“In London everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in.”
Hopped up on caffeine from the piping hot English Breakfast Tea I’d readily accepted from the airline steward with a sexy British accent, I was wide awake. Rather than sleep on the plane, I’d instead chosen to spend the early hours of the morning watching the live action Paddington Bear movie and sipping black tea poured from an actual tea kettle being carried down the plane isle. (I think more airlines should provide this service, rather than tossing a teabag and cup of hot water at you!) I’m not suggesting this was the best course of action, but if you too can’t sleep on planes, and the smell of breakfast tea is wafting through the air, resistance, as they say, is futile. I’m also not suggesting the live action Paddington Bear movie is worth losing sleep over, but when you’re going to see the sights that appear as the backdrop in the film in a little under two hours, well let’s just say any rating I would give the film was definitely boosted. So when our plane finally landed in London at the desperately early hour of six something in the morning, I was ready to begin sightseeing with what should be the first stop on any literary tour of London: the bronze statue of the famous children’s book hero, Paddington Bear.
Unfortunately you first have to navigate your way out of the Heathrow airport, but after that! First stop Paddington Station! Feeling grubby from multiple days of airplane travel, waiting in the customs line felt like an eternity between me and my next shower. Once let into the country by a customs officer who’s stare of suspicion changed to fascination when we stated that we were headed for an Airbnb (she seemed to think Airbnb was a strange new phenomenon), we reunited with our luggage, collected our first British pounds at an ATM, and procured Heathrow Express tickets and Oyster cards for the Underground from a desk near baggage claim. Finally we were on our way to Paddington Station!
If you arrive in London by way of Heathrow airport, the quickest way into the city is via the Heathrow Express, which whisks you directly to Paddington station, a hub where you can change to a train or underground line. As you’re passing through anyway, you might as well visit the statue…if you can find it.
The statue proved a little tricky to find. Standing on the train platform, I looked around in the hopes that the statue would be obvious. Unfortunately this was not the case. My next thought was that surely there would be a Paddington Bear gift shop near the statue so I made my way towards the station shops. Sure enough, at the top of a short escalator, I spotted a small shop entirely devoted to Paddington Bear. Pulling my bag behind me, I headed in that direction and outside the shop was… a colorful statue of the famous bear. I stopped in confusion, pretty sure that the famous statue was a colorless bronze.
Not wanting to scare the girl behind the register by appearing a wild-eyed crazy-awake girl hyped up on the thrill of finally being in London and possibly too much breakfast tea, I casually bought a postcard with a painting of Paddington on the front and attempted to nonchalantly inquire where the original Paddington might have trundled off to with his suitcase in hand- ok, I just asked where the original statue might be found.
Train platform 1. I thanked the cashier, careful not to yank the postcard off the counter and dash towards platform 1. One impatient escalator ride later, suitcase in tow and back on the train platforms, I searched for a clock face. She had said he would be sitting under the clock. Sure enough, there was Paddington in bronze, wearing his big floppy hat and sitting on his suitcase with his tag which reads, “Please look after this bear thank you.”
Literary Tour Stop 1: Complete.
Now we could proceed to our Airbnb for hot showers and then- there was the rest of London to explore!