December 22 – 29, 2017
England is home to many popular Christmas traditions that we enjoy today, dating back to the time of Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens. Join us in London for a festive holiday celebration with newfound friends. You’ll explore a city decked out in holiday cheer, take part in seasonal traditions and savor culinary treats, and learn about Charles Dickens and the impact he had on literature and the Christmas holiday.
Rosalind Hutchinson is a veteran tour leader and Blue Badge Guide. She is a true local expert, a teacher of other guides, and a recipient of the prestigious Member of the British Empire (MBE), an honor awarded by the Queen of England for special services and accomplishments. Rosalind interweaves layers of English history, architecture and literature for a memorable well-rounded experience and takes a special interest in the landscape of the British detective novel.
Days 1& 2 — Depart the U.S., Arrive London
Depart on individual flights to London. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. This afternoon, after time to rest, meet your Smithsonian Journeys Expert Rosalind Hutchinson and your Tour Director. Ros has always been highly popular with Smithsonian travelers as she is adept at interweaving layers of English history, literature, and cultural traditions for greater insight. Ros adds a behind-the-scenes understanding to the city and her humor, charm, and warmth make her the ideal companion for the holiday celebrations.
Next, head out for the Charles Dickens Museum, located nearby in the last remaining house in which Dickens lived, and where he completed Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. Enjoy delicious mulled cider and mince pies while exploring the vast collection of paintings, rare editions, manuscripts, original furniture, and many other materials related to the renowned author. In the early evening, gather for a welcome reception and dinner at a nearby restaurant. (R,D)
Day 3 — London
Start the day on a walking tour of Dickensian London and see corners of London through Dickens’ eyes. Explore the very streets of “old London town” that have hardly changed since the time of Dickens, which he featured in his sketches, short stories, and novels, including A Christmas Carol. Visit Southwark where he lived on Lant Street. Wander through the vibrant Borough Market, the oldest food market in London, with many of the streets named after Dickens’ characters. Enjoy some traditional English refreshments at a traditional pub lunch near Borough Market. This evening attend a theatrical performance on the London stage. (B,L)
Day 4 — London, Christmas Day
Enjoy the morning at leisure. You may wish to take a walk with newfound friends to experience one of London’s quietest and most atmospheric days of the year, or perhaps attend a Christmas worship service close by. Gather at the hotel for a festive Christmas lunch, highlighting many of the holiday traditions dating from Victorian times. This afternoon, enjoy Christmas tea and festivities at your hotel. (B,L,Tea)
Day 5 — London, Boxing Day
Enjoy a guided tour of some of London’s historic sites. At Gray’s Inn, see where Dickens worked as a clerk in 1828, and a site that can be found in several of his books, including David Copperfield and Great Expectations. Visit Covent Garden which Dickens first explored in 1822 and referred to many times in his later novels. Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral, where David takes Peggotty in The Pickwick Papers, and then head to Leadenhall Market, Victorian London’s most beautiful market, which will be festively decorated for the Christmas season. (B,L)
Day 6 — Rochester
Travel into Kent this morning to visit Rochester. Charles Dickens’ long association with Rochester and the Medway area began when the Dickens family moved to a small house in Chatham. Explore the town on a guided walk of the High Street and the Dickens’ Discovery Rooms in the Guildhall Museum. Visit Rochester Cathedral, the second oldest cathedral in England founded in AD 604. The present building dates back to the work of a French monk in 1080, and features glorious Norman architecture particularly in the nave, and one of the finest Romanesque facades in England. Gather for lunch in a traditional pub with a roaring crackling fire. Return to London and enjoy dinner and the evening at leisure. (B,L)
Day 7 — Highgate
Head just north of London to the village of Highgate, where Dickens sent his most autobiographical character, David Copperfield, to live. Its hillside location affords spectacular views of the London skyline. This area still retains a 19th-century feel and remains much as it was when Dickens knew it. After a group lunch at a historic pub in Highgate Hill, take a guided tour of Highgate West cemetery. Built in response to the lack of burial space during London’s high death rate in the19th century, this evocative Victorian cemetery has beautiful tombs, vaults, and majestic terraces and catacombs. Several members of Dickens family including his mother, father, and daughter, are buried here. Tonight, gather with your fellow travelers for a farewell reception and dinner. (B,L,R,D)
Day 8 — Return to the U.S.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for flights home. (B)