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Happy belated Valentine’s Day, I hope your day was full of love and chocolate.

Truth be told, we’re not a Valentine’s Day family. I’m all for romance, but “Valentine’s Day” is too commercial for my taste. Plus, I think Valentine’s Day should be every day. No, I don’t mean daily flowers (although, I’m sure it would be appreciated) or boxes of candy (because no one needs that much sugar). I mean, showing daily appreciation for each other, going out for a nice meal, or taking a trip together, can and should happen anytime, not just on February 14th.

Over the weekend, we took a quick getaway to The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA. Immortalized in Norman Rockwell’s painting Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas, the Red Lion Inn has provided a meal and bed for weary travelers for 125 years.

The front porch is long and wide, filled with rocking chairs in good weather and the perfect place for a leisurely drink on a hot summer night. In winter, the giant fire crackles in the lobby’s large stone fireplace with plenty of comfortable chairs available for a cozy chat or a good book. My book was Pride, and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith.

I know, I know, but anyone who knows me, knows I love the zombies. The book was published ages ago (and has a film adaptation), but it’s new to me.

I won’t finish it (yes, I do that with books).

The concept of adding zombies to the Jane Austen classic is clever (or blasphemy, depending on who you ask), but it just didn’t grab me (or eat my brain). I think I’ll stick with the real deal.

Pride and Prejudice was written in 1797 and still well-loved after two centuries. With 16 film or television adaptations, including a personal favorite Bridget Jones’s Diary, the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy still resonates today.

2017 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. Many special events and exhibitions are planned, including a nine-day Jane Austen Regency Week Festival on June 17th – 25th.

Jane Austen used her surroundings as a setting for her books, and many of those places still exist. Below you’ll find a few spots to experience the world of Jane Austen and her many remarkable characters.

Let’s Go!

Jane Austen’s House Museum, Chawton, Hampshire

Jane lived the last eight years of her life in Chawton, and the house remains true to that era, looking much like it did when she died at age 41.  Family artifacts and Jane’s desk are on display, and the museum hosts special exhibits to exam her most famous work.  At times, the museum displays memorabilia from television and screen adaptations. Love to dance? The museum hosts workshops where guests learn to dance in a Regency style, dressed in period costumes.

Jane Austen Centre, Bath, Somerset

Jane’s father moves the family to Bath in 1801, and Jane wasn’t happy about it. Bath was the setting for two novels and visitors view the world through her eyes on Georgian-era walking tours led by costumed, character guides.

Interestingly, the museum touts a specially commissioned waxwork of Jane that was the combined work of an internationally-renowned sculptor, an FBI-trained forensic artist (???), and an Emmy award-winning costume designer. That alone is worth the price of admission.

The Centre also hosts an online magazine with more than 800 articles from around the world about Jane, her work, and her life.

Godmersham Park Walk & Heritage Centre, Canterbury

A property inherited by her brother in some 18th child-trading scheme (seriously, her brother was adopted by her father’s cousin), Jane spent significant time at the manor and revised Sense and Sensibility in the library. (Sense and Sensibility is my favorite film adaptation of an Austen book. Even a squirrelly Hugh Grant can’t ruin an amazing performance by Emma Thompson).

The house is not open to the public, but the footpath is open and largely unchanged after 200 years. Walk the North Downs Way to Chilham’s historic square and film location for the movie Emma.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Home to the Duke & Duchess of Devonshire, the 150-acre estate was the inspiration for Pemberley Estate in Pride and Prejudice and used in the latest film version.  The house and grounds are open for touring. Christmas is a special time to visit with elaborate holiday decorations and special events throughout the season.

St. Nicolas Church, Steventon, Hampshire

Build in 1200; the Austen family lived in the rectory (now demolished) adjacent to the ancient church for 25 years.  The church is frozen in time and looks exactly as it did when Jane attended when her father was rector.  Austen family tablets are kept at the church, and the graveyard holds several family members.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – One of the greatest first lines ever from Pride and Prejudice