Thursday, March 13, 2014

Walking through Literary and Historic London

Samuel Johnson Museum

History and literature are two subjects dear to my heart. Since my girlhood days, I have been transported to different times and places by books. There truly "is no frigate like book" and yesterday was our day to travel to some off-the-beaten track sites.

Personally, I don't care for crowds or queues. As my connection with places is deep and personal, I prefer not to be jostled by throngs of tourists or school groups. In many cases, British national museums and galleries are free. There is an organization London Greeters that provides free local guided walks that can be booked for 2+ people. I did not book from home and found that my chosen area was not available this week but will definitely book ahead next time.

Our first destination was Fleet Street to visit the neighbourhood of Samuel Johnson. We arranged our time in order to have lunch at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub frequented by Johnson, Dickens and even Voltaire. Having visited the pub 30 years ago with Maman, I was confident of finding the location on Fleet Street. Although there has been a pub on the location since 1538 and the current pub was built just after The Great Fire, times have changed on Fleet Street. We went into two shops to enquire and neither of the salespeople had heard of the pub or of Doctor Johnson. Only when I accosted some French tourists in the Twinings tea shop and asked to look at their guidebook was I able to locate the Cheshire Cheese which is down a passageway from Fleet Street and has no windows due to the Window Tax of the 17th century.
The Dictionary

Doctor Johnson's house, located just behind the pub, is a gem of a small museum where it is easy to imagine life in the 17th century. Uncrowded and with an admission charge of 3 pounds, I could spend hours just looking at the collection of books! Dr. J died leaving 30,000 tomes. Imagine all the reading that he did to create his dictionary!



Each definition was based several works of English literature.

One of my favourite television series of the 1970's was The Forsyte Saga based on the novels of John Galsworthy. The saga depicts the movements of an English merchant family from late Victorian times until the Depression. The story, one of 3 generations of uncles, aunts and cousins with their intrigues and romantic rivalries, was acted by some of the most brilliant British character actors of the time.

One of the Galsworthy books was called In Chancery and today I visited the London of barristers and solicitors. The dark-suited men with brief cases and the shiny plaques on the buildings evoke another era.
The judicial area of London

On our way to the Millennium Bridge, we visited St. Martin's of Ludgate, site of one of the original gates of London. There has been a Christian church on the site since 1174 AD and beneath the church are parts of the original Roman wall. St. Martin of Tours is the patron saint of travellers and the church was built just inside of the Lud Gate of London.

We continued to the Thames, crossed the Millennium Bridge, crossed back over the Blackfriars Bridge and continued on shank's mare home. The ladies are certainly tired after another lovely London day!
Blackfriar's Bridge

1 comment:

  1. I am pleased I found your blog with you pretty pictures of London. Gosh I miss London, and England for that matter. I remember so well going to London from my hometown of Paris when I was 13 years old – going to an exchange family. Then I went back every Christmas for a long time and then to school there. When I went back home to Paris to see my parents (from Georgia) I would try to take a plane that stopped in London and stay a few days – I must have done that at least 15 times along the years. But now that mum has passed away I have not been back to England for a while, and in my upcoming trip back home to Paris I am stopping in Brussels instead – but I miss London …

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