Scenes From London…Part Two


After ten days in London, I had so many book-related items to share that I divided them into two posts. Last week, I wrote about the bookstores we visited. This week – everything else, including the little guy in the picture above. We saw him in a lovely garden on a sunny and warm day, but given how tightly he’s holding his jacket, he may have been cold!

One of my favorite things to do in any foreign bookshop is to look at the covers of familiar books. Sometimes, I like a different cover so much that I’m tempted to buy a book I already own. That’s what happened with Jane Eyre!  Here are a few especially wonderful ones from this trip:

We also bumped into one of England’s most beloved children’s book characters – the Gruffalo!  The famous monster is literally hiding in the deep woods of Westonbirt, the National Arboretum.  On our way to the Arborteum, which is 90 miles outside of London, I heard someone say that there is a wooden sculpture of the Gruffalo so, naturally, finding him became my top priority. Surprisingly, there are no signs leading you to the Gruffalo. We wandered around, expecting the Gruffalo to pop out along the way, but we finally took the necessary step of asking someone in the Arboretum’s gift shop. The Gruffalo, along with a few other characters from the classic picture book, are indeed in the dark woods. All of the sudden, you are face to face with this:

As a side note, the Arboretum is not too far away from the most picturesque Starbucks I’ve ever seen!

Another of Britain’s beloved characters is easier to find.  Each time we walked into Paddington Railway Station, we saw this:

My favorite Paddington, however, is this one:

This Paddington lives in the window of the British Railway’s Lost Property Office. It made me so happy to see the obvious commitment of the Lost Property Office staff to caring for their plush friend. They have even provided him with marmalade!

These last few pictures aren’t book-related, but they are too interesting not to share.

The first one is a wig shop that we passed while taking a fascinating tour of the British Inns of Court. Our tour guide explained that Ede & Ravenscroft is one of the oldest tailors in London, and that they make and sell legal wigs and gowns. It was hard to get a good picture because of the glare, but I definitely felt like I was watching a BBC drama!

I loved these two pieces in Southwark Cathedral. The two images face one another so you walk “through them.”

And this was fun to see:

At night, after a long day of sightseeing and Paddington-spotting, I read. Maybe it was the time change or the days that made my head spin with so many new things to think about, but I read alot during the trip. It was not my standard reading diet which was part of the joy of reading – new things to think about and learn.

Montaigne by Stefan Zweig (I was drawn to this short biography by the combination of author and subject. It is impossible to read this book without thinking about today’s political climate. Zweig writes about Montaigne’s commitment to tolerance and the dangers of factions. Zweig integrates his own story, especially his fears caused by the heightened rhetoric around WWII, and of course, I heard echoes of today’s fear-based rhetoric).

Where We Lived by Henry Allen (a series of short essays about the meaning of home by Henry Allen, the former culture critic – and Pulitzer Prize winner – for The Washington Post)

Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerance by Ian Buruma (Walking around London, you can’t help but notice the incredible diversity of the city, and with so much news about immigration policy in both the U.S. and Europe, I sought out something to read that would help me understand one of the most complicated issues of this era. Using the 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, Buruma interviews many people involved with the issue and analyzes what happens when cultural values come into conflict.)

Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham (This is the first book I’ve read by Maugham, and it won’t be my last. This 1941 novella includes a scene that makes me think Julian Fellowes must have read this before writing Downton Abbey!)

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg  (I started this biography before our trip and finished it when we returned. I began reading this book because I knew so little about the author of Anne of Green Gables. The extent of my knowledge was L.M. Montgomery lived on Prince Edward Island. Her life was actually quite troubled. Rosenberg is honest about Montgomery’s complex personal life, but captures her joys equally well.)

Finally, a doorway that we saw during a tour. It is beautiful.

Happy Travels and Happy Reading….