“If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely.” -Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is one of my all time favorite authors. As a child, Matilda, the story of a young intelligent girl who has mind control powers who happened to have been born into the wrong family, Matilda is later saved by her idol, and school teacher, and the two of them live happily ever after. Besides Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and James and the Giant Peach were stories of Dahl’s that fascinated me as a child. Little did I know, Dahl was inspired by places all around the world, and these inspirations are seen throughout his works. Check out this guest post by Holidaylettings.co.uk to learn more about his inspirations.
You’ve won the Golden Ticket! Oompa-loompas are skydiving and rhymes are being revoltingly rehearsed. Yes, it’s the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s masterpiece ‘Charlie & and Chocolate factory’, but is his life story a true tale of the unexpected? Holiday Lettings investigates the places that formed the inspiration for his enthralling, runaway imagination? If you’re sitting comfortably, then we’ll begin…
Dahl’s autobiography, Boy, immortalises his Llandaff childhood with the young Dahl’s chief escapade being dropping a dead mouse into the local sweet shop’s gobstopper jar. If you visit the town, you’ll see a blue plaque commemorating the incident on the storefront.
Don’t forget the 12th-century cathedral: it was an alehouse and animal shelter (not at the same time), but now features a vast concrete arch supporting an aluminium Jesus statue by Jacob Epstein. Seek sanctuary in the nearby herb gardens – they’re hidden in the Bishop’s Palace ruins and are a great place to relax.
Photo credit: michael kooiman (license) via Flickr.com
Dahl recounts his African travels, including for an early job at Shell’s Dar-es-Salaam office, in his memoir, Going Solo. He lived in luxury just outside the city, with personal servants and a cook, but also traveled across the country, encountering lions and black mamba snakes.
Today, Dar-es-Salaam blends African, Indian and Arabic influences with its Swahili roots. You’ll admire the authentically built dwellings at the open-air Village Museum – do try and catch their traditional music and dance performances. Head to an auction at the fish market, or Mwenge Carvers’ Market: it’s crammed with stallholders, and you can watch the skilled artisans at work.
Photo credit: Prof.Chen Hualin (license) via Wikimedia Commons
As an RAF pilot in World War II, Dahl fought, in the Battle of Athens, amongst others. In Athens, his squadron’s 12 men took on 150 Germans. Dahl’s plane was unfortunately hit, after which he started suffering blackouts so he couldn’t fly again. His flying experiences inspired his first paid piece, A Piece of Cake, and the short story, Over to You.
You can delve into every conflict on Greek soil at the War Museum of Athens. And you’ll find warplanes in the galleries and cannons in the courtyard. Visit battleship Averof, harboured in Flisvos Marina too: she escaped Nazi occupation to patrol the Indian Ocean for the allies. Go aboard to smell the salty sea air, sense her light rocking and feel like you’ve gone back in time.
Photo credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis (license) via Flickr.com
Washington DC, USA
Roald Dahl was parachuted into the British Embassy as assistant air attaché who masqueraded as a cocktail-party guest. He invaded the upper echelons of US government, hobnobbing with the Roosevelts and supplying intelligence to MI6 with Ian Fleming. He made a timely case for the alliance of benign forces against common enemies in first children’s book, The Gremlins – Roosevelt’s grandchildren loved it!
You can wander past his small Georgetown pad at 1610 34th Street and imagine the stories it could tell. While you’re in the neighbourhood, do visit Georgetown’s (and DC’s) oldest standing structure – the Old Stone House – and picture its early residents’ lives. Then how about exploring historic Chesapeake and the Ohio Canal? It’s a lovely change of pace from the crowded pavements.
Photo credit: Supermac1961 (license) via Flickr.com
Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire
Dahl lived in this small village during his last 36 years, creating classics in his specially designed Writing Hut at the end of the garden? You can see its interior and marvel at its quirky mementos at the Roald Dahl Museum. Will you find the secrets in the peep-holes? And how will the Sparkometer rate your gusto?
Photo credit: David Hillas (license) via Wikimedia Commons
The village features in many of Dahl’s stories. Walk around it and spy Matilda’s library, Danny the Champion of the World’s petrol pumps and Sophie’s ‘orphanage’ from The BFG. Head further afield to explore the beautiful Chiltern countryside – Angling Spring Wood’s a beautiful spot and reputedly the inspiration for Fantastic Mr Fox.
So, what is your favorite Roald Dahl Story? What is the most inspirational place you have visited?