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A Sherlockian's London Log - Part 1

9/6/23: (11:52 am)

This is the first time in a long while where I've felt genuine excitement with a flutter in my heart and even, a giddiness. Like a kid on Christmas Eve. We were going to London!! I hardly got any sleep the night before, kept up by racing thoughts of our trip and unfortunately the lyrics to, "I'm Just Ken," that kept me up until 3am.

2 hours later, I was woken up and we hurried to get ready before picking up my grandma and my aunt Donna to be our ride. We stopped at Waffle House for breakfast where my dad and I split a chocolate, peanut butter, and pecan waffle as well as sausages for the side. He and I took turns messing with my Aunt Donna—probably a mistake since she was going to be half of our house-sitting team. But when my dad saw the look on her face when he locked the car door just when she went to open it, he only cried out, "worth it!"

After we were dropped off, we got those stickers for our luggage and I'm pretty sure I did mine wrong. Then we went through security. Although we were told to get our tablets out of the bags, a towering and large lady shouted at us to keep our things in our bags. Then she shouted at me to take my hoodie off from around my waist and I hurried to comply.

As we went to our terminal(?) I tried to take in my surroundings, remembering I was going to a lot of Sherlock things. How disappointed would he be in me if I just joined the masses in ignorance, huddled over my phone? But after accidentally making eye contact with a stranger, I returned to the safety of distraction with Instagram memes. I scrolled through Instagram and shared a few memes with my parents before we boarded.

I haven't flown since I was around 10 or 11 years old, maybe younger. I felt like that kid again when our plane raced to life. My ears popped and it felt like we had just broken the sound barrier. Seeing us get higher and higher, I thought of the ending of Willy Wonka where they look at the world and see how small everything really is. It sounds so cliche when other people say it, but it was fun to experience it for myself. Easy to get philosophical when you remember you could crash and die at any small inconvenience. Don't worry, I said my prayers before we went up. Call me anxious, call me religious—I am both—but I did pray.

Despite our zooming into the air, my parents were both zonked. The joys of flying with experienced people. My mom did give me a groggy but anxious grimace when we were in the air, but my dad had enough Dramamine in him to knock him out. That was his traveling routine. Even though he insisted he didn't need a neck pillow, I snapped a picture of him wearing my mom's leopard print one.

We were fed a snack pack of pretzels, off-brand Cheez-Its, and these weird little dehydrated bread pieces like sliced croutons with salt on top but they tasted just like remnants of the leftover cheese from the off-brand crackers. I still had leftover Cherry Coke from an airport shop so I didn't ask for a drink. I had begun my first flight getting into my Sherlock crossword puzzle book. Hoping to exercise my brain for the escape room I expected to win next week. But my tired mind saw something other than a word search and was like, "nope." And that's when I got the idea to log my vacation in the fashion of Doctor Watson. Free blogging material. It felt like as soon as I had gotten comfortable, our plane was already getting ready to land.

I felt God gently reminding me of my mortality as the plane shook with brief turbulence, lowering further and further so that we were closer to the ground. I flipped between two moods, 'Ooh better get a picture of the clouds and the lakes' and the usual prayer for safety and my soul. My childlike and my paranoid grandma sides warring against each other. Then the plane steadied, we flew through the clouds once or twice, and all was calm again. And a gratefulness spread over me again. I was living the dream. I'm a writer and I have a publisher, everything is steady and happy at my other awesome job working with more books, I sing and play piano at my church, I have the dog I prayed for when I was 12 waiting for me at home, and now I'm going to London despite being from a middle-class family in the midwest. God truly is good. He never promised us more than salvation and good plans. Life can be really hard. I spent the majority of my teen years despising being born. And only a few short years later, everything changed for the better. On the walk with God, I've known so many valleys but today, I knew I was on a hill overlooking the view. Actually, even higher than that. I was on top of the world, almost literally.

Flight from Columbus to Baltimore, check. Only two more flights to go...

9/6/23: 6:53

Went on a second flight from Baltimore to Boston. It was too crowded so my parents and I had to split up. I sat down beside strangers, much to my horror, but the guy on my left had his headphones and just watched a movie on his tablet. The lady on my right was lovely. Her name was Eileen. We talked about our entire life stories in an hour's flight. She was going to Boston to visit her daughter and she works at a restaurant in North Carolina. She and I became great friends and I wish her the best.

After the flight, we got our baggage and we had to go on a shuttle to get to the other part to the right terminal. When we set our baggage out again, I fell in love with a guy behind me. He had dark curls and puppy dog brown eyes. Like something out of fiction, I saw him race to save an elderly lady's suitcase. She said her thank you and something else then he laughed, throwing his curls back into the sun and I thought I was gonna die.

I lost sight of him after security checks and the family and I got Wahlburgers. I moped over my burger—not just because they got my burger order wrong and I had to force myself to ignore the tainted cursed taste of pickle juices, ketchup, and tomatoes—but because I wondered if I'd ever see the curly fry cute guy again—AND RIGHT AS I WROTE THIS DOWN THEN HE APPEARED ACROSS THE WAY. HEADING FOR THE SAME FLIGHT AS I.

9/8/23 (6:13am)

It's been a while since I've written anything down, but the last two days were busy and tiring. Our last flight was awful. Cute guy didn't sit anywhere near me. Anti-climatic, I know. That's not a writing problem, this is real life, folks. This isn't Instagram, not every airport crush turns into love. I'm not bitter, you're bitter.

Actually, it was good he didn't sit near me. Dad gave me Dramamine, but apparently there wasn't enough food on my stomach or the medicine wore out, because later on that night I woke up throwing up. Thank God my mom gave me a bag. I hurried to the bathroom where one British flight attendant was very kind. She asked me if I'd ever gotten motion sickness before, talked to me for a little bit, showed me where everything was in the bathroom that I'd need, then she left me to hang out for a bit. My mom talked to the flight attendants outside the bathroom then went to sit down again.

After leaving the bathroom, I asked a DIFFERENT flight attendant if I could get a ginger ale. This was the exchange;

"We don't have ginger ale. Come on." She gestured at all the different sodas they had, "We got Coke, Sprite..."

"Sprite, please."

She put the whole can right into my hand, secured my fingers over it, then she said, "That'll be four dollars."

"Okay, my dad has the money and he's in that seat over there."

"I don't know who your dad is, so..."

"Okay, forget it. I don't need the drink that bad."

"Well, you've already touched it and you're sick so..."

"I'll go get the card." And I did the walk of shame back to my seat to wake my dad and get the card only to find out my mom had already paid and bought a can for me while I was in the bathroom. So we had an extra Sprite we didn’t need. That's not even the worst part. British Sprite tastes awful.

So yeah, I spent the rest of the trip up and down going to the bathroom until I finally passed out on my mom's shoulder—my only place of comfort until we finally got out. Flying sucks.

When we got off the horrid plane, we went through customs, and were met with two giant murals of the Queen of England, God rest her soul. How much stuff they have of her all over the place reminds me of a wholesome version of 1984. Instead of "Big Brother is watching you," it's like, "Your Royal Nana is looking after you, love you."

We took a train out of customs—which had all the aesthetic value of an Aldi's. The lines were horrible. Everyone presses up against you, everyone scrambles just to get to where they need to be and it is terrifying. You don't get in the queue because it's your turn, you get to your spot in line *to survive.* But when we got on the train, there's an unspoken rule: you hardly speak to anybody. In queues and lines, everyone gets to know each other in the worst way possible but when everyone is sitting down, everyone minds their own business.

I had tried to prepare myself for modern architecture, knowing London wasn't Victorian anymore and this was still a big city in modern day but when we got into a black cab and he drove us to our hotel, I got to see just what I wanted. Double-decker buses, the classic apartment (or flats) design with white on the bottom and brick on top, Victorian England architecture, and the hum of a bustling city.

We stayed at the Tower of London Hotel, probably one of the fanciest we've ever stayed at but my dad loved the view too much to stay anywhere else. After we dropped off our stuff, we all three had to figure out the shower that had a dial like a kitchen timer. One knob turned for water pressure and the other changed the temperature. So sometimes it would come out screeching like an enraged elephant and letting out the hottest, steamiest stream you'd ever seen or it would be drooling ice cubes. The tub sat up so high, when I got out to grab my facial cleanser, I slipped and the wall broke my fall, thankfully close enough to keep me upright.

After getting ready, we hit the city. We went through the Tower of London. The Crown Jewels do not look like what BBC Sherlock made it out to be. Not that there wasn't a crown and scepter and the usual, but I found out the disappointing way that they made a set for Moriarty to break into that wasn't modeled after the actual display or the room. Shoot. But it was still super cool. It was a city of brick and it reminded me of pictures I've seen of Edinburgh. A medieval kingdom out of time.

We went over the London Bridge and ate our first taste of London food with a Mediterranean restaurant. My dad got lamb kabobs with an overly caffeinated vaguely citrus Fanta, my mom got a shepherd's salad with a soft, sweet Coke, and I got a calzone pepperoni pizza with a virgin Colada that was very sweet and creamy. And I found out how much my parents really like Mediterranean food, specifically from Europe like back when they lived in Germany.

After our meal, we hit a couple of souvenir shops until I got a street sign that said Baker Street and a London shirt that looked straight out of the English craze of the 2010's.

In London, I get very excited about the little things. Like that we got to try a British convenience store. It was small and almost cozy with an Aldi's kind of setup but a pharmacy kind of aesthetic. They have so many flavors of chips (or crisps) that I'd never heard of. They also had some cool Korean snacks that I wish I had time to sit and sort through. But we did get some classic Jaffa Cakes so we all got to go home around 6, and watched the Chase and Great British Bake-Off until we fell asleep rather early, tired from jet lag. And the poor sleep we got for the past two nights. But boy, did we catch up. Until my dad woke us up at 5, too excited to sleep.

Breakfast review: Not a fan. I know my British friend will strangle me, but no. I don't like tomatoes, I don't like beans. I'm convinced the English don't have the same animals we do. Not even their bacon or sausage tasted like ours. Out of breakfast, I just liked the Nutella on my croissant and their potato bites (basically just tater-tots) After all the walking yesterday and the heat, we're all parched. I drank four glasses of apple juice in one sitting.

My review of the weather: Hate it. It was sunny, up in the 80's, and the British aren't used to hot weather; there was rarely air-conditioning anywhere. 1 out of 5 stars. I came to Britain because of the cold and rain. What the heck, London? And while I'm reviewing, although this wasn't breakfast, this was also what I got from the shop; My review of British Dr. Pepper, as a connoisseur: Tasted like the zero kind, but it's not zero. Kind of weak, not as sweet as I like. I see now why my internet British friend doesn't like it. I could drink it, it wasn't awful, but it just wasn't like home. I think Europe is more health-conscious than Americans, that's probably why it doesn't have all the delicious heart attacks of our kind of sodas. The back doesn't give you the calories right away like America does, they try to soften it with smaller print and less detail like, "you don't need to know this..."


As I slowly grow used to the time zone here and my hotel Wi-Fi fails me, I come on to log my time again. After breakfast, I got extremely ill for Lord knows why. Whether it was the food or the time difference or whatever, I still don't know. But as soon as I walked out of the hotel and the cool morning air hit me and I could see the Tower Bridge right outside our door, it was better than any medicine. Everything felt right in the world again.

Yesterday was our sightseeing day, a big one. We walked a ways out over the bridge and into the city, passing many people on their way to work. My mom insisted I wore my new London shirt but when I was out, we were surrounded by people who were far better dressed. Some of the guys, I just knew I had no chance with. But I immediately felt better about myself when we passed a shirtless guy only wearing sweatpants as he waddled past and smoked. Oh, the diversity of the big city!

When we went on the Tube (the subway) for the first time, we realized no YouTube video teaching us about it could prepare us for the actual experience. Everyone was rushing around, crowds were everywhere, and then when you actually got on it, it propels you forward like something out of Star Trek and yet no one around you even so much as blinks. As soon as we jolted for the first time, a very American voice cried out of me, "Lord have mercy!" And my face immediately turned red. Between that and the shirt, we might as well have written on my forehead, ‘tourist.’

Once we exited the Underground then we were immediately greeted by the sight of clearly an important building. My dad said it was Parliament. I took his word for it until I got my camera out and...looked up. It was Big Ben itself. I laughed at my dad for a while then we continued to look at the sights, taking pictures of everything until we hit Westminster Abbey.

A breathtakingly beautiful place that welcomed you to come in and worship with their signs...but asked for a little less than 30 quid at the door. Feel like Jesus would be flipping some tables over that, but I respected the building as a historic museum enough to pay the entry fee.

After we left, we had the silent agreement none of us were quite ready for the Tube again and quickly called for a cab for the convenience of just telling someone where we want to go and he'd take us. In our family, we have a travel tradition to visit every Hard Rock Cafe everywhere we go. So we told that to our cabbie and he took us to the very original one. Apparently not just in London but the first one...ever. If this is our last family vacation, I feel like we just hit a huge milestone.

Our cabbie was every bit the London stereotype and we adored him. He had the thickest accent and the friendliest smile, asking us questions about how long we've been there and what all we were planning on, also giving us many ideas of where we could go if we didn't know. He was very helpful, stopping us just across from the door but as soon as we got out, (even though I pointed at the restaurant's front door) dad saw the awning in the alleyway and mistook the staff entrance for our door. We had to be kindly redirected by a waiter. And I'm sure our cabbie was wincing in sympathy when he watched us heading in the wrong direction.

Our meal was wonderful, and our hostess and waiter were equally as friendly and helpful as our cabbie—telling us all about the history of Hard Rock. It was the first restaurant where my mom could get an unsweetened iced tea (I'm sure you can imagine it's been difficult to find in hot tea drinking London) I had the barbecue wings, my dad got the grilled chicken and mac, and my mom got the salmon.

Thanks to our waiter and cabbie's instructions, we could walk a ways down the street until we found Piccadilly. We went into Burberry, saw the giant screens that you see in Sherlock's theme intro. And then we went into two different London souvenir shops. I found a Baker Street magnet and that was one of the few bits of Sherlock merch that I could find. There were thousands of Paddington bears everywhere, obviously there was the Queen everywhere, even Mr. Bean. No Sherlock anywhere other than his street. Figures.

After Piccadilly, we took a cab to Buckingham Palace, narrowly missing a huge crowd protesting down the street. Ah, the modern age.

Even though it was only the middle of the day at that point, we had gotten up very early and were wiped out enough to start heading back to our room to watch more British Bake-Off and get more Jaffa Cakes. As well as Burger King whopper flavored Doritos. Which were interesting. But when I went to bed, even after brushing my teeth, when my mouth got dry—I could still taste them. With utter regret.


We got ready and had breakfast, where I had a Nutella croissant and a banana then we got out the door. Thank the good Lord, we figured out the Tube. Our second time going there and we figured out how to get to where we needed to be. My dad told me more than once that I was meant to be here, and honestly I daydream about it more and more the longer I get used to being here.

Then we were at it, Shepherd's Bush, W12 Shopping Centre for the Game is Now Escape Room. Finally! Sherlock related stuff, now this was my vacation. Unfortunately, the location is very depressing. It is a very small...mall(?) Mostly with pharmacies, dollar tree type places (one literally called Poundland)

We actually managed to get to our time slot early so we ended up just sitting on a bench outside one of the shops.

Excitingly enough, we got to witness a failed shoplifting attempt. A middle-aged lady tried to smuggle a bag of groceries and a French or German security guard shouted at her to release the bag. She tried smacking his hands and kicking him but finally got warded off. Ah, city life. We were not in the touristy area anymore. Not today. But, on the positive, we did meet a little girl bringing in her dachshund puppy. I've seen that a lot where people will bring their dogs into public places—and I'm envious.

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