Day 15


The longest day of our trip. Literally. This day will last 32 hours (because London is 8 hours ahead of Seattle time).

7:29 am

We awake in London. There's an entire tea set in our room, but of course there's only a tube of instant coffee. Apparently, the English think it's funny to put instant coffee into tubes.

We are not amused.

8:21 am

We're in England for one morning, so there's time to see only one thing. What shall it be? Buckingham Palace? Tea with the Queen? Church services at the Anglican Cathedral?

Elementary, my dear Watson.

The Sherlock Holmes Museum! Woohoo!

8:56 am

We're on the "tube" to downtown London. Robert's reading a Sunday Express. The Sunday Express is one of the London newspapers, although "tabloid" is a better description because it's printed on tabloid-size paper, and hoo boy, is this baby full of slant!

Why it's called "the tube"

The front page says that Al Qaeda will probably try to blow up Heathrow Airport or shoot down an airplane today or tomorrow. But the BIG news is that Beckham now has corn rows! Really! He gets two full pages of coverage with photos. (If you don't know who Beckham is, go see the movie "Bend it Like Beckham." Shoot, even if you do know who he is, go see it. It's a good movie.)

Seriously, though, news like that (the Al Qaeda thing) takes on a little more reality when you're riding on a bus headed towards Heathrow. Particularly because Heathrow has been attacked by the IRA in the past. The locals all seem pretty inured to it though, and just continue on about their business.

Ever wonder what happened to Boy George (Karma Chameleon)? Well, he's now got a column in the Express. This is a strange newspaper. About half of it is gossip about celebrities and the royal family (Princess Anne's husband has apparently moved out!).

The other half purports to be news, but is full of opinion. Also, it's pretty much only news that they feel like covering. The biggest story is that Clare Short has resigned from the Cabinet. Various news stories are accompanied by photographs from movies. (Robert says the American equivalent would be showing a photo of Arnold from Predator next to a story about the US invading Iraq, with the caption, "Does Bush think he's Schwarzenegger?")

9:53 am

The game's afoot! We alight from the tube on Baker street and promptly head for 221B which is where the museum is (of course!).

Hmmm, could this be the correct stop?

Laura points to where we're headed

Outside, there's a guy dressed as a Victorian Bobby. When Robert poses in front of the museum sign, he produces a deerstalker cap and pipe for so we can take a proper picture.

"I say, old Chap, I do believe we've found it!"

"Quit messing around!"

The deal with the museum is that for many years (from the mid-1800s), it was a boarding house. In the 1990s, some Holmes fanatics (and baby, you ain't seen fanatic till you've seen a Holmes fanatic) got a hold of it and turned the first two floors into an exact replica of Watson and Holmes’s digs.

They read through all the stories, and carefully put everything where it was supposed to be when mentioned in the stories. In one corner sits Holmes' violin, just below his chemistry set. The walls have pictures, and there's various souvenirs from various cases.

Our main impression is how tiny the rooms are. Each one is maybe 10 feet by 10 feet and cluttered with all manner of things. But this is how people lived back then.

The top two floors are taken up with wax mannequins posed to re-enact various scenes from the stories.

If you've ever read Sherlock Holmes (and we both have), this is just about the coolest damn thing in London.

Afterwards, we show our appreciation by dropping 40 pounds (20 kilos) in the gift shop. Laura gets an oven mitt that say "You're getting warmer."

The following quotes from Sherlock Holmes stories were taken from which has all the stories on-line (they're all Public Domain).

Laura stands ready to visit the world's most famous "Consulting Detective"

The boy had reappeared in the room with a card upon a tray. Holmes glanced at it with raised eyebrows and an amused smile.

Mazarin Stone

Sherlock's living room

Well, what do you make of it, Holmes?

It appears to be...yes, I believe it is..a hat!


It is one of these cases-but, hello, here is Lestrade! Good-afternoon, Lestrade! You will find an extra tumbler upon the sideboard, and there are cigars in the box."

Noble Bachelor

He took up his violin from the corner, and as I stretched myself out he began to play some low, dreamy, melodious air- his own, no doubt, for he had a remarkable gift for improvisation. I have a vague remembrance of his gaunt limbs, his earnest face and the rise and fall of his bow. Then I seemed to be floated peacefully away upon a soft sea of sound until I found myself in dreamland, with the sweet face of Mary Morstan looking down upon me.

Sign of Four

Holmes was seated at his side-table clad in his dressing-gown and working hard over a chemical investigation. A large curved retort was boiling furiously in the bluish flame of a Bunsen burner, and the distilled drops were condensing into a two-litre measure.

Naval Treaty

As I entered I saw, it is true, an unwonted tidiness, but the old landmarks were all in their place. There were the chemical corner and the acid-stained, deal-topped table.

Empty House

But with me there is a limit, and when I find a man who keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece, then I begin to give myself virtuous airs.

Musgrave Ritual

Laura stands in awe in the living room

Sherlock Holmes' bedroom

A traveling case for the Consulting Detective--everything from handcuffs to hairbrushes

Sherlock's disguise kit

Then, unable to settle down to reading, I walked slowly round the room, examining the pictures of celebrated criminals with which every wall was adorned.

Dying Detective

"I will be at your service in an instant, Watson. You will find tobacco in the Persian slipper."

Naval Treaty

Sherlock Holmes sat silent for a few minutes with his finger-tips still pressed together, his legs stretched out in front of him, and his gaze directed upward to the ceiling. Then he took down from the rack the old and oily clay pipe, which was to him as a counsellor, and, having lit it, he leaned back in his chair, with the thick blue cloud-wreaths spinning up from him, and a look of infinite languor in his face.

Case of Identity

Holmes's calculation was fulfilled within a very few minutes by the appearance of Billy, the page, with the very letter which we were expecting.

Three Students

A bust of Sherlock stands in one corner

There's a book full of letters written to Sherlock Holmes, most of them from school kids. This one is from the British Revenue service, who want to make sure that the fictional detective has paid taxes on his earnings.

Voodoo fetish from the house of Mr. Garcia found murdered on Oxshott Common

He held up his candle before an extraordinary object which stood at the back of the dresser. It was so wrinkled and shrunken and withered that it was difficult to say what it might have been. One could but say that it was black and leathery and that it bore some resemblance to a dwarfish, human figure. At first, as I examined it, I thought that it was a mummified negro baby, and then it seemed a very twisted and ancient monkey. Finally I was left in doubt as to whether it was animal or human. A double band of white shells was strung round the centre of it.

Wisteria Lodge

A collection of weapons from various cases

Another souvenir

Laura marvels at the memento case

Severed ears mailed to the wrong person!

He took out the two ears as he spoke, and laying a board across his knee he examined them minutely, while Lestrade and I, bending forward on each side of him, glanced alternately at these dreadful relics and at the thoughtful, eager face of our companion. Finally he returned them to the box once more and sat for a while in deep meditation.

Cardboard Box

An engineer's thumb

He unwound the handkerchief and held out his hand. It gave even my hardened nerves a shudder to look at it. There were four protruding fingers and a horrid red, spongy surface where the thumb should have been. It had been hacked or torn right out from the roots.

Engineer's Thumb

He dived his arm down to the bottom of the chest and brought up a small wooden box with a sliding lid such as children's toys are kept in. From within he produced a crumpled piece of paper, an old-fashioned brass key, a peg of wood with a ball of string attached to it, and three rusty old discs of metal.

Musgrave Ritual

When our visitor had disappeared, Sherlock Holmes's movements were such as to rivet our attention. He began by taking a clean white cloth from a drawer and laying it over the table. Then he placed his newly acquired bust in the centre of the cloth. Finally, he picked up his hunting-crop and struck Napoleon a shard blow on the top of the head. The figure broke into fragments, and Holmes bent eagerly over the shattered remains. Next instant, with a loud shout of triumph he held up one splinter, in which a round, dark object was fixed like a plum in a pudding.

"Gentlemen," he cried, "let me introduce you to the famous black pearl of the Borgias."

Six Napoleons

"You will ruin no more lives as you have ruined mine. You will wring no more hearts as you wrung mine. I will free the world of a poisonous thing. Take that, you hound- and that!- and that!- and that!"

She had drawn a little gleaming revolver, and emptied barrel after barrel into Milverton's body, the muzzle within two feet of his shirt front. He shrank away and then fell forward upon the table, coughing furiously and clawing among the papers. Then he staggered to his feet, received another shot, and rolled upon the floor. "You've done me," he cried, and lay still. The woman looked at him intently, and ground her heel into his upturned face. She looked again, but there was no sound or movement. I heard a sharp rustle, the night air blew into the heated room, and the avenger was gone.

Charles Augustus Milverton


It was a singular sight which met our eyes. On the table stood a dark-lantern with the shutter half open, throwing a brilliant beam of light upon the iron safe, the door of which was ajar. Beside this table, on the wooden chair, sat Dr. Grimesby Roylott, clad in a long gray dressing-gown, his bare ankles protruding beneath, and his feet thrust into red heelless Turkish slippers. Across his lap lay the short stock with the long lash which we had noticed during the day. His chin was cocked upward and his eyes were fixed in a dreadful, rigid stare at the corner of the ceiling. Round his brow he had a peculiar yellow band, with brownish speckles, which seemed to be bound tightly round his head. As we entered he made neither sound nor motion.

"The band! The speckled band!" whispered Holmes.

I took a step forward. In an instant his strange headgear began to move, and there reared itself from among his hair the squat diamond-shaped head and puffed neck of a loathsome serpent.

"It is a swamp adder!" cried Holmes; "the deadliest snake in India. He has died within ten seconds of being bitten. Violence does, in truth, recoil upon the violent and the schemer falls into the pit which he digs for another. Let us thrust this creature back into its den, and we can then remove Miss Stoner to some place of shelter and let the county police know what has happened."

Speckled Band

I crept forward and looked across at the familiar window. As my eyes fell upon it, I gave a gasp and a cry of amazement. The blind was down, and a strong light was burning in the room. The shadow of a man who was seated in a chair within was thrown in hard, black outline upon the luminous screen of the window. There was no mistaking the poise of the head, the squareness of the shoulders, the sharpness of the features. The face was turned half-round, and the effect was that of one of those black silhouettes which our grandparents loved to frame. It was a perfect reproduction of Holmes. So amazed was I that I threw out my hand to make sure that the man himself was standing beside me. He was quivering with silent laughter.

"Well?" said he.

"Good heavens!" I cried. "It is marvellous."

"I trust that age doth not wither nor custom stale my infinite variety," said he, and I recognized in his voice the joy and pride which the artist takes in his own creation. "It really is rather like me, is it not?"

"I should be prepared to swear that it was you."

"The credit of the execution is due to Monsieur Oscar Meunier, of Grenoble, who spent some days in doing the moulding. It is a bust in wax. The rest I arranged myself during my visit to Baker Street this afternoon."

Empty House

The man who entered was young, some two-and-twenty at the outside, well groomed and trimly clad, with something of refinement and delicacy in his bearing. The streaming umbrella which he held in his hand, and his long shining waterproof told of the fierce weather through which he had come. He looked about him anxiously in the glare of the lamp, and I could see that his face was pale and his eyes heavy, like those of a man who is weighed down with some great anxiety.

"I owe you an apology," he said, raising his golden pince-nez to his eyes. "I trust that I am not intruding. I fear that I have brought some traces of the storm and
rain into your snug chamber."

"Give me your coat and umbrella," said Holmes. "They may rest here on the hook and will be dry presently. You have come up from the south-west, I see."

Five Orange Pips

The authority in Holmes's voice had its effect upon the bearers. Peters had suddenly vanished into the house, and they obeyed these new orders. "Quick, Watson, quick! Here is a screw-driver!" he shouted as the coffin was replaced upon the table. "Here's one for you, my man! A sovereign if the lid comes off in a minute! Ask no questions- work away! That's good! Another! And another! Now pull all together! It's giving! It's giving! Ah, that does it at last."

With a united effort we tore off the coffin-lid. As we did so there came from the inside a stupefying and overpowering smell of chloroform. A body lay within, its head ill wreathed in cotton-wool, which had been soaked in the narcotic. Holmes plucked it off and disclosed the statuesque face of a handsome and spiritual woman of middle age. In an instant he had passed his arm round the figure and raised her to a sitting position.

Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax

The King of Bohemia and Irene Adler. She holds the tell-tale photograph in "A Scandal in Bohemia"

Professor Moriarty, destined to meet his end in "The Final Problem"


Mr. Neville St. Clair, "The Man With the Twisted Lip"

From the "Adventure of The Beryl Coronet"

Mr. Jabez Wilson "The Red-Headed League"

A sign--we don't think it has anything to do with Sherlock

Holmes & Musgrave peer down upon the figure of Brunton, the Butler ("The Musgrave Ritual")

Mr. Godfrey Staunten, founding grieving at the bedside of his young wife ("The Missing Three-Quarter")

Jack Prendergast, from the "Adventure of the Gloria Scott"

Woah--Sherlock Holmes would have peed here!

Sherlock Holmes's attic

Laura is stunned

12:05 pm

Okay, now we know where we're going the next time we're in London!

We've taken the tube back to the airport and had to find a cab driver to take us back to our hotel so we can grab our bags and then take us back to the airport. Turns out they're not allowed to do that (it's two pick-ups, which is against the rules for some reason), but we find a ruddy bloke who's willing to bend the rules a bit.

Laura is very glad that we can carry on this entire negotiation in English.

Travel by Taxi

12:41 pm

We step up to the British Airways ticket counter, where they ask for our passports. Robert reaches to get his out of his zippered pants pocket where he keeps it nice and safe.

But the zipper is stuck and he can't get it open. Laura starts yanking on it, to no avail (these are REI hiking pants, so they're very well made and damn near invulnerable). The ticket agent is standing there looking at us, while we try to get the pocket unzipped.

We offer to have Robert take off his pants, and they can just run them through the scanner, but the ticket agent says that they actually need to see the passport.

And, of course, all our sharp implements are carefully packed away. We struggle for about five minutes with it, while a long line of people are looking at us, clearly thinking that this is an extremely annoying delay to their getting checked in. We have visions of not being able to get out of the country because Robert's passport is stuck in his pants. ("Would our Travel Insurance cover Acts of Stupidity?")

Laura remembers where she stashed her Swiss Army knife, so she digs that out of her luggage and with the prompting of the giggling ticket agent ("Just stick it in the end and twist it") we finally get at Robert's passport.


2:24 pm

We're finally on the plane, which is very full.

Every place we've been in Europe, the locals have complained that tourism is down. But every flight we've been on has been packed to the gills. If they got any more tourists, where the heck would they put them?


4:18 pm

By the clock, it's only taken an hour an a half to fly from London to Seattle.

Subjectively, it's been about nine years (actually about nine and half hours). Robert really (really) wants to get one of the little sleeper seats in the first class section next time (they're cool, you can stretch out, and you probably get better food and drink, too).

We are standing in line, waiting to pass through customs. We're trying to remember if we have receipts for all the stuff we bought, and we're a bit worried about Robert's new kilt ("You expect us to believe you bought this kilt in the US?").

4:39 pm

We have got to quit watching movies. In the movies, customs is always very rigorous, with guys pawing through your luggage, and carefully inspecting everything. They look at your watch and quiz you about where you got it, and how much you paid, and then drag you off for a body cavity search.

In real life, customs involves a guy glancing at your customs form (which says, "Did you buy more than $800 worth of stuff?"). He asks, "Are you bringing in any food?" (Robert says, "Yes, some crackers, and a brownie from the plane, and..." But Laura interrupts him and says, "They don't care about that!" "But you can't lie to them!" Because of this argument, Laura forgets to mention the pistachio nuts she bought in Greece, so she is now officially a pistachio smuggler.)

That's it. Nobody even looked at our luggage. No pawing. No cavity searches. Nobody asked if we were bringing in drugs or rocket-propelled grenades or anything. Sheesh.

5:41 pm

We stagger in the front door of our home at last! The boat didn't sink, nobody blew up the airplane, and we didn't get arrested, so we beat the jinx! Yay!

Our friend Elizabeth (who's son Craig has been feeding the cats and watering the plants and shoveling the mail) has put some food in the fridge and a thermos of decaf tea on the counter! Which is good, because we have just about enough energy left to open our mouths and shovel something in (our bodies think it's about two in the morning).

We survey the mound of mail and the stack of newspapers and the cats studiously ignoring us ("You left?").

And we collapse into our very own bed, with our very own pillows. Aaaahhhh! Europe is fun, but home is better.

Home at last
Robert & Laura