History & Literature Course
Day 1 – London Pick up from Gatwick Airport and train to our hotel in Croydon, a vibrant borough of London about 15 minutes from central London. This will be our base for the next four nights. The hotel is conveniently placed near the railway station, shops, restaurants and cafes and each twin /triple room has a private bathroom, tea and coffee-making facilities, WI-Fi, TV and a restaurant as well as a shop where food, drinks and other necessities can be bought.
Day 2 – London Today’s visit focuses on Shakespeare and the River Thames. We shall start our literary tour with none other than the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare and his company of actors performed his masterpieces of English Literature.
The theatre we see today is a faithful reproduction of Shakespeare’s original which was destroyed in a fire. We shall visit the Globe Exhibition to see what 17th century actors ingeniously used for their make-up and special effects and how they performed sword fights and other stunts. We will also explore the mysteries of Shakespeare’s identity and see how basically he was no less than a George Clooney of his times – a real star. After lunch we will proceed along the spectacular Thames pedestrian path, past The Tate Modern, The Millennium Bridge, St. Paul’s and up to Southwark Cathedral and The Golden Hinde. Here we will admire a replica of the ship Sir Francis Drake used to circumnavigate the globe in 1577 and thus see first-hand how explorers travelled in Shakespeare’s days. We will then walk up to The Tower of London and, if there is time, either visit The Bank of England Museum or go up to the top of the 160-metre-high Walkie Talkie Skyscraper to admire the spectacular views of the river and the city far below from the building’s original sky garden. Return to the hotel. Dinner in a local restaurant or at the hotel.
Day 3 – London Today’s visit focuses on “Museum Mile”, between the River Thames and Covent Garden. This “mile” is full of history and culture with many world- famous museums, palaces and residences. Today’s literary figure is Charles Dickens, Victorian writer and novelist. We shall visit the house where he wrote “Oliver Twist” and where we can see many of his personal belongings. We will see his private living quarters, the Victorian kitchen and learn more about his difficult childhood and life and what made him write what he did and the social impact it had. After lunch we will visit The British Library and its miles of bookshelves and books, many of which are protected by UNESCO. Among the many interesting manuscripts on display is the first copy of the “New Testament”, one of the 49 remaining copies of “Gutenberg’s Bible” dated 1453 and one of the few existing copies of the Magna Carta, dated 1215, the first document which laid the foundations for human rights as we know them today. After a day of culture there will be time for some shopping and general sightseeing before deciding where we would like to eat and heading back to the hotel.
Day 4 – London Today’s visit focuses on Hampstead, a very wealthy area of North London and home to many famous celebrities past and present such as Freud, Keats, Orwell, De Gaulle and even Thierry Henry .But it is Keats, one of England’s most important Romantic poets, that we shall concentrate on as our main literary figure today. John Keats lived in Hampstead and in his house here, we will learn more about his life and what inspired him to write his incredibly beautiful poetry. We can sit in the garden where he wrote one of his most famous works, “Ode to a Nightingale”. Hampstead has a village like feel to it and today we will have time to explore it, look at the quaint shops and have lunch, possibly in the pub where Dick Turpin, Britain’s most notorious highwayman, used to drink .In the afternoon we shall visit Kenwood House and its exhibition of masterpieces which includes paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer. If there is time we will also visit Freud’s House before heading back to the hotel for dinner and a cinema night.
Day 5 – Down House Today we will leave London and start our “On the Road” part of our study experience. Today’s visit focuses on Charles Darwin. At the age of 22 Darwin was offered a place on an expedition around the world. Not knowing when nor indeed if he would ever come home, Darwin set sail on the Beagle in 1831 to carry out his naturalistic observations. He returned in 1836 but it took him many years of further experiments to elaborate his Theory of Evolution which he explained in his book, “On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection” a book that had a great impact on Victorian England and on the scientific and religious world in general. Today we will visit the house where he lived and worked and learn more about his theories, his scientific work and the controversy that it provoked both then and today .The afternoon will be dedicated to a bit of “retail therapy” in one of Europe’s biggest shopping malls, Blue-water in Kent. With more than 300 shops, 40 restaurants, cinema and nature trail, Bluewater has something for everyone.
Day 6 – Canterbury Today’s literary figure is Geoffrey Chaucer and his “Canterbury Tales”. We shall in fact be visiting a UNESCO heritage site – the Cathedral City of Canterbury. Canterbury was founded by Julius Caesar in 55AD and later became a pilgrimage site following the murder of St. Thomas Beckett inside the cathedral itself. The pilgrims would travel to Canterbury from afar to pay homage to the saint and, to pass the time, the travellers would tell each other stories. It is on these tales that Chaucer’s book is based. As well as the cathedral and an exciting interactive experience on his tales there are many interesting things to see and do as the city is a vibrant place full of young people, shops, canals and attractions, including King’s Mile, Westgate and the eclectic Beaney House.
Day 7 – Dover Castle Today’s visit focuses on English history and in particular on Dover and its majestic castle known as “the Key to England”. The biggest in England, Dover Castle, with its strategic position overlooking the White Cliffs of Dover and the English Channel, has always played a vital part in the defence of the realm. We will learn about its importance both in medieval times and in the 20th century when it was used during both World War I and II. The headquarters of Operation Dynamo, featured in the film “Dunkirk”, starring Harry Styles, were based here and we will visit the secret wartime tunnels and underground hospital which run deep beneath the castle. We will also explore the medieval palace and enjoy the interactive, hands-on display brought to life by live interpreters.
Day 8- Battle Today we leave Dover and travel through Kent, “The Garden of England” and on to the town of Battle, where The Battle of Hastings took place in 1066. It was here that England’s last invasion took place when William of Normandy (the Conqueror) defeated King Harold and killed him with an arrow in the eye. William then founded an abbey here as a penance for all the bloodshed. We will learn a little more about British history and monastic life in another hands-on interactive exhibition as background for our literature tour. In the afternoon, depending on the weather, we will either visit The Seven Sisters, seven white cliffs overlooking the English Channel and one of the most spectacular views in southern England or visit Rudyard Kipling’s House. Although maybe not very well known abroad today, Kipling was Britain’s most popular and best paid writer in 1900 and almost everyone has heard of Mowgli and his animal friends in Kipling’s most famous novel, “The Jungle Book” made famous by Walt Disney’s film.
Day 9 – Weald and Downland Open-air Museum Today we will learn more about how “normal folk” lived over the centuries. We will see how they behaved, what they wore, what they ate and what life was like for the normal every day person in rural England. Seeing this first-hand will give us the chance to understand the social backdrop against which books and literary works were written. To do this we shall visit The Weald and Downland Open-air Museum near Chichester. Here we will see dozens of different houses, farms and workshops all meticulously restored and brought to life by people in costumes complete with farm animals. We will be able to taste 17th century Tudor bread and ale and witness how blacksmiths and other craftsmen went about their daily jobs in a beautiful West Sussex countryside setting.
Day 10 – Jane Austen Today’s visit focuses on arguably Britain’s most famous female writer – Jane Austen. In the middle of southern England’s greenest and finest countryside, in the quaint village of Chawton, lies Jane Austen’s family home. It was here that Jane lived and wrote some of her most well-known novels. The house is furnished and contains costumes and Jane’s personal belongings – visitors have the sensation that they might still find her here, writing her books or taking a stroll in the period garden. After learning about Jane, her family and her books we will have time to explore the village and the surrounding countryside before heading back to the hotel and a cinema night.
Day 11- Brighton No visit to southern England would be complete without a visit to Brighton. Known as “London by the Sea”, Brighton was made famous by The Prince Regent, later to become George IV. This fashion-loving prince, a contemporary of Jane Austen’s, built one of the most intriguing palaces in Europe – The Royal Pavilion. This palace is so exotic that it actually looks like something you might find in India, maybe in one of Rudyard Kipling’s books. The visit today focuses on Britain’s Regency Period, which produced many interesting writers and was so important in British history .After lunch we will have time to do some last-minute shopping in “The Lanes” or enjoy the Pier, with all its attractions, the sea and the beach before heading back to the hotel and our farewell dinner together.
Day 12 – Departure Transfer to London Gatwick Airport and departure.