Harry Potter’s London // Letters to October (9)

Dear October,

A day before I left home again, I started re-reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s a battered copy with my name written in it in sparkly gel pen — three times. As I packed, I snuck it into my bag, leaving new, unread books behind. It’s not a coincidence that this slightly melancholy moment in my life unfolded between the pages of a Harry Potter book. When I first started university, I took Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone with me to deal with homesickness. And the more MA coursework I got stuck into this year, the more re-reads of the series I did.

Over the years, Harry Potter has become a source of comfort. Last January was such an occasion. The New Year’s festivities were behind us, leaving the world slightly deflated of energy, as if everyone were thinking, ‘What now?’. The days seemed comprised of darkness and frost. My friends and I decided to bring a bit of magical cheer into one dismal winter day by planning a Harry Potter tour of London. Here are the locations we risked frostbite to visit:

1. Platform 9 3/4

We started the day at none other than the iconic platform 9 3/4. Here, you can take a picture with the trolley, take a look around the shop and if you’re lucky, go through the barrier and spend the rest of the day in the wizarding world.

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5 Reasons to Visit the Charles Dickens Museum

Doughty_StreetIn a quieter part of London, nestled near the middle of a quaint little street is a lovely place that not many people seem to know about. 48 Doughty Street was Charles Dickens’ home from 1837 to 1839 and is the location where he wrote The Pickwick PapersNicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist. It is now the Charles Dickens Museum, where I have been volunteering for the last few months. This may make you think I’m biased in its favour, but it’s genuinely a wonderful place, and here are five reasons you should give it a visit if you get the chance.

1. The museum is not just a collection of Dickens’ belongings, but a carefully curated experience.

Upon walking in, visitors will see letters written by Dickens hanging on one wall, and items such as maps, posters and playbills on the other, all of which relate to Dickens’ life (and to London at the time) in some way. The exhibitions in each room are designed to give you an understanding of what life would have been like at the time — not only for Dickens, but for his household as well. The furniture and everyday items are complemented by decor that forms a narrative. As you move from one room to other, there is an almost lived-in feel to the place; it’s not just a museum building or a house. It’s a home.

2. You are free to create your own experience.

Whilst there is a recommended order in which to look through the rooms, visitors are not obligated to follow this. You can look around at their own leisure and I have seen some spend hours perusing whilst others have been in and out in less than thirty minutes flat. If you take the time, though, each item on display has a certain significance you can find out about.

The reception also sells audio guides that enhance the whole experience and leave you with little kernels of knowledge you can use to impress strangers. Otherwise, the volunteers on duty are also vastly knowledgeable about many aspects of Dickens’ life.

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A Walking Tour of London Bookshops

Recently, I met up with two friends from my old university, intending to catch up and wander a little bit. That “wander” turned out to be a trip to every bookshop within the area — and there are quite a few within walking distance of each other. So if you have an afternoon to spare (and a little money if you, like me, are prone to buying more books than you can read), then stop by some — or all — of these book nooks in London!


1. Skoob

We started the afternoon at Skoob, a secondhand bookshop near Russell Square. Every nook and cranny in this place is filled with books of all sorts; I could have spent the whole day just there. They also have a student discount until the end of October, so stop by quick if you’re eligible!

Here’s how well I did:

  • Willpower: broken
  • Books bought: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
    • Excuses: nostalgia (I enjoyed Riordan’s books in younger years)
    • I liked the Percy Jackson/Lost Hero series, and haven’t read the Kane series yet
    • I am internally about 10 years old
  • The Masterpieces of Shirley Jackson
    • Excuses: Halloween is coming up and I wanted some spooky reads
    • It will photograph well for my Instagram (Did you know I have a bookstagram? *shameless promotion*)
    • Student discount!

IMG_59683Yes, one of each, please

2. London Review Bookshop
Next up, we headed to London Review Bookshop. There is a quaint little cake shop attached to this one (which may or may not have been one of our main incentives to meet up). After a bit of cake and tea, we took a quick look around the actual bookshop.

  • Willpower: sustained (with some difficulty; they have signed copies of several books). My friends caved though!

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