By Anne Catherine Demere
Tuesday afternoon, barely even three days after settling in at the flat in London Sunday night, I had just a wonderful idea. An idea I carried with me since a few weeks before our program start date. It was then that I realized 221B Baker Street, the famous setting of the Sherlock Holmes novels and movies and television shows and plays and who knows what else, was just a hop, skip and a jump away from my accommodation. I told myself before departure that I’d make the Sherlock Holmes museum my first tourist stop out of the ridiculous list of sites that have accumulated on a note in my phone since the beginning of summer.
It was Tuesday afternoon that class had let out and the exhaustion of jetlag and moving at a breathless pace since arriving began to hit everyone, but I wasn’t tired and the last thing I wanted to do on my second day in the city I had dreamed about since a teenager was sit. So I ignored the slowly graying clouds outside my window and pulled on leggings, boots and a (non-water impervious) jacket and left the flat with no internet or cell service, an umbrella I bought at Poundland for less than a pound, a photo of directions to Baker Street on my phone, and an excuse ready to give my flatmates if they asked why I was leaving the building alone when the sky was really not looking great and I had been in this intricate and chaotic city for barely 48 hours.
For about 15 minutes I really was doing great. I was thriving. I was alone, just with my mind and no one to fake small talk with, and I was exhilarated by the simple idea of meandering through London and putting physical pictures to images in my head of the city I’ve wanted to see for so long. The rain came, but I had my umbrella so don’t even worry about me, strangers on the street.
The wind completely destroyed my umbrella, because you know it was less than a pound. I tossed it in a bin as the rain became more aggressive, and I pulled up my jacket hood which provided no protection from my raindrop-splattered glasses. You know, the ones I need to see things like street signs and buildings.
I ducked inside a Starbucks for WiFi and shelter, thank you oh Starbucks, you always save my soul, and also because I had missed a turn and gotten completely lost and could no longer rely on my screenshotted directions.
After plugging in 221B Baker Street and venturing back out into the increasing downpour, my maps malfunctioned and sent me 40 minutes in the opposite direction of the museum. I started to feel slightly unsafe as my maps took me down sidestreets where only one or two other people occupied it with me, but I was so determined to find this place.
I was anxious and soaking wet and frustrated and my phone wasn’t working, and I forced myself to stop walking. I found a beautiful cobblestoned shopping street, it looked decently upscale, and took refuge in front of a LuLu Lemon. How ironically American of me.
I pulled on the door but they were closed, and that’s when I let go of my determination to find Baker Street. I wiped off my phone screen, turned on cellular data, and requested an Uber back home.
My driver arrived in under five minutes, I piled into his car apologizing over and over for being soaking wet, and started the routine Uber small-talk.
I told him I was new to the city and had been trying for almost two hours now to find the Sherlock Holmes Museum but with heaviness and extreme frustration I gave up.
“Baker Street?” he said. “Love, it’s just around the corner.”