(9/10/23): 1:04 am
It was a big day today. I call it my preview into our Sherlock day. We did the escape room, and unfortunately, we ran out of time—which I'm still having an identity crisis over as we speak, but I try to cope with it by going over many different excuses such as...
1) It was my first one
2) Online it was listed in the high difficulty category and for people with some experience in escape rooms
3) Martin Freeman and his kids didn't win when they did it
4) Even Sherlock doesn't win every case. Sherlock makes mistakes too, but at the end of the day, we did a good job. My parents and I had a good groove and thankfully, there was never a moment where we didn't know what we were doing. We were progressing and plucking along, we never asked for the clues we got, so we have a good starting block to grow. And it was a fun experience. Although I didn't stop to think about how fun it was until it was over. One of the unfortunate things about escape rooms, especially one themed after my favorite show, is the rush.
When we come across a puzzle I'm enjoying, we just have to hurry up and move onto the next thing. There were so many details put into it and it just disappointed me that I couldn't sit and enjoy it. I wish it was longer and it didn't go so fast. It felt like it was over in a blink and I wish we had the time to try it again.
Whether to make me feel better about not finishing the escape room in time or because they were also excited for more Sherlock stuff, we went to take a peek at Baker Street before our planned tour in a couple more days. We perused the block then went into the gift shop where I proceeded to blow our entire day's budget in one shopping trip. My dad said, "it's like a buffet. All you can eat, but don't eat all."
Off the top of my head, I got a deerstalker, a t-shirt, some bookmarks, a pin, a couple souvenirs for my loved ones, a teddy bear, a couple books, a mug, a thermos, a small framed profile of Holmes, a small watercolor of Sidney Paget's work of Holmes first portrayed in a deerstalker...and that's all I can remember for now. I might surprise myself later, I had to get as much as I could carry in a hurry. I ended up going to get a basket to carry everything in.
After the museum, we took the Tube to our area and went into our first English pub (other than the Mind Palace at the escape room) and we finally tried fish and chips. And it was really good. Ironically, the kind I've tried in the States are usually bland but here it was so salty, perfectly seasoned and it really hit the spot. England isn't usually praised for its food, but I see why this is a local favorite.
When we got back to our room, I took one of my Sherlock books and had a bath...where I finished my book in one sitting. 10/10 day, my favorite so far. Loving it here.
After last night's late one, we slept in this morning until around 9:30. Today I had the idea of going to Chinatown like Sherlock and Watson did in BBC's The Blind Banker. And it was perfect. We first went to the British Library where we saw some ancient books and things like sacred codexes and Beethoven's tuning fork. Then we went to the gift shop where I helped myself to more than a few things, hehe. One of these items was a London A-Z book. "A book everyone would own." (Ifykyk)
Then we got a cab to the Soho area, going around Chinatown first. We lost my mom for five seconds after she stopped to take pictures but we did find her, thank God. Then we immediately got some Chinese food, went sightseeing, and went to a souvenir shop until I got a small gold lucky cat for £10. (Ifykyk) After, we went shopping around Soho because you have to. On our way home, we stopped by a souvenir shop we had already visited this morning just to get some more cool drinks and snacks like orange Kit Kat. And I found a UK pillow that looks just like the one John has in his chair in BBC's Sherlock. It was a good day.
(10:02 pm) We spent a little time back at the hotel, my dad wanted to wait for it to get dark. When it did, we went out at night for the first time just to walk and see the lights of the city and it was breathtaking. Looking over the Thames, I was growing aware of how much time I was losing. I'm not sure I'll ever be the same after actually getting to see this place.
(9/12/23) 11:15 pm
Yesterday was the best day of the entire trip. Possibly my entire life. It was my huge Sherlock day. Though we've tried to incorporate Sherlock into most of our trip, yesterday was the big one.
London is finally giving me better weather—now that we're almost about to leave. It's getting gray and cooler. Yesterday, we left Embankment station and sat at a Starbucks, waiting for our tour guide to give us a Sherlockian tour of London. He was absolutely terrific. Very nice guy, very knowledgeable. A couple of people were also signed up for the tour, but they cancelled so it turned into a private tour. We went to more than a few locations, some of them we hopped onto the Tube for, so forgive me if I leave out the exact breaks we took because I can't remember which line we went on for what or where everything is exactly but I'm just going to go in order of where we went. I'll do my best.
The first stop was the old Scotland Yard. The original location. Known as Great Scotland Yard, currently used as a five-star hotel. The London police force was established in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel. This is where the nicknames "bobbies" and "peelers" for British policemen came from. And it was where Sherlock would've met up with some of the police inspectors like Lestrade, Gregson, Jones, etc.
Next, we went to the Sherlock Holmes Pub in St. James. There are a couple in London, but this one is the only one that was endorsed by the estate and family. This is likely due to the fact it is the address where Sir Henry Baskerville stayed when the building used to be a hotel. Right next door used to be Turkish Baths where Holmes and Watson would've lounged when they wanted to relax and smoke a few cigars. Nowadays, funnily enough, the building is used for a Thai spa.
We went through the alleyway between the buildings where our guide gave us a general introduction to the character of Sherlock Holmes and his author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Although I knew the majority of what he told us about the author and story, I didn't know that Doyle met a couple of bullies in school named the Moriarty brothers. Or that Holmesian Illustrator Sidney Paget inspired his drawings of Holmes after his brother. This tour was off to a strong start.
In between Sherlock locations, we stumbled upon a few other historic sites. Where Oliver Twist would be set, outside St. Paul's, where Benjamin Franklin lived, and so on. That was interesting but when I got my mind on Sherlock stuff...
Next, we went to St. Barts. We went to the modern pathology department side first where BBC Sherlock filmed scenes of Holmes and Watson coming out of. Naturally, scenes inside were all sets because you can't use a real hospital for filming when there are sick people who need to be tended to. But they did use the front door briefly for their needs.
Unfortunately, my mom tripped on the pavement while we were going around to the older parts of the building. She hurt her knees a bit but she turned out fine, thank God. Our tour guide was very considerate and gentle, giving her time to recuperate before we went to the Victorian back of the building. Inside would be where Holmes met Watson for the first time. And if you're a BBC fan where John got knocked over by a bike before getting a call from Sherlock and...(spoilers) All I'll say is my mom's accident was unfortunately perfect for the location.
We went on the Tube again and he took us to another famous BBC location. The iconic location. Speedy's Cafe. And right next door, where they filmed scenes of Sherlock and John getting out of their Baker Street flat and it was like walking right into the TV show. It was hardly any different. Although 221 was not the actual flat number, it has the same door knocker after all these years and I got to TOUCH IT. My right hand has touched the pen of Louisa May Alcott at Orchard House in Concord and has now also touched the iconic door knocker of BBC’s 221b!!
We also got to go inside of Speedy's. Unfortunately, they painted it black inside so it doesn't look like it used to in the shows but we did get to meet the owner who was an extra in a couple of episodes. And he has pictures on the wall of the cast who did eat there in between takes.
If that wasn't great enough, he ended the tour, taking us to the 221b Museum on Baker Street. 221 again, isn't the actual location's number because of how it was set up and Doyle's confusion over where he had meant to put Holmes but since the museum's name is 221b Sherlock Holmes Museum, they get to keep the number over their door. And I got to go inside and see what would've been Sherlock's living room, bedroom, as well as Watson's room and upstairs' wax museum of scenes from the novels. We didn't hit the gift shop this time. Because I spent around £400 on merchandise last time. Wonder how that happened…
When the museum part was over, we returned to the Sherlock Holmes pub to enjoy a meal. My parents had fish and chips but I had vintage Mac n cheese with bacon. Still not big on their bacon... For dessert, we tried toffee pudding with ice cream for the first time and it was delicious. Cracker Barrel's Coca-Cola cake doesn't have anything on it. Although the restaurant's music was a little too modern for my taste, the ambiance in the decor was perfect. Littered with Victorian antiques and Sherlock media memorabilia, just like my bedroom back home. Although, this place has a scene of a mini recreation of 221b beside the dining areas. Honestly the best day of my life.
Since the day was still young and we were still pumped, we decided our last stop for the day would be the Jack the Ripper museum. We got a little lost when we got off the Tube and the GPS messed with us the whole time, but we did get there. I didn’t know what I was expecting a museum about the infamous killer would look like, but I didn’t expect it to look like a cozy bookstore. It was a self-guided tour, we just went up the stairs to different rooms where there would be scenes, recreating the tragic events with wax figures and decorations. It was very respectful of the victims and very informative, it was a great little museum.
It was hard when we got back to our hotel room. Because I knew our trip was almost over.
Today was our last day vacationing in London. Tomorrow we may get a brief bite to eat but then we'll go back on the train to the airport and spend the rest of the day trying not to get sick on the plane ride again. (Praying to God I can avoid it this time)
But as for today, we slept in a little before going out with the ambition of going to famous churches. We took a taxi first to the site of Wesley's Museum of Methodism. But it wasn't open yet so we went across the street to the burial grounds and it honestly gave me so much inspiration for my book (hehe)
The basement of the building is the Museum of Methodism but the top is a functioning church that has services to this day. It was a beautiful sanctuary. But yet not too large, it felt very humble and accessible. If I'd lived here, I know I'd go to this church.
Next on our trip, we stopped at a little French place across from St. Paul's Cathedral for lunch. We were waited on by a sarcastic, impatient man who gave us delicious food. I got a plain cheeseburger with chips, my mom got salmon and a salad, and my dad got salmon too but with pasta on the side.
Then we proceeded inside the cathedral and it was beautiful. Similar to Westminster Abbey but far more Roman architecture than Gothic. And we made the mistake of climbing up to the top of the dome. We read no warnings telling us of what was to come. It felt like the stairs would never end. There was no lift to the top and the staircases were ancient and narrow. Maddeningly extensive. My mom, who just took a tumble the day before, struggled greatly. But also very amusingly. With verbal prayers that echoed down the halls and self-deprecating side comments that caused everyone to giggle, even the other tourists around us. She did very well and I'm proud of her, but disappointed there was no way to turn back. And even more so that when we reached the top, my mom just turned away from the view, hugged the wall, and shuffled to the exit. She hates heights, she hadn't known what she was getting into. But I got a lot of good pictures of the city.
After the museum, we went to our first London McDonald's and just got a few quick drinks. While I muttered my distaste for paper straws. In plastic cups. So are they really saving the planet? No. And even if they were—paper straws get mushy when they're put into a banana milkshake and I couldn't finish it because it crumbled on me and—anyway.
My mom has been talking all week about trying a double-decker bus. So we finally took one on a tour around London. Our guide was great, also very funny and knowledgeable. We went over all of the iconic sites we already have seen but in a bittersweet final goodbye. And London finally rained. We bought umbrellas specifically for this trip, I love the rain, and we finally got to use them.
After the tour, we went to a pub and dealt with rude bartenders and disorderly drunken locals but enjoyed steak, pizza, and BBQ fried chicken before returning to the hotel. I already know I'll just simply miss the path to the Tower Hill Hotel. Walking along the medieval grounds every night, seeing the bright lights of the city and the dark clouds above. In another life, I wish I could've lived here. But God has other plans for me. And I'm very grateful for them too.
This has been my log of a fantastic blessing of a trip. I've stumbled upon many obstacles that would've threatened to ruin my day back home. 3 snotty people, rough and scary people passing by, crowds that threaten to knock you over, and unfamiliar foods that were hit or miss. But I fell in love with the city. Although there were a handful of rude people, it was the kindness of strangers that were like the lights of the city. The woman with cancer and her husband that we chatted with before the escape room opened, the first flight attendant who checked on me on my ride here, our tour guides, the cabbie, and the man at Hard Rock, they taught me a lot about how special it is to find genuinely helpful, compassionate, and friendly people. In a city like this, they meet tourists every day and yet they acted like it was their first time just like it was ours with renewed kindness and energy. The integrity of the city, so proud of its history and holding on so bravely to every building no matter how old, even if they have to turn it into an Indian restaurant or a coffee shop just to keep it standing somehow. I've been to New York, to Boston, etc. but London will hold a special place in my heart. The aesthetic, the people, and Sherlock! If time should stand, I'll be spending the rest of my life trying to come back here. Thank you for reading about my vacation.