Like New Yorkers, Londoners do not give in to threats from those who resent our freedoms. So today was almost a normal day, and we spent it doing normal tourist things.
Having seen Hever Castle this weekend, we felt compelled to visit the London address of William Waldorf Aster, Two Temple Place. Situated on the Victoria Embankment overlooking the Thames, it served as his city office, though it did have residential space on the upper floors. On the outside, the putti are using the new-fangled telephone and telegraph, while Christopher Columbus is remembered by the gold Santa Maria sailing over the roof.
The interior is quite opulent, though it has many whimsical features. Astor’s favorite book was The Three Musketeers, and they are represented on the balcony, along with a mishmash of historical figures ranging from Marie Antoinette to Pocahontas. Interesting effect.
We were right at the entrance to the City, and the Inns of Court, specifically the Middle Temple. It was the headquarters of the Knights Templar until they were dissoved in 1312. (Or so they say.) It’s now mainly barristers’ offices (chambers) and bustles with activity. The Temple Church services the Inner and Middle Temples and was used in filming “The DaVinci Code.” It’s very well taken care of, to the point where it almost seems brand new. We prefer a few dark corners and cobwebs…
After a quick pub lunch, we changed centuries and went off to find the only remaining London home of Charles Dickens, at 48 Doughty Street. It is much updated since we visited it years ago. Dickens lived here from 1837 to 1839, and here wrote Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, completed The Pickwick Papers, and worked on Barnaby Rudge. It’s clear he had already achieved much success by this point in his career.
The house is filled with many of his things, including his desk and many books from his library. It’s time to go back and get reacquainted with his characters – note to self.
We’re off to the theater tonight, but will end on a note which seems particularly apt from Mr. Dickens himself.