Do you have to feel "familiar" with a setting in order to fully appreciate a story?
As a reader, if I pick up a book set in a locale with which I'm not familiar, I usually go scurrying to the internet to check mapquest and flickr, to get a sense of what the setting looks like. As a writer, I suffer from a similar compulsion. I just can't seem to get into writing my story until I can "see" the same scenery my characters do.
I've just posted a blog on the eharlequin community "Regency Silk and Scandal" page about that discovery process for my current release, THE SMUGGLER AND THE SOCIETY BRIDE. Check it out at http://community.eharlequin.com/content/regency-silk-and-scandal.