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London and the English Countryside - Books & Movies
RECOMMENDED READING 
  • History of London by Stephen Inwood. Stephen Inwood has written a compelling and comprehensive history of this incredibly unique and complicated city, from the fires and plundering of latterday Londinium to the frenetic art, music and politics of London's last 30 years.
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Set in Victorian London, this is a tale of a spirited young innocent's unwilling but inevitable recruitment into a scabrous gang of thieves. Masterminded by the loathsome Fagin, the underworld crew features some of Dickens' most memorable characters, including the vicious Bill Sikes, gentle Nancy, and the juvenile pickpocket known as the Artful Dodger.
  • The Jupiter Myth by Lindsey Davis. For Falco, a relaxed visit to Helena's relatives in Britain turns serious at the scene of a downtown murder. The renegade henchman of Rome's vital ally, King Togidubnus, has been stuffed head-first down a bar-room well - leading to a tricky diplomatic situation which Falco must diffuse.
  • Elizabeth's London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London by Liza Picard. This picture of the London of Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) is the result of L. Picard's curiosity about the practical details of daily life that almost every history book ignores. Liza Picard's wonderfully skillful and vivid evocation of the London of four hundred years ago enables us to share the delights, as well as the horrors, of the everyday lives of sixteenth century Britain. 
  • London: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd. Rutherford brings London's long and noble history alive through the ever-shifting fortunes, fates, and intrigues of half-a-dozen families. Generation after generation, these families embody the passion, struggle, wealth, and verve of the greatest city in the world. Highlighted are the most dramatic moments of that city's history, leaping from Caesar's invasion to the Norman Conquest, with many stops in between.
  • Saturday by Ian McEwan. Henry Perowne - a neurosurgeon, urbane, privileged, deeply in love with his wife and grown-up children - plans to play a game of squash, visit his elderly mother, and cook dinner for his family. But after a minor traffic accident leads to an unsettling confrontation, Perowne must set aside his plans and summon a strength greater than he knew he had in order to preserve the life that is dear to him.
  • Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. Pygmalion is a perceptive comedy of wit and wisdom that follows the flower-seller Eliza Doolittle as she teaches the egotistical phonetics professor Henry Higgins that to be a lady means more than just learning to speak like one. Later adapted into the iconic film My Fair Lady.
  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet is the first story in the Sherlock Holmes canon, introducing Holmes to the world as well as telling the story of how Dr. Watson and the great detective first meet and become roommates.  Follow Holmes and Watson as they solve their first case and begin a partnership that has left an indelible mark on the detective fiction genre, as well as popular culture.
  • Bridget Jones's Diary: A Novel by Helen Fielding. It's the purported diary, complete with daily entries of calories consumed, cigarettes smoked, "alcohol units" imbibed and other unsuitable obsessions, of a year in the life of a bright London 30-something pining for a steady boyfriend. As dogged at making resolutions for self-improvement as she is irrepressibly irreverent, Bridget is knowing, obviously attractive but never too convinced of the fact, and prone ever to fear the worst.
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen. A favorite amongst Janeites and readers everywhere, Persuasion tells the story of Anne Elliott, a sensible young woman who is suddenly re-introduced to the lover she deeply regrets letting go.  Driven by its colorful characters and the bittersweet flavor of first love, Persuasion is a romance bound to stay with you long after the story reaches its suspenseful, satisfying end.
  • Lucia in London by E.F. Benson. After Lucia's husband's aunt dies and leaves her London home to the couple, the Queen of English provincial society attempts to conquer London. Using her social climbing instincts, she manages to get into London's fanciest parties without being invited, amongst other triumphs.  A secret society of "Luciaphiles" springs up in London, with members who never tire of watching Lucia get into, and out of, all kinds of trouble.
  • Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. A book about English identity, belonging, obsession; about afternoons in the driving rain and bitter cold and glorious, unforgettable goals; the dazzling skills of the gods of football and leaving your girlfriend lying fainted on the terraces because Arsenal are about to score.  And it's about the only true question there is: Which comes first, Football or Life?
     
RECOMMENDED VIEWING 
  • A Hard Day's Night (1964) by Richard Lester (with Lionel Blair, Wilfrid Brambell). The Beatles's first movie -- a groundbreaking comedy often considered director Richard Lester's best film -- chronicles a "typical" day in their lives, filled with frenzied fans, crazy relatives and a soundtrack of familiar songs. The film defined the Beatles' impish appeal, and John, Paul, George and Ringo are surprisingly assured on-screen. Songs include "Can't Buy Me Love," "And I Love Her" and "I Should Have Known Better."
  • My Fair Lady (1964) by George Cukor (with Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison). In this classic cinematic version of the Broadway smash, Audrey Hepburn is at her most radiant as Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl transformed into a poised duchess by Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison, reprising his Broadway role). The film won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
  • Georgy Girl (1966) by Silvio Narizzano (with James Mason, Alan Bates). Nominated for four Oscars, director Silvio Narizzano's cheeky comedy stars Lynn Redgrave as 22-year-old Georgy, a chubby but sassy virgin who finds herself with two men on her hands. It seems that her dad's amorous, middle-aged boss, James Leamington (James Mason), wants to make her his mistress; meanwhile, the father (Alan Bates) of her narcissistic roommate's illegitimate child falls in love with Georgy. What's a dithering girl to do?
  • A Man for All Seasons (1966) by Fred Zinnemann (with Paul Scofield, Wendy Hiller). When Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) seeks approval from the English aristocracy to divorce his wife and marry commoner Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield) finds himself caught between a murderous king and the powerful Roman Catholic Church. Richly crafted with a fine supporting cast, director Fred Zinnemann's period drama swept the 1966 Oscars, winning six golden statuettes, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director.
  • The Elephant Man (1980) by David Lynch (with John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins). In this Oscar-nominated drama based on a true story, physically abnormal John Merrick (John Hurt) endures ostracizing, taunting behavior as a sideshow attraction in mid-19th century England. Despite his horribly disfigured face and body and barely perceptible speech, concerned doctor Frederick Treves (Sir Anthony Hopkins) recognizes Merrick to be highly intelligent and works to save the Elephant Man's dignity.
  • My Beautiful Laundrette (1986) with Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth. Omar (Gordon Warnecke), a Pakistani, and his old school chum Johnny (Daniel-Day Lewis) use stolen drug money to renovate a laundrette in a squalid London neighborhood. But conflicting interests soon threaten their newfound success. Hanif Kureishi received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay, a stunning portrait of two boyhood friends who are struggling to survive in racially tense Thatcher-era Britain.
  • A Fish Called Wanda (1988) with John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis. A crooked foursome commits the heist of the century and is about to get away ... until the London police arrest one of them. Can the three on the lam (Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline) persuade their comrade's lawyer (John Cleese) to reveal the stolen loot's location? Kline won an Oscar for his performance, but the laugh-out-loud funny film also drew nominations for its writing (Cleese) and directing (Charles Crichton).
  • Howards End (1992) by Humphrey Dixon (with Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson). Ruth Wilcox's deathbed wish forever changes relations between her well-heeled family and bourgeois Schlegel sisters Margaret (Oscar winner Emma Thompson) and Helen (Helena Bonham Carter) when Ruth bequeaths her manor -- Howards End -- to Margaret. Ruth's husband, Henry (Anthony Hopkins), acting in his family's "best interest," burns the coda to her will. But as lonely Henry falls for Margaret, providence dictates that he pay for his duplicity.
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) by Mike Newell (with Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell). At various social gatherings, Charles (Hugh Grant), a commitment-phobic Brit, tries to reconnect with Carrie (Andie MacDowell), a beautiful, alluring American who's about to make a seemingly terrible mistake by marrying a wealthy, boring man (Corin Redgrave). Kristin Scott Thomas, John Hannah, James Fleet and Simon Callow co-star in this lighthearted comedy about love, friendship and fate. But, as the title suggests, there's a tragedy in the mix.
  • Persuasion (1995) by Roger Michell (with Amanda Root, Ciarán Hinds). This film adaptation of Jane Austen's last novel follows Anne Elliot, the daughter of a financially troubled aristocratic family, who is persuaded to break her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a young sea captain of meager means. Years later, money troubles force Anne's father to rent out the family estate to Admiral Croft, and Anne is again thrown into company with Frederick -- who is now rich, successful and perhaps still in love with Anne.
  • Notting Hill (1999) by Roger Michell (with Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts). A chance encounter brings together reserved bookstore owner William Thacker (Hugh Grant) and Hollywood icon Anna Scott (Julia Roberts), who forge an improbable romance until Anna's megastardom begins whittling away at their relationship. Can their love overcome all the pretense -- and the flash of the paparazzi? Rhys Ifans co-stars in a scene-stealing turn as Spike, William's dim-bulb, bedraggled flatmate.
  • Shakespeare in Love (1999) with Geoffrey Rush, Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes. Young Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is forced to stage his latest comedy, "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter," before it's even written. When a lovely noblewoman (Gwyneth Paltrow) auditions for a role, they fall into forbidden love -- and his play finds a new life (and title). As their relationship progresses, Shakespeare's comedy soon transforms into tragedy. This bittersweet romance won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actress.
  • Billy Elliot (2000) by Stephen Daldry (with Julie Walters, Jamie Bell). When 11-year-old Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) trades boxing school for ballet lessons, his father (Gary Lewis) -- a hardworking miner from Northern England who despises the idea of his son running around in toe shoes -- is less than pleased. But when the boy wins an audition for the Royal Ballet School, he experiences a change of heart. Stephen Daldry directs this Oscar-nominated drama that spawned a Tony-winning Broadway musical of the same name.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) by Chris Columbus (with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint) Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) has lived under the stairs at his aunt and uncle's house his whole life. But on his 11th birthday, he learns he's a powerful wizard -- with a place waiting for him at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As he learns to harness his newfound powers with the help of the school's kindly headmaster (Richard Harris), Harry uncovers the truth about his parents' deaths -- and about the villain who's to blame.
  • Bend It Like Beckham (2003) by Gurinder Chadha (with Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley). An ardent fan of British soccer sensation David Beckham, Jess (Parminder K. Nagra) wants nothing more than to be on the field. But a proper Indian girl shouldn't be spending her time playing soccer -- or at least that's what her family thinks. Jess has the talent to play on a local all-girl team, but her parents want her to be like her older sister, who cooks chapati like a pro and wants a traditional Indian wedding. Keira Knightley co-stars.
  • Elizabeth - The Golden Age (2007) (with Cate Blanchett, Geoffry Rush). Cate Blanchett reprises her role as the Virgin Queen in this lushly costumed but historically muddy sequel to 1998's Elizabeth which focuses on the queen's tempestuous relationship with the adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh.
  • The King's Speech (2010) by Tom Hooper (with Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter). Britain's King George VI (Colin Firth) struggles with an embarrassing stutter for years until he seeks help from unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) in this biographical drama that chalked up multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Logue's pioneering treatment and unlikely friendship give the royal leader a sense of confidence that serves him and his country well during the dark days of World War II.
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Why travel with other women?
Many women do not have families or compatible friends who wish to travel. When going on a main-stream tour, women often find that most activities are geared towards couples and quite often they feel left out. Singles' tours are not always what women are looking for. If you do not have a traveling companion, there is also the issue of the expensive "single supplement", sometimes as much as 50 or even 100 percent of the tour cost. By going on women-only tours, women can easily avoid paying for the single supplement by sharing a room with another woman traveler.
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