First of all, a quick update on my progress on the London reading list. So far, I have read the pieces from Samuel Pepys’ diary, The Old Curiosity Shop, and three and a half of my four Sherlock Holmes stories. The Old Curiosity Shop was excellent, of course. The London of Little Nell and Mr. Swiveller (he was my favorite character!) is the same as that of Dickens’ other novels: a grimy, miserable place which still possesses a singular power to bring together the most disparate groups: rich and poor, dastardly and innocent, old and young. Much of the London Dickens knew from his decades strolling its labyrinthine streets has been destroyed by changing times (and just a few German explosives), but in the alleys of the City, a small central region of London which was once the whole of the Roman city Londinium and during Dickens’ time was the town’s legal hive, one can still find righteously stubborn nooks and crannies which have been there since the days when a young law clerk wandered past them filling his head with the scenes he would later immortalize.
As I plot out our plan of action for four days in the capitol of the empire on which the sun never set, literary sites have been a first priority. There are more things to do and see and experience in London than could be done in a lifetime, so we simply hope to get a taste of the city’s timeless character and enjoy a few cultural and historical highlights. We will see as much as we can, but there are a few things we just cannot leave London without having visited! Without further ado, here is my list of London must-see sites:
- Dickens House, 48 Doughty St: Dickens and his wife Catherine lived at 48 Doughty St. for two years at the start of his career. It was in this house that his two eldest daughters were born, his beloved young sister-in-law Mary passed away, and he wrote his first four novels. Today, the site is home to the Charles Dickens Museum.
- The Inns of Court: This is another Dickensian pilgrimage. When he worked in a factory as a child and as a law clerk as a young man, Dickens spent a great deal of time in the legal district of the city, where several inns were popular quarters and haunts for the whole of the legal system. The area is filled with lovely architecture, some of which is unchanged since Dickens’ days. This neighborhood is prominently featured in Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, and other novels.
- The Victoria and Albert Museum: Constructed for the 1851 Great Exhibition, the Victoria and Albert Museum remains one of the world’s most impressive collections of decorative arts and fashion. The museum is open late on Fridays, so my mom and I plan to take full advantage of their extended hours!
- The Sherlock Holmes Museum: It may not actually be situated at 221B Baker St, but this museum has been transformed into a perfect replica of the home of London’s most brilliant sleuth and his ever loyal and admiring companion (and their very patient landlady). It is sure to be ludicrously cheesy, with kitschy wax figures and all, so naturally I can’t wait. I also hear that the gift shop alone remarkable.
- N. Gower St. filming location: Yes, I have devoted a one full day of our trip to Dickens and another to Sherlock Holmes. After a visit to the classic Sherlock Holmes address, what could be more fitting than a visit to its modern counterpart? Perhaps they will even be filming this summer…
- Westminster Abbey Poets’ Corner: Many a fine British author has been honored or even laid to rest in this alcove of the abbey. I will probably need some tissues for this one.
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese: This ancient pub is the last stop on the Dickensian tour, it was a favorite of his and of other wordsmiths, such as Oliver Goldsmith, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes), and G.K. Chesterton. Additionally, it was the favorite pub of my favorite literary character of all time, Sydney Carton!