Literary Tourism: Part 1

If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know that I spent the month of July in Europe, mostly in the UK, but also Amsterdam, Dublin, and Paris. While I was away, my good friend Amelia provided guest posts, with reviews of Thirteen Reasons Why, Incarceron, Unwind, and Shakespeare’s Star Wars. Before we get back to your regularly scheduled book reviews, I’m going to share a few photos of the more literary sights I visited while I was away.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAAnne Frank House

The first and most serious literary sight we visited was Anne Frank House, and the statue of Anne Frank at nearby Westerkerk in Amsterdam. The House includes the secret annex above her father’s warehouse where Anne and her family hid during the German occupation, as well as a large museum dedicated to her story. All the furnishings were removed from the annex after Anne and her family were betrayed, leaving it eerily empty. Anne’s original diary, and the notebooks she used once it was full, are part of the display, as well as her famous collages of contemporary pop culture, which are partially preserved behind plexiglass.  It has been a number of years since I last read her story, but I picked up a copy from the Anne Frank House book shop, and I’m looking forward to revisiting it soon. The line was quite long, so if you’re planning on visiting, I recommend purchasing tickets online ahead of your visit. There no photos permitted inside the House.

Website: http://www.annefrank.org/

GE DIGITAL CAMERAHarry Potter Studio Tour

On our first full day in London, we hit up the biggest “literary” sight of our trip, checking out the newly opened Harry Potter Studio Tour, which features a huge range of exhibits from the sets of the adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s famous novels. The tour includes two giant warehouses and a back lot. Since the studio is located outside of London in Leavesden, we traveled out there on a tour bus, which allowed us four hours for our visit. While four hours is enough time, you have to move quickly to take everything in! Our tour guide told us that the day before we visited, one man spent no less than eleven hours there. If you’re a big Harry Potter fan, I don’t think it would be a stretch to spend 6 to 8 hours going through the exhibit at a more leisurely pace. And of course, at the end of your visit, there is a giant shop filled with every manner of Harry Potter paraphernalia imaginable, including various editions of the books. If seeing original sets, props, and costumes from all eight films tickles your fancy, I can’t recommend this enough; it was one of the nerdy highlights of the trip. This sight is new and popular, so booking ahead is definitely recommended. Photos are permitted everywhere except the green screen area, and the opening film.

Website: http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/

IMG_2134The British Library 

If old books are your thing, the Treasures of the British Library exhibition has the benefit of being both fascinating and free. We were able to see Shakespeare’s first folio, an 11th Century copy of Beowulf, and copies of the Magna Carta. For the more pop culture minded, the display also includes original Beatles lyrics. If you visit after September 30, you will also likely see the Lindisfarne Gospels, which were unfortunately out on loan to another exhibit when we visited. However, the display includes a large variety of other beautiful Bibles.  If you wont be making it to the British Library anytime soon, they also have an app on iTunes for $3.99. Admission is free, no tickets needed. Photography is not permitted inside the exhibit, but the public areas are fair game.

Website: http://www.bl.uk/

20130715-201852.jpgThe Regency Tea Room at The Jane Austen Centre

On one of our day tours out of London, we had a stop in the city of Bath. Instead of visiting the Roman Baths for which the city is named, we opted to walk up to The Jane Austen Centre. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to both get lunch and take in the exhibit before we had to return to the tour bus, so we opted to have tea in the Centre’s Regency Tea Room and check out the gift shop. We had a lovely light lunch of finger sandwiches, tea, and cake. The gift shop is full of amazing things for Austen fans, and to make matters worse, they have an online shop with worldwide shipping! I’m still tempted to buy one of these. The city of Bath in general was quite lovely, and I would definitely like to spend some more time there if I have a chance to return to the UK.

Website: http://www.janeausten.co.uk/

Check back on Thursday for Part 2, including Shakespeare’s Birthplace, The Book of Kells, The World of Beatrix Potter, and Hill Top Farm.

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