When alchemists were talking about turning lead to gold, they were talking about turning a leaden consciousness, which most of us exist in during our lives, into a golden consciousness, which is a much better place to be.
Because our entire universe is made up of consciousness, we never really experience the universe directly we just experience our consciousness of the universe, our perception of it, so right, our only universe is perception.
Way back in the day, when I first started and had delusions of adequacy as a cartoonist, I would listen to music. When I switched to a career as a writer, I would try to listen to music, but if the songs had lyrics they would get in the way of the words I was trying to write. So I switched to listening to purely instrumental pieces.
I don't think you can separate a place from its history. I think a place is much more than the bricks and mortar that go into its construction. I think it's more than the accidental topography of the ground it stands on.