Being an English major in college is not the easiest route to mass popularity or fortune and fame, but it does have its advantages later in life. You get to correct the grammar mistakes that the math and computer majors make when accepting their awards and you can smoke your coworkers when Jeopardy! comes on.
When it’s time to take a vacation you also have some key places to visit that might not mean much to most people, but where you can revel in the kind of literary glory that will most likely evade you for all-time.
Like Cliff Notes for a real guide, here are some of those places:
100 miles northwest of London, Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace of the Bard and perhaps the only place where you can’t bandy about Shakespearean insults.
Thou art a beetle-headed apple-john if you think the locals won’t recognize foul wordcraft and label you a knave.
Highlights include Shakespeare’s birthplace, his grave, his mother’s house and the home of Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife before going on to star in The Devil Wears Prada). The Royal Shakespeare Company also has three theaters in town and a stable of actors who have a reputation for remembering most of their lines.
Getting there: As mentioned, Stratford-Upon-Avon is about 100 miles northwest of London, and is served by 7 direct trains every day.
It would solve a lot of problems to rename Walden Pond to Walden Lake. First, it would eventually cut down on crowds—a real problem in the summer—as future generations failed to connect it with Thoreau’s treatise on nature.
A short drive from the city, the park has a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s one room house, a swimming spot, fishing, and way too much water to be called a pond. It makes you wonder if Thoreau wasn’t exercising a little "literary disobedience" (read: lying) when he wrote of his secluded retreat.
That is a lake if ever there was one.
Getting there: Walden Pond is in Concord, Massachusetts, about 20 miles northwest of Boston.
221b Baker St — Sherlock Holmes residence
The most famous address in literature is one of the only places on the list that you CAN’T visit, because, according to some sources, it does not exist. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, the numbers on Baker St only went up to 100. As the street was further developed, 221 B was left out. The Sherlock Holmes Museum, on the other hand, advertises its address as 221B. Some claim that it is actually located at 239.
It’s a discrepancy that a sleuth like Holmes would have solved without putting down his violin, but for the rest of us it remains a mystery.
Getting there: This address is in central London, just a short walk north of Oxford Street and Hyde Park.
Edgar Allan Poe Cottage
Before Conan Doyle was inducing his deductive detective to solve crimes though, Edgar Allan Poe was busy creating the detective-fiction genre with his logic wizard C. Auguste Dupin. He later went on to write poetry about hearts and birds.
There are numerous sites to visit in memory of Edgar Allan Poe. The Edgar Allan Poe cottage in the Bronx, where he lived from 1846 to 1849 stands in tribute, as does the Poe Museum, in Richmond, Virginia.
In Pennsylvania, the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, where he lived with his family and wrote, is now a museum ramping up with new exhibits and sites for Poe’s birthday. Had he not died under mysterious circumstances (rabies is a popular theory) in 1849, Poe would have turned 200 in January.
Getting there: The Cottage is in the northeast part of the Bronx, New York City, accessible from the #4 subway line. The Historical Site is just north of downtown Philadelphia.