A Note from The Globe Turner: I’m so excited to feature this blog’s first guest post from the amazing Heather Croxon of bitsnbooks. When I first heard about Heather’s trip, and then started seeing her many book posts on Instagram while there, I knew a post from her would fit right in with The Globe Turner’s style! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, and if you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, get in touch.
My recent trip to Europe turned into an accidental literary adventure. While planning my holiday, I had selected one bookshop in each of the cities I was visiting – Paris and London – to make some unneeded book purchases, but in the end just about everywhere I visited had some sort of literary significance.
So when Kaitlin asked if I’d like to write a guest post for her newly themed “destinations real and literary” blog The Globe Turner, of course I said yes. Whenever you go on holiday it’s always nice to share tips with other people, and it’s even more important (in my opinion) to share bookish places of interest.
I share everything from world famous landmarks like the Louvre to hidden gems like The Hunterian Musuem that you might never have heard of. But every single one has something special to offer.
Shakespeare and Company
This was almost the number one place to visit on my holiday tour. Located in the heart of Paris at Kilometer Zero – the point at which all streets in Paris begin – it’s been a bookish hotspot since opening in 1951. A short stroll from the Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral, it has more books than you imagine could fit into such a small space. One side of the building sells all new books; the other side is the Antiquarian where you can go for second hand books and some collectibles. You can’t leave without grabbing at least one book to take home (I bought five) and having it stamped with the official Shakespeare and Company stamp, making your book an extra special holiday memento. 37 rue de la Bûcherie, Paris. Website.
Not only is this building an architectural wonder, it is also the final resting place of a few significant figures from French history. Booknerds can visit The Panthéon and pay their respects to some true giants of literature: Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Voltaire, and Jean Jacques Rousseau. Place du Pantheon, Paris. Website.
OK, this place is obviously a must see; it’s definitely worth putting up with hordes of tour groups to see the art collection.
But the building itself is worth a visit in its own right. Dating back to the 12th century, the Louvre Palace has been home to many French kings, most notably Louis XIII and his son, Louis XIV, who were both featured heavily in the Alexandre Dumas novels, The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask. If you want to know what it might be like to walk through the location of a Dumas novel, then the Louvre is the place to do it. Just keep the swashbuckling to a minimum. Website.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Again, this is another must see location for anyone visiting Paris. I’ve been to Paris twice now and I’ve gone to the cathedral both times, and I will probably go there on any future trips to the city. Everything about Notre Dame is breathtaking. From the famous stained glass rose windows to the gravity defying vaulted ceilings, you can’t help but to be in awe of this place. It’s not difficult to see why Victor Hugo gave it a central role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Alas, Quasimodo was nowhere to be found. 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, Paris. Website.
This was the bookstore I selected to visit while I was in London, and by happy coincidence it was located right around the corner from my hotel. There are two Hatchards locations in London. The first is in Piccadilly and it has been in the same location for over 200 years (Hatchards has been around since 1797!). The second is a more recent residency, opening in 2014 at St Pancras International Station, the London station for the Eurostar. I visited the latter. Not only does Hatchards St Pancras have a great selection of books, but if they don’t have what you’re after, they can get it in for you from the other store free of charge and, providing you place your order before 3pm, you can pick it up after 5pm the same day; I can vouch for the efficiency of this service. St. Pancras International, London. Website.
The Harry Potter Shop
While you’re waiting for your book to arrive at Hatchards, why not stroll across the road to Kings Cross Station and visit The Harry Potter Shop? From Quidditch team jumpers and replica wands, to keyrings and Bertie Bott’s Every-flavour Beans, this is the place to go for all things Potter. Be warned – it’s busy, even when it’s quiet. And the line-up to have your photo taken pushing a trolley through the barrier to Platform 9 ¾ is long, so be prepared to wait a little while. Platform 9 ¾ Kings Cross Station, London. Website.
The Charles Dickens Museum
Once you step inside 48 Doughty Street, you are immediately transported back to Victorian England. The museum is one of the former homes of Mr Dickens and the collection is made up of a plethora of items that belonged to Dickens and his family, including furniture, jewellery, paintings and photographs. A highlight for me was seeing his writing desk and his favourite armchair. In the gift shop there is a wide range of Dickens memorabilia. If you want something extra special, you can pick up a copy of one of his many novels in the store, and have it marked with the Dickens Museum official stamp. It’ll be a nice little reminder of your holiday whenever you open the book. 48 Doughty Street, London. Website.
The British Library
The name should be an immediate lure for any booknerd. I was lucky enough to be in London for the final weeks of the Magna Carta exhibition, which included as part of the display two of the four original Magna Carta documents, which date all the way back to 1215! But even if there are no special exhibitions on when you visit, it’s worth going there to see the permanent collection. This includes: Shakespeare’s First Folio; a copy of Beowulf in Old English; 15th century copies of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Jane Austen’s writing desk along with a handwritten page of Persuasion in Austen’s own hand; and a page of Jane Eyre handwritten by Charlotte Brontë – and that’s just scratching the surface. Also make sure you check out the King’s Library Tower, which runs up the middle of the main library, and is SIX FLOORS of wall to wall and floor to ceiling bookshelves (i.e., every booklovers dream); unfortunately I don’t believe you can go in there, but the tower is made of glass so you have a pretty good view of everything. 96 Euston Road, London. Website.
The Hunterian Museum
Not for the queasy, the Hunterian Museum collection displays human and non-human anatomical specimens, as well as medical instruments, paintings and sculptures. Oh, and Winston Churchill’s dentures. The museum tells the story of surgery and how it has developed from simply hacking off a leg with a saw to the much safer and hygienic process we know today. A key figure in the development of surgical processes was John Hunter, who the museum is named in honour of, and the vast majority of items on display are from his own personal collection dating back to the 1700s. So what’s the literary aspect? Well, fans of Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall, may be familiar with one of her lesser known novels, The Giant O’Brien. This novel is a fictionalised account of the life of the Irish Giant, Charles Byrne (O’Brien), and his relationship with John Hunter, as Hunter offered to pay Byrne a large sum of money for his body when he died. Long story short, Byrne said “no” but Hunter still managed to get the body of the giant after his death, and Byrne’s skeleton, which stands at over 7 feet tall, is now on display in the museum today. Royal College of Surgeons 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. Website.
If you like Shakespeare, you can’t go to London and not see a play at The Globe. I watched a fantastic production of Richard II and it was probably one of the highlights of my trip. The simplicity of the staging puts all the focus on the play and the actors, rather than distracting you with elaborate sets. If you go, make sure you get a seat, rather than buying the cheaper standing tickets down near the stage. Sure you’re right in amongst it with the standing tickets, but the plays go for a couple of hours which mean you’re standing for that whole time. A friend of mine did this and he said he wished he’d got a seat instead. If you do get a seat, make sure you pay the extra pound for a cushion to sit on as the sits are just wooden benches and aren’t overly comfortable. 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London. Website.
Heather is a reader of just about anything she can get her hands on and it’s rare she goes anywhere without a book. While she doesn’t stick to any one genre, she has a preference for historical fiction, particularly anything set in the World War One era. Heather is currently working towards a B.A. in Professional Writing and Publishing and occasionally dabbles in writing her own fiction. She is also a huge fan of baked goods. She blogs about reading, writing, and eating at bitsbooks — go check it out!