A visit with Charles Dickens made the top of my list as I traveled by train from Gatwick to London. So far, the trip to Europe had exceeded anything in my crazy imagination. I brought comfy shoes and planned to walk everywhere. After recent terror attacks, I hoped it would be enjoyable and police presence wouldn’t spoil the mood. Quite the opposite happened. I discussed how Londoners fight terrorism. So very simple, isn’t it? (Adopting the English manner of speaking to get you in the mood.) Instead, the city was filled with families enjoying the day. Any sort of trepidation melted away in the London sunshine.
First stop: Buckingham Palace.
The timing couldn’t have been better. As my husband, Danny, and I approached the Palace, the Changing of the Guard began. I didn’t know they had a marching band too. Very cool! I walked by the gate and snapped a photo while security kept me moving.
I wonder what that little boy is thinking. Did toilet paper stick to my shoe?
This photo needs a caption:
St. James Park
From there, my husband and I wandered around the park. It was just as serene as the last time I visited. Yes, those are swans on the pond. Dickens must have spent some time there.
Charles (Chuck) Dickens House and Haunts
We made our way towards the Chuck Dickens Museum; his house on Doughty Street. Why Chuck instead of Charles? Because the more I know about him, the more confident I am that we would have hung out if he lived today. He was the type of friendly out-going guy who would go by the name Chuck. I mean, the guy stood on a chair when reciting passages from his books to his friends while they dined on fine cuisine rustled up by the cook two floors down. Eccentric and self-confident. How cool was he? While writing, Chuck would recite lines in the mirror. If they didn’t look right, he would rewrite them. I read passages out loud when writing novels, but I haven’t tried while looking in a mirror. Let me know if that works for you.
His Fascination with People
Another reason we would have hung out. Chuck and I have the same curiosity about all different types of people. He would walk the back alleys and talk to the indigent, homeless, and forgotten. His father spent time in debtors prison, so injustice became a running theme in his writing. I can relate to his affinity to strangers. Danny worries I’d follow just about anyone down a dark alley if I thought they were interesting in some way. Definitely! How do you think I found these guys?
Dickens published his first book, The Pickwick Papers over twenty monthly installments. This new form of storytelling became so popular, he published six more in this fashion, including Bleak House, David Copperfield, and Oliver Twist. Instead of writing the book in its entirety, he would write and publish a chapter, then ask readers their opinions. He constructed the story as he went along, similar to The Martian, which was produced from blog to book to movie. Love that idea!
Did you notice Chuck’s desk is positioned away from the window? I’ve been watching birds in the feeder all morning. Oh, look at that one!
Chuck’s Old Haunts
After the enlightening tour, we searched the neighborhood for the pubs Charles frequented. I was especially inspired inside The Swan. I even wrote a short story while sitting at the corner table. I wonder if Chuck sat there.
This was my view. A perfect place to observe people and eavesdrop.
Covent Garden and Ladurée
On our way back to the hotel, we swung by Covent Garden just in time for tea. I can’t believe we don’t have tea time in the US. We’re really missing out. I wish there was a Ladurée in Boulder. A girl can dream…
Check out the slide show below! More of Dickens’ haunts and Covent Garden.
Envisioning authors like Dickens absorbing the environment and community for setting and characters in his books inspired me. Safe and full of families, a stroll in London was a great way to spend a day. We walked almost ten miles!
Is there a novelist from the past you would love to meet? Have you been to London? What were your favorite haunts? Did you think of a caption?
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