Everybody' s got Alice fever in Alice town — Llandudno, Wales — but no one is as curious or as excited as me!
That's because on Friday, May 4, this famous seaside Welsh resort is launching a fantastical Wonderland event. It will celebrate what would have been the 160th birthday of my distant relative, Alice Liddell, the Alice behind what is arguably the greatest children's book of all time – Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The Liddell family, who were close friends of the book's author, Lewis Carroll, owned a holiday home in this charming town recently voted the happiest place to live in Wales. Their home, formerly called Penmorfa, sat on the top of a high cliff at the West Shore. And to this town and to this family home came many celebrities of the day, including family friends Sir William Blake Richmond and British Prime Minister William Gladstone. It was here that Sir William painted his famous painting called The Sisters, featuring young Alice and her siblings. It was here that young Alice and her sisters learned that the great Mr. Gladstone suffered from vertigo. And so they tenderly guided him down the steep path to the beach with his eyes shut!
It is here that I shall be staying on May 4, 2012!
I will be staying in the famous "Alice Suite" at the elegant St. Tudno Hotel, perfectly located on Llandudno's fine promenade close to the pier and sandy beach. This sophisticated hotel enjoys a wonderful connection to the Liddell family and Alice, the curious little girl who inspired Carroll's timeless story. Early in 1861, Dean Henry George Liddell of Christ Church, Oxford, his wife Lorina, their five children, the footman, a lady's maid and the children's 28 year old Governess, Mary Prickett, came to stay at the St. Tudno for their Easter Holidays. It was the first of many visits to Llandudno for Alice Liddell, then aged 8 and soon to be immortalized as the heroine of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It was these early visits to Llandudno that ultimately inspired the Dean and his wife to build their own holiday home near the beach.
"One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others."
This is the quote that I carry in my journal and coincidentally it is also the quote the lovely St. Tudno Hotel uses in all its literature. The quote of course is by none other than Lewis Carroll. The hotel is a small wonderland of Alice memorabilia inspired by his great works. This includes a large selection of fascinating books by a variety of famous illustrators telling the Alice stories. Martin Bland, the owner, explains to me, "The most important copy, of course, is the one published in 1866, which still has its original cloth binding and pale blue end papers, with the inside cover having a contemporary inscription dated April, 1866. The book was carefully rebacked at some stage, preserving its original spine." Martin also has another very valuable copy of the book, signed by Alice Liddell herself shortly before she died in 1934. Visitors can enjoy these artifacts while sampling an "Alice Tea," the latest in the hotel's line of award-winning afternoon teas.
The May 4 Alice Day event is the day before the town's world famous Victoriana Extravaganza, which offers another three days of fun filled Victoriana themed festivities, stalls, shows, a grand parade, and streets brimming with talented entertainers. Talk about the best week in the year to head out to Llandudno in Wales!
Organizers at Alice in Wonderland Ltd. of the May 4 Alice Day birthday celebration have been inundated with young passionate Alices, White Rabbits, Mad Hatters, Queens of Hearts, and Cheshire Cats requesting details of the Wonderland festivities planned, and begging to be involved in this highly anticipated event which will be launched on the town's promenade at 12:30 pm promptly on the big day.
Llandudno's charming and talented Miss Alice 2011-2012, Miss Nicol Thompson, whose public duties during the year have included public appearances with the town's Mayor and national events, has been very busy. She has been sending special Mad Hatter Tea Party invitations to dignitaries, including lucky old me. This means I shall have the great honor of sitting at Miss Alice's top table for what promises to be the very best Mad Hatter Tea Party of all time! During the course of tea and jam tarts, Miss Alice has promised to reenact for us the first encounter between Alice and Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), a momentous occasion that the audience (including over 700 school children) are looking forward to seeing. Local hoteliers are busy importing extra tables and chairs to accommodate all the participants, and the town's chefs have promised they shall not run out of jam tarts for the world record attempt for jam tart eating! Street performers, actors, art competitions, on-site illustrators, face painters, fancy dress, birds of prey and live music promise to keep families entertained throughout the day. Members of the Lewis Carroll Society will be dressing as characters from the Alice books.
The day will be hosted by the local celebrity Ian Turner, who is an Alice in Wonderland fan. His stage is already set with the backdrop of a 1910 Llandudno Victorian Tram.
So would you like a little more Alice Tea? Then why not join us at 12.30 pm on the Promenade in Llandudno! Bring a picnic, bring a friend, but most important, bring your passion and your curiosity for a children's story with an enduring legacy.
For more information:
Photos courtesy of the St. Tudno Hotel.
C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, "The Global Search for Education" and "How Will We Read?" She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld