I am getting better at being a tourist.
That means I wake up, I leave the hotel, I get lost. And today I was so lost that I didn’t have coffee till noon.
Why would I get lost? There is no reason to get lost. I have guidebooks, maps, an A/Z, a computer.
There I was in the hotel room, planning my trip to the Dickens Museum. There are Dickens walks, but I was far too tired to go on a Dickens walk. I was in the Dickens mood, though, because I fell asleep last night reading Bleak House.
I started out at 10 a.m. I had written everything down, but I hit a dead end. Buildings. On the other side I suppose the street continued.
I don’t know where I was, but suddenly I recognized a street and knew the British Museum was there.
Later I’ll go to the Dickens Museum, I promised myself.
I wandered briefly among the Greek and Roman exhibits. I want this diadem and the ball-shaped earrings:
Yes, it is a terrible picture, but I like the idea of wearing a diadem decorated in relief with palmette flanked by leaves.
And I saw two lovely bronze statuettes of Venus loosening her sandals. My pictures didn’t come out unfortunately.
Okay, then I made it to the Dickens Museum.
At first I walked right past it because the sign was so discreet and I was on the wrong side of the street. Then Doughty St. turned into John St. (Why is this always happening in London?) I retraced my footsteps on the OTHER side of the street and found the museum.
All right, I paid what I paid and then I was in the museum. First, the dining room. I thought it was a bit corny. I didn’t need the settings at the table with the names Dickens, Walter Ainsworth, Forster, etc., on the plates. I liked the mahogany sideboard, though, which I think Dickens bought himself, though I don’t quite remember that part. And what the f- was that soundtrack in the background? Street sounds?
I thought, Oh God, this doesn’t compare with Willa Cather’s house in Red Cloud, Nebraska.
Well, in a way it doesn’t. But so many people love Dickens that they want to make it more commercial, I suppose.
I got hooked upstairs in the drawing room and study. Then I felt the writer “near me.” In the drawing room I admired the rosewood leather-topped table, and the rare reading desk he had designed and built for his readings and performances. A podium? Very exciting, isn’t it? I would have loved to hear Dickens read. And there was a tape (a CD? whatever you call it?) of someone reading Dickens aloud. I’m afraid I don’t know what was being read.
And then in his study there was his desk from Gad’s Hill. What is it about writers’ desks?
And there were Dickens’ books in the glass bookshelf: Shakespeare, Robinson Crusoe, and Specimens of English Sonnets. Also a page or two of his original manuscript of Oliver Twist. And then in another bookcase were sets of Dickens’ own books.
The rest of the house was quite nice, too. Kitchen, bedrooms, etc. And then I did buy a few books. Not a Dickens mug, but it was necessary to buy a copy of A Walk Around Dickens’ London. It’s really a sweet little pamphlet. I’m unlikely to take the walk, but I like reading it.
I loved the Dickens Museum. I love Dickens!
COFFEE NOTES. Today I had to go to Starbucks. I passed two of them, and honestly I needed my grande. One Starbucks coffee and that’s all you need. The coffee is so good: Costa was a little strong for me yesterday. Will I be able to find an indie coffeehouse tomorrow? Everybody advertises cappucchinos–but can they make coffee?
I probably would have bought the mug though I’m a sucker for t-shirts. I get lost in lower Manhattan. I have to carry a map when I go to the Lower East Side for a haircut.
I have to laugh: I would feel exactly the same way! I need a compass.
Costa too strong??????? Wow! Actually, I prefer Nero or Costa to Starbucks, but there y’go. Glad you liked the Dickens museum though – he is pretty brilliant. Came to the town I live in once and did a reading!
Maybe Costa was too bitter. Something! I’ll try Nero.
Oh, Dickens! I love him so much. All these writers’ museums have a different character. Sometimes you feel the century and the writer, sometimes you don’t. The worst? Mark Twain’s. I’m still reeling from the commercialization. Louisa May Alcott’s was a little tame, a little too tour-y, and my friend and I lagged behind because it was so uninspiring. The best, believe it or not, are in Nebraska: Willa Cather’s home in Red Cloud, Nebraska, is completely uncommercial, and I have never met such well-educated tour guides in my life. Bess Streeter Aldrich’s, too, in Elmwood, NE. Nobody goes to see Bess…
The Dickens Museum was really good, though I could have lived without the “soundtracks.” I’m sure some of this is for the young. Such a fun day, though, and I’m so glad I went. I must join the Dickens Society!
I’ve not been to the Dickens’s museum — I don’t know why. I do have a _strong recommendation_ — go to Dr Johnson’s house.
Despite the slick photo on the site, the last time we were there (admittedly several years) it was left in its natural state. You can see the attic room where he did the dictionary and a broken wooden arm chair said to have been his.
Oh, Ellen, this sounds wonderful! I love visiting these writers’ houses.
I very much enjoyed the Dickens Museum!