221B Baker Street - The Home of Sherlock Holmes
It was around 5.30 that evening when we were back in Bath, after the Stonehenge trip. John had given us directions to the tourist office which happened to be right behind the Bath Abbey. As luck would have it, the British Heritage passes were available; and so we bought two, 4-day passes at £28 a piece. These entitled us to see as many sights as possible in 4 consecutive days.
Now that we had the Heritage Pass, we did some hurried planning on the train journey back to London. It was like this. We'd take the early morning train from London Marylebone Railway Station for Stratford-upon-Avon, visit Shakespeare's birth place and from there take a bus to Warwick, spend a few hours at Warwick Castle and hop on to some late evening train back to London. Saturday we'd take in Windsor Castle and perhaps Hampton Court Palace. We'd planned to be in Edinburgh on Monday and the Heritage Pass would cover two Castles including the magnificent Edinburgh Castle.
All these sights were on the Heritage Pass list; so that meant we would have exhausted 3 of the 4 days leaving us with 1 more day to use the pass. Unfortunately, our next stop after Edinburgh was Liverpool and we weren't aware of any heritage sights around those parts. One day usage of the pass would be lost, but that couldn't be helped. It was still a good deal. My arithmetic told me that we'd have seen 6 heritage sights and if we calculated the normal entry fee, the Heritage Pass still worked out economical.
Alas, things didn't work out as planned. As usual, we left the hotel pretty early next morning and reached Marylebone Station only to find that it was closed for repairs over the weekend. It struck me only then. I had in fact seen these signs at various tube stations and even in the tube trains, that Marylebone would be closed for repairs during the weekend. A result of the 7th July 2005 London Bomb blasts I'm told. Somehow, I had missed the connection and here we were wondering what to do next.
I looked up the map and discovered we were just one stop away from a famous landmark. And that meant we could walk it. I looked at Mona and she gave me a quizzical stare. 'What!' she said. 'Let's go to Baker Street,' I replied. It was only half past eight and we had lots of time. We were famished and decided to get some breakfast first. On Marylebone Road we saw this tiny place that looked pretty cozy; but more importantly, seemed inexpensive. We entered, found ourselves a table and ordered scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, toast and as Mona always refers to them, 'big cups of coffee.' Yum!
Stuffed to the gills with the sumptuous breakfast - lunch was most unlikely considering the state of our stomachs - we walked a few yards and turned left at the street corner. A short walk and we were at 221B Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes' Victorian lodging house, the address of my favourite childhood idol. For a few moments I simply stood there, staring at the place as my mind raced back to all those episodes I'd read about this legendary detective. I've always been fond of reading crime fiction and detective stories as a kid (still do at times), but Sherlock Holmes was always the most exciting read.
We paid £6 each as entrance fee to the museum and cameras in hand, Mona and I walked up the 17 steps into the famous study overlooking Baker Street. It was like stepping out of a time machine. I imagined myself in the company of the twosome seated on their armchairs, as the great detective puffing on his customary pipe, magnifying glass in hand sifting through every scrap of evidence of his case, piercing eyes minutely analysing every detail and then the conqueror explains his deduction methodology as 'Elementary, Dr. Watson' listens in stunned silence. So did I and in my imaginary state almost broke into applause saying, 'Wah! Sherlock-ji.'
The study is still faithfully maintained as it were in those Victorian times and I could spot his pipe, the violin, his inseparable deerstalker hat, magnifying glass, Dr. Watson's bowler hat, the chemistry set, to name just a few.
The second floor is where Dr. Watson's bedroom is located and on top of the fireplace is his famous revolver, now fixed to the wall in a glass case. It's the same revolver used by Sherlock Holmes to shoot down the Hound of Baskerville. On the third floor are numerous wax models - including one of Sherlock Holmes' arch-rival, Professor Moriarty - and other exhibits that depict scenes from the various adventures of the legendary Sherlock Holmes.
And where was Mrs. Hudson, the landlady of the house? Well, legendary as she is too, Mrs. Hudson was always in attendance to assist visitors with their enquiries. Somehow, we missed her.
Interestingly, the house was built in 1815 and though Sherlock Holmes never really existed, yet the house is a Government listed site to protect its architectural and cultural heritage for posterity's sake. Speaks volumes on 'the Keepers of the Nation.'
Next: Beatlemania on Abbey Road!