Nostalgical mystery tour

October 21, 2019

I’m glad somebody did it

As a travel blogger, I try to avoid dealing in advice, tips, things to see and do and especially revealing hidden gems of any kind. Given my low wattage expectations for travel and adventure (is the train high-speed with a first-class car and a full service bistro?), I can’t imagine any advice or tips I could offer that you wouldn’t have already thought of yourself, such as do I need a ticket for the plane or train and should I pack a suitcase? (To both I would venture to suggest: perhaps.) As far as things to see and do, I try to do as little of both as possible. And for hidden gems, my belief is that they’re that way for a reason and should be respected as such.

We gathered to innocently remember that time in our lives

As a kid, I watched a TV program called Armchair Traveler, where the host sat in a winged armchair with a pipe and a smoking jacket, and talked about exotic places I assumed he told you about so you wouldn’t have to go yourself. I liked the armchair part especially, and I thought if a first-class car could be outfitted with an armchair and the train went back and forth between, say, Paris and Beijing, without stopping except to replenish the bistro car, that would be the ideal travel adventure.

Beatlemania really started here outside the main entrance

So with all that being said, I highly recommend, if you’re ever in London, the walking tour celebrating the Beatles experience here. Led by Richard Porter, a 20-year veteran of conducting the tour and holder of the coveted title Beatles Brain of London, Porter transports you to a time and place when the city was the center of the pop culture universe, and the Beatles were poised to lead the advance army of the British Invasion.

Richard takes you on a Beatles journey that brackets the band’s early struggles in London’s Soho district to land a recording contract all the way to their last live performance on the rooftop of their Apple recording studio on Savile Row. In between, he shows you where the McCartneys, Lennons, Jaggers, Townsends and Bowies hung out and recorded their first hits, where John first met Yoko, and ground zero for the hysteria of Beatlemania – the main entrance of the famed London Palladium. The tour ends at the zebra-striped pedestrian crossing at Abbey Road, where you can recreate the cover of that eponymous Beatles album.

Carol’s Abbey Road cover

On that Sunday evening in February, 1964, I lay transfixed on the floor of my parents’ living room in front of our TV, and was instantaneously transported from Patterson Drive to Carnaby Street. By the end of the Beatles third appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, I’d cut the collar off one of my good shirts, and rolled up my pants legs above a pair of black dress shoes that somehow in my own deeply flawed imagination had turned me into a Fab Four lookalike. (I also couldn’t play guitar or sing, which completed my self-deluded transformation. And then, when my mother saw what I’d done to my good dress shirt…)

As it was a cold steady rain that day of the tour, I did not take off my shoes and socks and cross Abbey Road as Paul did. Turns out, he was not intending to fuel the myth of his death either, but had simply not wanted to be photographed in the sandals he’d worn to the studio that day.

Apparently, he had a better sense of fashion than I ever would.

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