Explorers, Travel Heroes & Literary Giants - a Quirky London Weekend ...

by Zoe Dawes /
Zoe Dawes's picture
Mar 08, 2010 / 0 comments

22 Hyde Park Gate Kensington"... and here is where Virginia Woolf was born." I entered a light and enticing room at one of London's most illlustrious addresses, very close to The Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Gardens. Delightfully quirky Jasmyne was showing me her apartment in what is possibly the only house in London to have three Blue Plaques - for renowned writer Virginia Woolf, her sister, the artist Vanessa Bell and their father, distinguished man-of-letters, Sir Leslie Stephens.

I was in London for this year's Travellers Tales Festival.  Looking for somewhere to stay nearby in Kensington, a mutual friend told me about 22 Hyde Park Gate and said that Jasmyne occasionally has house guests, particularly those who are interested in Virginia Woolf & the Bloomsbury Set  The idea of combining two great loves - travel & literature - in one weekend, was too temping to miss so I called Jasmyne and was fortunate enough to be invited to stay.

The tiny but perfectly formed Hyde Park Gate is a lovely cul-de-sac full of elegant Victorian houses, always 'popular with people of rank and fashion'. Founder of the Scout Movement, Robert Baden-Powell lived at No.9, writer Charles Dickens at No.16, sculptor Jacob Epstein at No.18, author of 'National Velvet' Enid Bagnold at No.28 and Sir Winston Churchill lived and died at No.28. No.22 was sold when Virginia Woolf's father died and was eventually converted into apartments in the mid-1970s.

From here it was a short walk to the Royal Geographical Society where the Travel Writers and Photographers Festival was held.  Livingstone, Darwin, Scott, Mary Kingsley, Freya Stark and many other famous names are all connected to this historic Society. To be in such august surroundings, seeing and hearing some of my all-time favourite travel heroes, was hugelyDervla Murphy inspiring. I had gone particularly to see Jan Morris, Dervla Murphy (signing her book here) and Fergal Keane, but enjoyed so many more. Two American photographers, Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher, shared their beautiful pictures of African tribal rites (in background of this photo)  and explorer Benedict Allen had everyone laughing at his exploits with the peoples of the Amazon rainforests and Papua New Guinea

The weekend was truly memorable, and made more enjoyable by meeting up with two Twitter friends, Simone from Italy and Britt from Norway. Jasmyne was a delightful hostess; I got some of her lovely postcards as a souvenir. You can find out more here www.22hydeparkgate.com ... I will be back!

For further tales of the London weekend, what Quirky Travel is all about - and the NEW Quirky Traveller Tours, visit me at www.thequirkytraveller.com