Last week, before Comic Con, I spent a few days just outside of London, staying with family. Mum and I decided to play tourist and check out some of the London attractions we haven’t visited yet. We’ve done most of the museums and art galleries over the years, and things like the London Eye, but there’s still a few on the list to visit.
Our first port of call was the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Not quite located at 221B Baker Street (it’s actually a little bit further up, and 221B is part of a bigger building next to it) but with that famous number emblazoned over the door anyway, there was quite a queue when we arrived. I do wonder if the museum confuses some visitors, as it is entirely treated as though Sherlock Holmes was a real person. The guide leaflet states that the famous study is set up ‘as it was’, from the writings of Dr Watson. The series of rooms is filled with artifacts from Holmes’ most famous cases, Watson’s diaries and letters written by Holmes. By the way, keen Holmes fans will be pleased to know that there are indeed 17 steps on the staircase from the front hall to the study. The museum is small, and it was quite a squeeze to actually look at anything much, but it was fun spotting different bits from the cases I remember. The upstairs was full of slightly creepy waxworks, including the infamous Irene Adler. There was a also a huge scrapbook filled with letters that people have written to Holmes, including one plea from a little girl hoping he could help find her lost cat. I hope she found him, even without the Great Detective.
Next, we paid a visit to Churchill’s War Rooms. The rooms are hidden underneath Westminster, and were Churchill’s hub of operations during WWII. This was my favourite visit of the week, I think. The museum is fascinating; when the war ended, the rooms were just locked and left entirely intact (complete with one officer’s sugar ration still locked in the top drawer of his desk!) until Thatcher decided to open them as a museum in the 1980s. The virtually untouched rooms are remarkable. Churchill had a direct telephone link with America to speak to the President, and the army officers had a complex network of phones to communicate with various department heads in secret. I particularly enjoyed the recordings from staff who worked there during the war, and their recollections of the strange, secretive working life they led. Definitely worth a visit.
Last on the list was Westminster Abbey. The abbey is one of London’s most visited attractions, so expect to queue! Armed with an audio guide, we roamed the vast space, pausing to look at the huge, impressive tombs and memorials. There are some fantastic things to see in the abbey, with beautiful windows, tombs of royals including Elizabeth I and memorials for some incredible people. I was a touch over excited by Poet’s Corner, with it’s tombs and memorials for everyone from Chaucer to Ted Hughes.
Where’s your favourite place to visit in London?