Another very interesting story from my friend Lea Fleming! She had the opportunity to go to London a few years ago and see many of the on screen locations from the BBC series. She also got to see Sherlock Holmes’s cottage in East Dean, and by chance ended up nose to nose with Benedict Cumberbatch! This is her story!
Lea, having lunch at Speedy’s! She had the “John Watson” a delicious wrap.
Now onto her wonderful adventure!
From the time I was a preteen I have loved Sherlock Holmes. It started with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. I watched those movies when I was even younger and then I started in on the books. I was such a Holmes snob that I couldn’t accept anyone else in those roles. I ignored any other television show or movie until I accidentally found Sherlock on the BBC. I didn’t want to watch it but when I saw “The Making Of” program on PBS I knew I had to at least give it a chance, and then I became addicted. That show should have a warning label because it is hazardous to your sanity, and the withdrawals are horrible. They only make 3 episodes per season and the seasons can be at least 2 years apart. That led me to at least check out Jeremy Brett in the off season, he was truly amazing and a little insane. So when I knew I was going to London, there was no way I would miss seeing the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Then why not try to find the locations, where the scenes of the television show were filmed. I knew they were real places open to the public and I knew the indoor scenes were all filmed in Cardiff and that was way too far to go. So we set out on a sort of pilgrimage to see those locations. 221b Baker St. is iconic and of course is the address of the museum. The TV show is filmed on N. Gower St. and Speedy’s Cafe is the front of the building that substitutes for 221b. Why not have lunch there? We did. We visited St. Bart’s Hospital which houses the morgue where Sherlock and Molly solve chemical experiments, and the fateful roof Sherlock jumped to his death off of. Sort of. We went there too and I was shocked to find it was a beautiful place with fascinating architecture, and little garden spots for quiet reflection. Couldn’t pass up the Landmark where the reunion between Watson and Holmes took place, when Watson finds out after 2 years Sherlock didn’t really die. I wanted to see the bridge in St. James Park, across from Buckingham Palace when they were on there way there to see the guardsman that asked for their help. I knew that it would be a beautiful place, and it was. There wasn’t time to visit all of the places on my list but I am glad I got to see them. Now you get to see these places too!
The museum and the line I had to stand in.
North Gower Street and Speedy’s where we had lunch. I had the “John Watson” a delicious wrap.
And the Landmark
St. James Park
Made a friend there. This guy just sat there and posed while my friend took his picture! Several times!
And now on to the Barbican, shall we? The main reason I went to London was to see Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, at the Barbican. We managed to snag tickets to 2 performances. The Saturday matinee and Monday evening’s performance. On Monday we had arranged reservations for an afternoon tea at their rooftop terrace. OK, that’s the way it was supposed to work. We arrived early and set out to find said terrace. Nope. No terrace. No tea. No one had ever heard of the place, said the many employees that we asked. Hmmph! Well, as it happened the restaurant had closed down 10 days prior and no one told their customers who had reservations. It had been turned into a much more informal restaurant, albeit with a terrace that was nowhere near the rooftop. As luck would have it we had already eaten there on Saturday for lunch. So, instead the “Gin Joint” sounded enticing and we lunched there instead. It was fantastic! Great food and potent drinks put us in a much better mood and we quickly forgot all about tea!
Saturday lunch at Bonfire
Gin Joint where the waiter told us Benedict would in fact, be signing autographs after the show.
We finished early, checked the gift shops, I bought a few trinkets. Then we went back outside for a bit, checking the stage door just in case. The only person we met there was a security guard. My friend spoke with him and cast her spell, soon he was volunteering to take my program backstage and get an autograph or two. We were told that Benedict Cumberbatch had been signing autographs after the performances (much to the dismay of the Barbican who had posted signs saying there would be NO autographs. Yeah, right.) But we were concerned because we had to make the last train at 11:30 or else!! We waited for him to return but he didn’t know if he could before the performance but for sure would see us after. So when he didn’t come back we went inside and found our seats. We had fantastic seats both days on opposite sides of the theater. That allowed us to see all of the set in turn. The set was absolutely breathtaking. Sorry, I can’t describe how immense it was. You’ll just have to go see the worldwide, one night, release of the film in select theaters around the world. Word: don’t miss it! This production was electrifying! It was hilarious and heartbreaking. Unfortunately (but understandably) no photos or filming was allowed at the threat of being removed from the theater. So you’ll just have to wait.
After the performance we made our way outside to the Stage Door, where a crowd that looked like at least a couple of hundred fans had gathered. OK, I’m short and that eliminated seeing either the stars or the security guard. I was getting pretty flustered because even though I had given up on seeing BC I wanted my program! I went to look for my friend, who incidentally had the program; because the security guard went and found her! We stood around and discussed our options but once again, even though I wanted to leave, she insisted we stay for a moment to see what would happen. What happened was they moved the security line! Suddenly I was not only in it, I was right up against the barricade. That was good and bad, but mostly good. I really don’t like people much and these fans were really getting on my nerves, and I was getting squished. Once again I wanted to leave and once again my friend encouraged me to stay, and then suddenly! There Benedict was, standing right in front of me. People on all sides were rushing forward and I found myself face to face, nose to nose, with him. I didn’t want a picture with him as others were pleading for because I knew I would look stupid and have to cut myself out of the picture and I already had his autograph so I just looked up at him and said “Thank you.” He looked questioningly at me and once he really understood I didn’t want anything from him he smiled and thanked me. I might have mentioned I was getting squished and he looked over his shoulder, seeming to indicate he was looking for a way out for me; but there was none and unfortunately he didn’t offer to pick me up and lift me over the rail (sigh). So he smiled, shrugged, and moved on. Wow! And we made the train on time.
That Signed Program!
A few pics of the Barbican, which is very modern and not very pretty except for the Conservatory. Once again, it’s only open on Sunday and I gave up on seeing it. I knew it was pretty because I had seen a photo shoot of Benedict, in the Out magazine and wouldn’t you know it, I found it while we were looking for the restaurant! So, here’s a few pics of it too.
Onto another day of adventures..
What is a Prom? You’ll have to ask someone about the history of it and what “Prom” means but I can tell you all about the one we went to. It was the first ever Sherlock Prom and it was glorious! Held at the Royal Albert Hall (built by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to give cultural entertainment to the masses) on Sunday afternoon and well attended by “the masses” it featured all of the music related to Sherlock Holmes starting with references in the books to all of the movies over the years and the television shows. Provided by the BBC and the BBC Orchestra featuring a soloist representing Irene Adler the opera star that was the only person to thwart and outwit Sherlock Holmes, better known as The Woman. There was a violin soloist also. Both of these guest performers were amazing. I’m not an opera fan but the lady was wonderful! The violinist was mesmerizing, especially when he played a piece by Paganini! They say in his day, Paganini was reported to have been in league with the devil, since no one could naturally write and play like he did. After hearing this piece I almost believe it. Always have been a Paganini fan, but have never heard any played on violin live. Wow! Mark Gatiss (Mycroft and one of the writers for Sherlock) joined an MC that I didn’t know, surely a BBC announcer of some sort, as narrators. Mark did dramatic readings from the books and he was so fun to listen to. Martin Freeman, Amanda Abbington and Una Stubbs were in the audience and, of course, I didn’t see them. Michael Price, one of the composers of the Sherlock themes was called up on stage and again, I missed it. Yes, I know, I need to learn to sit still. We managed to snag tickets for this event because my friend moved mountains to get them. I will post what few pics we have. No photography was allowed once the performance started. Completely understandable but if they would release press photos of the event it would have been wonderful. Still, we were able to get pics before it began and the red cast to the pictures is because the place is RED and gold. You’ll see the Royal Box with the crown above it. There were screens provided so all could see the many photos of all of the previous Sherlock incarnations, with the exception of Benedict Cumberbatch, who was not represented in the pictures until the very end. After the intermission BBC’s Sherlock was featured almost exclusively. The orchestra played a suite from the TV show and it was OUTSTANDING. Included was the theme, of course, Welcome to London, Irene Adler’s theme and much more. It concluded with the manic, loud, ferocious music which accompanied the scene of the taxi chase and really made your heart race. So, here are the pics we managed to get.
Royal Albert Hall
Lastly, although we did this the first day, right after I arrived. Ignoring jet lag and 16 hours of travel, we went to South Down (East Dean) the site of Sherlock Holmes’s cottage where he retired and took to bee keeping. (I guess Janine didn’t get rid o the bees after all – lol)
Big Thanks to Lea once again for sharing these wonderful photos and stories of her adventures!