Lifestyles of the rich and recognised
What fun to visit one-time homes of famous people that have been reinvented as museums. You can pootle about the living spaces and gardens, imagining the fashionable parties and daily lives, surely never as prosaic as our own.
This pic was taken last August at Shangri-La, the extraordinary Honolulu hideaway of Doris Duke, heiress, philanthropist, socialite and avid collector of art and artefacts from the Islamic world. She died in 1993 and Shangri-La is now run as a foundation, with guided tours of about 90 minutes, which must be pre-booked and take place Wednesdays to Saturdays. Interior photography is forbidden but the emerald lawns, facing Diamond Head, provide snap-happy opportunities of columned breezeways, decorative tiling and Mughal-style gardens.
But the best such sticky-beaking is at writers’ homes, of which Agatha Christie’s Greenway in Devon has to be the pinnacle. It is now administered by the National Trust, its large, comfy rooms filled with the so-called Countess of Crime’s treasures, bookshelves are stacked (I spy a John Le Carre shoulder-to-shoulder with an early Paul Theroux) and displayed objects range from framed photos of pets to frankly ugly paintings made with shells. It feels alive, as if Christie has just stepped out, and were Miss Marple to wander in to take up her knitting, it would hardly surprise.
Elsewhere in Britain, the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth in west Yorkshire is a pilgrimage site for fans of the literary sisters; at Thomas Hardy’s birth cottage at Higher Bockhampton in Dorset, it’s riveting to learn he was almost pronounced still-born. It was in this dwelling that he penned Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd, but not Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which maddened my mind during HSC studies.
In Key West, Florida, Ernest Hemingway’s house is a shrine of sorts and you peer through the roped-off doorway of his writing room where he bashed away on a portable typewriter. My visit to this popular port coincided with the annual Papa Hemingway lookalike competition, and it was disconcerting to see so many chaps with identical big white moustaches and beards. But I did rather like the cheek of the bar owner who’d put up a sign: “Papa didn’t drink here”.
Follow on Instagram: @susankurosawa