether the pressure brought to bear by a number of protests, including an online petition which attracted 35,000 signatures, caused the decision to use Austen to be brought forward.

There’s no doubt Austen, my favourite novelist, thoroughly deserves the honour and it will be fun to gaze upon her countenance (the image on the notes will be an adaptation from a sketch of the author drawn by her sister Cassandra) whenever I dip into my purse whilst shopping.

The one downside to this story was George Osborne’s awful pun. On his Twitter account Osborne said “Mark Carney’s choice of Jane Austen as face of £10 note is great. After understandable row over lack of women , shows sense and sensibility”. Stick to the politics please Mr Chancellor.

Austen will become only the third woman to have her image put on a Bank of England note, following Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale.

Despite my own personal joy at the Bank of England’s choice of Austen and the decision being trumpeted as a victory for feminist campaigners there has also been criticism from some quarters that the decision was safe, or even bland, with suggestions that other women, such as warrior-queen Boudicca or Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole, would have been more appropriate to grace a bank note.

In my view, the honour of appearing on a banknote directly relates to an individual’s accomplishments and there’s no arguing with Austen’s choice on that score. Her novels are as popular as ever, as shown by the number of people who enjoy my PandP Pride and Prejudice tours and they show no sign of diminishing in their appeal both in the UK and abroad.

Well done Bank of England.


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Oh what a lovely tour! http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/oh-what-a-lovely-tour/ http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/oh-what-a-lovely-tour/#comments Fri, 26 Jul 2013 15:58:37 +0000 Helen Porter http://www.pandptours.co.uk/?p=1714 amanda longbourn I’ve just returned home after P and P Tours Pride and Prejudice 200 Year Anniversary Tour and, although tired, I’m still exhilarated after a fantastic couple of days during which I was able to talk with so many lovely people who seemed to really enjoyed the events, particularly the regency dancing at Longbourn.

The exclusive talks given by Simon Langton, the director of the 1995 BBC adaptation, and Jeff Smart, the producer of the 10 year anniversary DVD, were hugely informative and entertaining and were very well received by everyone there. P and P very much looks forward to working with Simon and Jeff again.

The people on the tour came from far and wide – the US, Australia, the Netherlands and, of course, the UK. We were really thrilled to have a group of clients joining us who are experts in Regency costume and who dressed in the most stunning gowns and accessories throughout the tour. We attracted lots of envious stares along the way! Some came to Bath just for the exclusive private tour, whilst for others the anniversary tour was just one part of a longer trip, taking in a number of bespoke or chauffeur driven tours in England and other parts of the British Isles. In fact several of our guests were heading straight off to London to enjoy the sights there and conversation inevitably turned to a discussion about just what sights should be taken in

Of course London is one of the world’s great and most culturally rich cities and It’s greatest attraction is almost certainly it’s heritage, both in terms of quantity and quality. However, with so much to see and do travellers can often be overwhelmed and, once at a location, overloaded with information.

Therein lies the value of a private escorted tour with your own guide, if you are able to afford it. A suitably qualified tour guide, such as those at PandP, is able to impart knowledge, allowing the guest to metaphorically sit back and relax, the hard work being done by the guide. I know when I visit a new place, it can take quite a long time and not inconsiderable effort to find all the information I feel I need. Also, you can ask questions of a guide, whereas reading plaques and information sheets doesn’t allow for this valuable interaction.

With all those fabulous buildings to visit in London time is very much at a premium unless you’ve weeks to kill and if you can have a private tour guide do the legwork for you, so much the better. You’ll see more, and learn more, enhancing your enjoyment at every stage.

The popularity of bespoke tours is growing and they offer an even more attractive solution for the time challenged visitor. Why follow an itinerary set by someone else when you can dictate your own and still enjoy the benefit of a knowledgeable tour guide. On a bespoke tour you see what you want, when you want. If you take it a step further and take a chauffeured tour, you don’t even have to worry about how you get about – letting the train take the strain is so last year darling!

So, if you’re contemplating a sightseeing trip to London, or elsewhere in the UK you should give serious consideration to either a private escorted tour, a bespoke tour or even a chauffeured tour. At P and P Tours we are happy to offer all of these services either directly or through our partners, Brit Movie Tours, who are based in London, alongside our regularly scheduled Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey Tours.

As Del Boy was often heard to say “Go on, you know it makes sense”. Tours to the Nelson Mandella estate in Peckham, including the Nags Head, can be arranged.


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Great Directors or Period Drama http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/great-directors-or-period-drama/ http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/great-directors-or-period-drama/#comments Mon, 15 Jul 2013 12:54:29 +0000 Helen Porter http://www.pandptours.co.uk/?p=1673 simon langton

While running film location tours and private escorted tours I am sometimes really privileged to meet some fabulous people who share my love of and enthusiasm for the works of Jane Austen as well as costume dramas which, of course, are often based on classical literature.

However, the prospect of meeting director Simon Langton next weekend is more exciting than I can say.  It’s a real coup for me that the man responsible for the famous 1995 BBC television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth, wet shirt and all that) has agreed to give a talk and presentation to P and P Tours’ 200 Year Anniversary Tour clients. I’m sure they’re all as excited as I am and can’t wait to hear from the great man.

With Mr Langton in mind recently I came across an interesting website which ranked costume dramas based on fan reviews of the productions. I was a little surprised with some of the rankings but, by and large, all the right series and films were there. What caught my attention whilst scanning the list was the disparity in rankings between some of the productions of the same source material, and this led me to consider the role of a director in determining whether a film/TV series is a hit with fans or merely receives a lukewarm reception.

Whilst I’m quite prepared to admit that a great film or series is the product of more than just excellent direction I’ve put together my own list of the best costume drama directors, based on the quality of their work.

Simon Langton – son of actor David Langton, who was a star of Upstairs Downstairs, Simon Langton was almost destined to work in the world of film and TV production. Although his best work by far is the wonderfully superb and critically acclaimed Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice adaptation in 1995, Langton has a fine CV, featuring episodes of Smiley’s People, The Duchess of Duke Street, Jeeves and Wooster and Mother Love, which won a BAFTA for Best Drama. Simon Langton has received a number of other BAFTA and EMMY nominations, amply demonstrating his ability as a director and he gets my nod as no.1 purely for his version of P and P.

Susanna White – like Simon Langton, Susanna White has a fine filmography including contemporary costume dramas Parade’s End, the BBC’s Bleak House (for which she won a BAFTA) as well as modern TV dramas Teachers and Generation Kill. However, her televsion adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, released in 2006, was a masterpiece, eclipsing even the 2011 cinematic version directed by Cary Fukunaga, starring the excellent Michael Fassbender.

Ang Lee – Taiwanese born Lee has an eclectic back catalogue featuring Oscar winning movies The Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon as well as Hulk. However, he’s on my list for his excellent adaptation of Sense and Sensibility which garnered seven Oscar nominations, with Emma Thompson winning an award for her screenplay. The film was a hit with fans and critics alike, unsurprisingly perhaps, given the stellar cast including Thompson, Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet. We love running our Sense & Sensibility tour to all the locations.

Martin Scorsese – the American multi-award winning director, acclaimed as the second greatest director of all time by Total Film magazine and best known for his powerful movies Taxi Driver, Casino, The Departed, Goodfellas, etc, etc is on the list for his 2002 movie Gangs of New York. Perhaps not a costume drama in the classically accepted sense, the film entertainingly depicts life in 19th-entury New York, with the focus on crime and the lower orders against the backdrop of the American Civil War. It stars two of the modern greats of cinema, Daniel Day Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Shekhar Kapur – the life and times of the Tudor monarchs has been a fertile subject for many television and film projects but Kapur’s Elizabethan double bill, Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age are perhaps two of the finest films depicting that age. Although Cate Blanchett’s performances in the title role are excellent as always, Kapur should be given great credit for his direction of the Australian stars Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush.

James Ivory – the directorial arm of the successful Merchant Ivory film company that produced such classics as A Room with a View, Howard’s End, The Remains of the Day and Jane Austen in Manhattan. Ivory’s style gave rise to any costume drama of a certain generation being dubbed as of the Merchant Ivory genre. His films were huge box office successes and were critically acclaimed with both Howard’s End and The Remains of the Day being nominated for eight Oscars.

Brian Percival, Ben Bolt, Brian Kelly – Downton Abbey is one of television’s best loved series in recent years garnering massive popularity in the UK and abroad, particularly in the United States. The trio of Percival, Bolt and Kelly have each directed several episodes of the drama and with a fourth series currently being filmed it’s likely to go from strength to strength.

Brian Percival  – before his contributions to the Downton Abbey juggernaut Brian Percival directed the BBC’s adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1855 novel North and South. As with Downton, North and South predominantly dealt with issues of class and gender and Percival’s deft handling ensured that the series, for which the BBC had low expectations, was a huge success being voted Best Drama in the BBC drama website’s annual poll in 2004. It also catapaulted Richard Armitage to super stardom!

I could go on and on, such is my love of period drama! Apologies to those wonderful directors I’ve omitted and if you want to compile your own Top 10 perhaps have a look athttp://www.perioddramas.com/top-rated.php and see what other films and series for which fans have voted.


Of course, it all comes down to personal choice. For me, it’s unlikely that another period drama will eclipse Simon Langton’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and I really can’t wait to meet him and listen to him when he attends our 200 Yearsof  Pride and Prejudice anniversary tour this weekend.


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1813 – a very good year http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/1813-a-very-good-year/ http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/1813-a-very-good-year/#comments Thu, 11 Jul 2013 09:26:19 +0000 Helen Porter http://www.pandptours.co.uk/?p=1665 aaa  I don’t need to remind regular readers of this blog that we’re currently celebrating the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s greatest novel, Pride and Prejudice. If you have, until this point, been ignorant of that fact – shame on you!

Although I’ve been really busy organising and putting the final flourishes to P and P Tours’ 200 Years of Pride and Prejudice Tour (not long now) I’ve still had time, in my less hectic moments, to wonder about the time period in which Austen wrote her opus magnus and what else was going on in 1813.

Then, as now, as is suggested in Pride and Prejudice itself, with George Wickham being in the Militia, war was very much on the minds of everyone in 1813.

Whilst nearly everyone knows that the Duke of Wellington, one of this country’s greatest military leaders, led the combined allied forces to victory over Napoleon Bonaparte and the French ‘Grande Armee’ at Waterloo in 1815, not many are aware that just two years earlier the then Earl of Wellington, led the British army, together with it’s Portuguese and Spanish allies, during the Peninsular war, where he drove the French forces back across the Pyrenees.

As a reward, Arthur Wellesley, for that was his birth name, was later made Duke of Wellington and some years after Waterloo, but well before Abba topped the charts, he also served as Prime Minister, twice.

The Prime Minister in the hot seat in 1813 is little remembered, except by those with a keen interest in history. Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of  Liverpool, was actually Britain’s longest serving Prime Minister and he took the job upon the death of the only British PM ever to be assassinated, Spencer Percival. Liverpool finally retired in 1927 after 15 years in power.

Revolution was also still very much on the minds of the masses across Europe, although to a lesser extent in Britain. France had been through the brutal revolution that had de-throned the Bourbons and eventually saw Napoleon being crowned Emperor, somewhat ironically. The other royal houses of Europe looked on in horror as the aristocracy of France was deposed from its position of power and the seemingly never-ending wars represented the determination of Austria, Russia and Prussia to avoid a similar fate.

Back home Jane Austen used the vehicle of Pride and Prejudice to perfectly capture how Britain’s ruling class managed affairs to avoid such a bloody revolution by accommodating the growing aspirations of the rising and increasingly affluent middle classes and by consenting to marriage between the classes – hence the match between Darcy and Elizabeth.

Social revolution perhaps, but much better than the bloody variety.

1813 also saw a continuation of change across the Atlantic with the newly independent United States of America continuing to battle Britain, taking advantage of their former master’s distraction with the Napoleonic Wars.

Away from war there were other things happening. The (Royal) Philharmonic Society was created in London, pineapples were introduced to Hawaii, James Madison was elected President of the US for a second term and a team of explorers braved the savage elements and crossed the Blue Mountains in Australia in an attempt to find a way to open up the vast interior of that continent.

Also abroad Simon Bolivar, the great South American revolutionary and military leader, entered Caracas and was ratified as ‘The Liberator’ and in the Orient, the British government took steps to restrict the power of the East India Company, who had dominated the country and its affairs.

In the arts, Robert Southey was made Poet Laureate, Lord Byron sold eight full print editions of The Giaour and the great poet returned to Britain from his Grand Tour. Rossini’s opera Tancred opened in Venice to great reviews and another renowned Italian composer, Guiseppe Verdi, best known for Carmen, was born.

In the field of science, explorer and missionary David Livingstone was born, rubber was patented, and the first raw cotton-to-cloth mill was opened in Massachussetts.

Taking all of that and my obvious bias into account, it still seems to me that the publication of Pride and Prejudice was the most important thing to happen in 1813, although perhaps the descendants of the Duke of Wellington may disagree.  As shown by the numbers of people who continue to use P and P for our private, escorted tours and chauffeuer driven tours, there remains a real appetite for, and love of Jane Austen’s great work.

The novel continues to capture the imagination of readers of all generations and shows no sign of abating. Like all truly great works of art  Pride and Prejudice has a timeless quality and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it going strong for centuries to come.




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Was the real Mr Darcy short, slim and a bit of a geek? http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/was-the-real-mr-darcy-short-slim-and-a-bit-of-a-geek/ http://www.pandptours.co.uk/blog/was-the-real-mr-darcy-short-slim-and-a-bit-of-a-geek/#comments Thu, 04 Jul 2013 09:57:52 +0000 Helen Porter http://www.pandptours.co.uk/?p=1642 aaa


Could Irishman Tom Lefroy have been Jane Austen’s inspiration for Mr Darcy… a thin, probably quite geeky young man, even though he was a Class 1 flirt and enthusiastic dancer at balls?

Lefroy met Jane when they were both 20 and their story has been hyped up – and grossly misrepresented – by the movie BECIOMING JANE – starring Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy.

He may not be everyone’s idea of a Mr Darcy – either Colin Firth or Matthew McFadyen have taken care of that – but he was certainly important to Jane. Biographer Claire Tomalin is on record as having said that Jane was in love with him, and because their new relationship was broken up by Tom’s parents after a few short weeks, we will never know what might have been.

One thing is for sure though – If Jane had ever married, we wouldn’t have the 6 masterful novels left to us as her legacy.  As a married woman she would have neither the time nor the opportunity to indulge in her passion for writing. Household management, producing and rearing a family, and social duties would have been her destiny.

But as food for thought – Tom was married off by his parents rather hastily to an Irish heiress – and guess what he called his first child – a daughter…







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