If you happen to find yourself at a loose end in London this year, and you're not sick of hearing about Charles 'fecking' Dickens, then I suppose, if you want, relive the world of Mr Dickens in England courtesy of British Tours Ltd, who also offer interesting aguidements (I've just invented a new word!) to Stonehenge at Dawn, (They also have a Stonehenge at Night, for those who couldn't care less about a few big stones in a field) the Normandy D Day sights (and sounds with new 2000 speaker system) and a Winston Churchill tour, and no the rumour that Albert Finney likes to occasionally pop into Chartwell to give a convincing portrayal of the great man, is not true.
You will get to explore Dickens's London, including Camden Town where the writer spent his callow youth and got inspiration for many of his characters; Grays Inn, where Dickens was a solicitor's clerk in 1828 and the nearby Old Curiosity Shop; where you can still buy balls of sticky opium on a stick; Doughty Street in Clerkenwell, famous for inspiring the song, 'Doughty Doughty Doo' by the Rolf Harris, Roy Castle and Bernard Cribbins Combo.
You'll be guided through the rooms of the Dickens House Museum, his first real home with his wife Catherine and where he wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. The Museum houses fascinating Dickens memorabilia and a comprehensive library of his work. The Dickens tours also include Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey, where the author is buried. (Please do not leave Dicken's books beside the grave overnight in the expectation that his ghost will autograph them, that was only a one-off and his agent insists he won't be doing it again) Then you get to have Lunch is at one of Dickens’ favourite pubs described in A Tale of Two Cities, or one of his favourite restaurants, like 'The Guzzled Duck' or 'The Wenches Hovel.'
Sights outside London include Portsmouth and a modest house where Dickens was born 200 years ago on February 7, 1812. The small terraced house has been restored and furnished in the Regency style in which is parents lived. (The TV is tastefully and discreetly subdued with it's bespoke gifted picture frame)
Rochester in Kent also has strong Dickens connections. You can visit Restoration House which featured as Satis House in ‘Great Expectations’, and Dickens’ former home at Gads Hill Place just outside of Rochester, where Charles and his family lived from 1857 to 1870. He wrote a number of his novels here and he died here whilst working on his uncompleted book, ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood.’
There's even a Dickens World amusement park where you can drop the kids off. Don't worry they'll be given constructive work to do and shall stay in the Workhouse and 2 cold watery bowls of porridge a day - this is the fun part for the kids, they get to stagger weakly up to Mr Bumble and ask for 'some more.'
The Dickens House Museum in Broadstairs, Kent, was once the home of Miss Mary Pearson Strong who provided was the basis for Miss Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. It is visible across the bay from the original Bleak House (not open to visitors, riff raff or passers-by) where David Copperfield was written. The museum contains memorabilia, general Victoriana and some of Dickens's letters. The Tour company will also be covering special Dickens related events in Rochester and Broadstairs such as Dickens Festival and the Dickens Christmas Market.
It sounds a pretty decent way to spend some time. A couple of my good friends are going to London soon, I think I'll recommend it to them.