September 07, 2015

England in Books and Film

It's hard to believe that summer is almost over. I spent a few lazy evenings catching up on episodes of some wonderful British programs that have aired on PBS recently. And I've realized how much my reading and TV viewing have influenced my travel plans. So, as promised, here's a preview of some places I'm going to visit in England next year.

1. Cornwall

Ever since I read The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher I've wanted to visit this region in the southwest of England. Cornwall also served as the setting for Daphne Du Maurier's novel Rebecca. I loved the rugged scenery in the Doc Martin and Poldark TV series on PBS.

2.  Highclere Castle

Fans of the popular British TV series Downton Abbey know Highclere Castle as the real setting for the show. When I got hooked on the saga of the fictional Crawley family I added the castle to my bucket list. The sixth and final season airs later this month in Britain (early 2016 for North American audiences). Next summer I'll tour the castle as well as filming locations in the Cotswolds village of Bampton.

3.  Luxury Train Travel

The year 2015 marks the 125th anniversary of Agatha Christie, the author perhaps best known for Murder on the Orient Express. Taking a ride on this famous luxury train is another item on my bucket list but it's very expensive. I'm going to do the next best thing and ride the Belmond British Pullman, sister train to the Orient Express. In the PBS Masterpiece special David Suchet on the Orient Express, the actor who portrays Belgian detective Hercule Poirot takes viewers along on the train's legendary journey from London to Prague.

4.  London

Watching Mr. Selfridge has put a visit to this iconic Oxford Street department store on my to-do list. (The last time I was in London I stumbled upon the lovely doorway used in the series as the entrance to the Selfridge home.) And I hope to get tickets for the new play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which is set to hit the London stage in 2016. At the very least I plan to visit the Victorian Leadenhall Market which doubled as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.

5.  The Royals

The marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton and the births of two adorable royal babies have boosted the popularity of the British monarchy in recent years. And on September 9th, Queen Elizabeth will surpass Queen Victoria to become the country's longest reigning monarch. I plan to visit Buckingham Palace, which opens its staterooms to the public each year in August and September while the Queen vacations at Balmoral; and Hampton Court, the palace of King Henry VIII. I've gotten up to speed on intrigue at the Tudor court by watching Wolf Hall.

If you'd like to join me on a virtual tour of England, here's a suggested reading/viewing list. The books have also been made into films.

The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher
Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
Doc Martin
Masterpiece: Poldark (based on the novels by Winston Graham)
Downton Abbey
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express
(includes bonus feature David Suchet on the Orient Express)
Masterpiece: Mr. Selfridge
The Harry Potter Series, by J. K. Rowling
Masterpiece: Wolf Hall (based on the novel by Hilary Mantel)

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