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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Take a Dickens pub crawl

A pub crawl to suit any visitor to London.
This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here's how to walk in Charles Dickens footsteps.  This post is by Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).   

Not long ago Will Self (an infamous novelist, well-known Brompton/fold-up cyclist) wrote a fascinating piece about walking in towns, see here. Apparently 100 years ago 90 per cent of all Londoner's journeys less than six miles were walked. Even the school run. Nowadays we're all too time pressed to even consider doing this. But it's interesting to think how much it would change our lives (and physiques, and appetites) if we did. And the combination of walking and a good look-see at London is a great way to get to know the layers of history this vast city offers.

Charles Dickens is famous for walking around London - no doubt done to avoid his home, identify new characters and work out tricky plots. When we next have guests from overseas I look forward to taking them on this Charles Dickens pub crawl where the great man used to pop into to dry out, warm up or chat.

Where to go for your Dickens Pub Crawl
On our (three evening!) pub crawl (we had to trial it if we were going to offer proper great expectations...) a combination of the A-Z map, Pete, me Nicola, Matthew, Ann and Hannah went to:

The One Tun, Saffron Hill, EC1 (near Farringdon Road tube)
This is now a football pub and really rather hideous. But Charles Dickens may well have borrowed one of its regulars, a man called Ikey Solomons, to dream up Fagin from Oliver Twist.
Verdict: think of it as a warm up. Pubs will only get better.

The Bleeding Heart Tavern, Bleeding Heart yard, EC1
This is really a posh wine bar/restaurant but there's a lovely nook you can sit in and dream about how the cobbled yard behind the pub was the home of the Plomish family in Little Dorrit
Verdict: so close to The One Tun and Ye Olde Mitre that you might want to linger

Ye Olde Mitre, Ely Court, EC1 (just off Hatton Gardens)
This is ever-so lovely and though it seems small it has two back rooms, a front room and an upstairs. They serve a fab range of beers, plus serve traditional City pub fare (think Scotch eggs). Lots of oak panelled walls. Both Dr Johnson and Charles Dickens here - your pub quiz question is could they have done so on the same day?* (answer below)
Verdict: fab

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, 145 Fleet Street, EC4 (near St Pauls tube or Holborn tube)
Just as good as Ye Olde Mitre, but with many more rooms, each with a rather different character - the stand up and drink until sick; the eatery, the snugs. It was built in 1667 and creeks, in a good way. Some say it's the pub that features in A Tale of Two Cities when Sydney asks Charles Darnay to dine after his acquittal from the charge of high treason.
Verdict: definitely a good place to celebrate life.

Ye Olde Watling, Watling Street, EC1
Actually I didn't make this venue on the pub crawl, but it was allegedly built by Sir Christopher Wren as a hostel for the guys building St Pauls. Dickens loved this pub... plus it's got 10 different real ales on tap, and lovely old beams.
Verdict: one of the best

Ye Olde Wine Shades, 6 Martin Lane, EC4 (near Monument tube)
Slight problem, it's not a pub - it's a posh City wine bar but it is l-o-v-e-l-y. It's also possibly the oldest pub in London - although that title could be the Lamb & Flag in Fleet Street, or Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (see above) or loads of others along by the Thames. What is known is that this pub survived the 1666 Great Fire of London. Serves terrible chips, but the oak walls, generous wine glasses, mixed nuts and snugs and settles (wooden benches with backs) make up for that small hiccup.
Verdict: great place to go early in the evening as it's busier at lunch times... and the Monument to the fire of London is only a short stroll away.

George & Vulture, 3 Castle Court, EC3
This is deep in the city and was shut on the Friday evening when I reached it (how strange is that?), but maybe it is a restaurant now.  It has been the HQ for the Pickwick Club - run by fans of Charles Dickens. Despite the history don't bother. Luckily if you are just going for a peep, the oldest coffee house in London happens to be down the same alleyway, Jamaica Wine House, and that at least now serves beer and wine to the City suits, and pub crawlers...
Verdict: forget it

I found all this info out on a downloadable pdf created by islington council.
PUB QUIZ ANSWER: * no of course not! Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Charles Dickens (1812-1870)


Nicola Baird said...

From Facebook:
Greg "Brilliant! When finished get a boat to Greenwich and check out another pub Dickens frequented-the Trafalgar Tavern! Wedding breakfast in Our Mutual Friend set there too..."

Annie "Can I count as a friend from abroad? I'll PAY for a babysitter."

Nicola Baird said...

Matthew: "Enjoyed reading that, when I should be working or something…"