April 19 (my BIRTHDAY!):
I got about 8.5-9 hours of sleep, excluding the few times roommates came in and out of the room. Last year I didn’t really get a birthday, because of the BookCrossing convention, and I’ve been tired of being forgotten or rescheduled on for my birthday in years past. So this year I gave myself an awesome trip! Happy birthday to me!
I went to sleep undecided about the morning’s schedule and woke up on my birthday knowing exactly what I wanted to do :-) After consulting the Tube map, I found out it actually worked out perfectly with the various stations/lines. I ate a yogurt breakfast bar and released a mystery set in London with a red telephone box on the cover inside a red telephone box near my hostel.
Then I headed to 221b Baker Street! I hadn’t researched it ahead of time, so I was planning on just seeing the place, but I found out from the morning desk girl at the hostel that there was actually a museum there (though she hadn’t been to it). Have I mentioned how much I love the Tube? It’s SO freakin’ helpful when you’re a tourist wanting to get to a local attraction.
I treated myself to a museum tour. There were some creepy life-sized “figures” acting out various scenes from Sherlock Holmes books. There was a GIANT DOG head mounted on the wall as a trophy. But my favorite parts were the rooms downstairs done up to look like Dr. Watson’s bedroom and their sitting room/parlor, complete with monogrammed medical bag, violin, and decanters. There were roaring fires, people in costume, and I even released a Sherlock Holmes book inside by the guest book. I also learned that 221b Baker Street is the place that every teenaged French school group likes to go at the same time; it wasn’t too packed, and I was able to take my time until the crowd subsided. It was super neat to be there, walk the stairs, and look out into the street from inside.
Afterward, I went across the street to a little cafe and ate an early lunch beneath a painting of Watson and Holmes on a train. I started writing my first ever BBC Sherlock fanfic there. It’s quite good so far, if I do say so myself :-) It began raining hard as I sat there, so I took my time. I had a fruit smoothie and a tomato sandwich thing.
Then I took the tube directly to Westminster, arriving the for Harry Potter walking tour precisely 2 hours early. Oops. I really underestimated how easy it is to get around London.
It was still raining a lot when I arrived. Everything I owned was in plastic bags and I had my camera in a waterproof thingy, an umbrella overhead, and myself in a rain jacket. So the rain slowed me down but definitely didn’t stop me. I picked one of the SIX exits at random, just to see where it lead. I popped out just beneath Old Ben (family joke). And right ahead of me was a statue. I went over and saw that it was a statue of Boadicea–who I named one of my characters in my latest novel after! How perfect is that? I got to hear the clock chime a few times as well, while walking around. It rained on and off for the rest of the day. To kill time, I walked around the area and took photos of the Bazillion and one stations and churches and other snarfable buildings.
I then got to try my very first pay toilet. I tried standing in it and flushing but, damn it, it wouldn’t let me into the Ministry of Magic. And because of all the rain, no one noticed that my shoes were wet. ;-)
I found the BritMovie Tour Harry Potter Walking Tour guide just where she said she’d be, holding a wand. It was a nice tour and included the entrances to the Ministry of Magic used in various films, a ferry boat ride to the bridge that death eaters destroyed in the sixth movie, market places and the various entrances to Diagon Alley, and more. It was fun to see so many Harry Potter locations, and it was a great way to see parts of London that I definitely wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It rained a little here and there, but every time we stopped at a location or needed to walk across London Bridge (it didn’t fall down, hahaha) the rain backed off. Excellent. The guide, Celia (who I DID remember to tip), even looked up my Saturday HP tour reservation to make sure I was booked. Yay!
I went back to the hostel and bought a ticket to the evening’s Jack the Ripper tour with Rippervision (discount for those of us at the hostel). Then I went to Yumchaa for a quick bite of dinner. They were out of the lemon sherbetter drink I really wanted, so the guy offered to make one from scratch. Except after I paid he realized they didn’t have any ice! :-( I had a hot chocolate instead (and a sandwich) and the guy gave me a free chocolate brownie to make up for the problem. I thought that was happy birthday luck. I didn’t realize it was the last bit of luck I was to have that day.
Not realizing that there were two stations on completely different lines with almost identical names, I hopped the wrong train to the wrong station and then couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to meet the people for the tour. I tried to follow my map, but the streets weren’t matching up (because I wasn’t in the place I thought I was). I started running. I stopped into a hotel for directions and discovered the best way to get where I wanted was to get on a bus, and that was going to take another 10 minutes and the tour started in 5 minutes. I ended up running more, including running from one side of the station to the other. The Jack the Ripper tour started at 7:30 and I got there at 7:40 to find the place deserted. I tried walking around the area to see if I could catch up with them, but I didn’t see anyone.
I was so disappointed in myself and feeling emotional. I bought myself an orange sorbet & ice cream bar to make myself feel better. And I took a long, hot shower… and forgot my towel back in the room. DOH! But I did call my mother and she sang me my first international Happy Birthday song. My Grandma & Grandpa Gehr used to call me and sing to me every year, so it was really sweet that Mom sang to me over the phone :-) I needed that after that evening. Luckily, I found out that the tour ticket I had pre-paid for could be used on another night. So I didn’t actually lose out on the money. And once I was warm and dry and curled up in bed with some fanfic, I felt even better.
I also had a fantasic talk with a few of my roommates. It was so much fun talking about traveling different parts of the world with people from all over the world (one of them asked me about Obama). Different views, different perspectives on culture, different interests. And I gave some tips on Dublin to one of the girls heading there the next day. Maybe I’m not too old for hostels after all.