Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Walk Back in Time

A half-timber house from Will's era
We time-traveled back hundreds of years Sunday -- to the 19th century London of Charles Dickens and the 16th/17th century settings of William Shakespeare. Took a walking tour ( with a couple dozen other mostly older folks, though not all, led by a delightful historian / professor / journalist / actor with the fine English name of David Tucker. Except David is from Wisconsin.
We saw houses, inns, parks, statues, and other settings not only related to the great authors but to other English writers as well from the area around St. Paul's Cathedral, which seemed a hotbed for prose, poetry, and plays.

We were also treated to historic context of shrapnel wounds left in the sides of buildings ... not from World War II but in fact The Great War a generation earlier. Reminded me of my great uncle's voluntary WWI service, flying for the American Expeditionary Force in France.
We also learned about architectural changes to windows in the aftermath of the Great Fire, the brutal executions of opponents by Henry VIII, who had their heads mounted on spikes at the entrance to the Tower Bridge, but also of a quaint restaurant that serves the best English breakfast in London.
We also saw the excavation of original Roman ruins, as well as a wall of remembrance, honoring everyday heroes who gave their lives to rescue someone else. The wall is still active today, a century after it was begun.
David is without question the most knowledgeable and loquacious tour guide I've ever encountered. He doesn't just point out that this house represents a scene from Oliver Twist or that park is where William Wallace (Braveheart) was executed. He goes levels deeper -- for example, explaining how Shakespeare used certain words in Romeo's opening line so that the actor's face and expression would reinforce the passion of the words themselves. Incredible context.

The weather was spectacular and the Sunday streets uncrowded, which added to the pleasure of having this historic section of the city practically to ourselves.

We capped the day by stumbling upon a brasserie - Cote - in the shadow of St. Paul's. The food was superb, the young waiter (from Sardinia) a most pleasant and attentive fellow.

For another view of the tour, please read D-L's blog:

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