Most days on my research trip, I took two London Walks, and I'd go back to my hotel room to crash because it was a lot of physical activity as well as a lot of info being crammed into my cabesa. Sunday, I chose the Historic London Square Mile (basically what's known as "The City" or the Financial District) and Highgate.
The Square Mile is pretty deserted during off-work hours, so there was a slightly removed pall to The City. However, it was Rememberance Day, which is basically equivalent to Memorial Day in the U.S., and everyone was wearing paper poppies on their lapels and visiting the Westminster area to pay their respects to the tiny crosses planted in the cathedral yard to commemorate fallen soldiers.
During the tour, we traversed little out-of-the-way alleys and paid attention to many a detail I might've missed on my own. For instance, there was this:
Our guide told us that this is the type of symbol that would've served as a warning of the plague lingering behind a doorway. This particular emblem was over the gate of a churchyard entrance, so seeing something so omimous this close to a place of worship was rather eerie. (BTW, I love the spikes on the fence; I found those at Highgate Cemetery, too, but I'll get to that adventure in a bit.)
This second picture features a few odd bits, mainly the 1) "inside out" building on the left (which is just a business building) and 2) The "Gherkin" building in the middle. Surely you've seen this second structure in movies like BASIC INSTINCT 2. (Yes, I watched it! And I didn't think it was as bad as everyone makes it out to be.) It looks like the kind of Easter egg a Goth child would decorate. People around London also call the building "the Crystal Phallus" and that's a pretty great description right there. As far as my research goes, I was able to block a chase scene by poking along these streets.
Finally, here's a snap of my second tour: Highgate. This was a village just north of Central London, and folks used to come up here for the clear air and "healing" water. More recently, Sting and Annie Lennox lived here, and I caught a peek of their former residences. Though they didn't look all that stunning from the outside--just serene and stately, really--Sting sold his place for about 6 million pounds, which equals more than 12 million dollars. Gah!
The reason I took a pic of this haunted pub was that it's going to serve a vampire underground purpose. See, Highgate featured a heavily traveled road and, accordingly, highwaymen lurked its corridors. Not too long ago, tunnels were found beneath the pub, and they believe the highwaymen dug them in order to aid with smuggling their goods. (Thank you, oh, god of fiction!)
A couple days later I decided not to take a tour--to instead return to Highgate on my own and inspect the cemetery. (No pictures though--we were asked not to take any.) Naturally, that was the one day it rained, but I won't complain because, first, that was the only bad-weather day of my trip and 2) rain definitely lends itself to a stroll in a graveyard. And let me tell you, it was such a wonderful experience to wander around quietly, with only the tap of the rain on my umbrella as I read the markers. I even blocked out another scene here, and it turned out to be pretty pivotal in the development of book 4's mystery. Yay, graveyards!
Stay tuned for the last London blog, which is going to cover the "Darkest Victorian London," Clerkenwell, and Hampstead tours....