The Journey to Abbey Road: A Long and Winding Road

I like to consider myself a Beatles snob. When I got to London, I nearly bit my tongue off several times after I told people I’d been to Liverpool, only to hear people say, “Oh, did you check out Abbey Road while you were there?”

“No.” I’d always say, “That’s why I’m here.”

Though it was a struggle not to reprimand the fair-weather Beatles fans for their limited knowledge of even the most basic Beatles trivia, it did give me a quiet sense of pride that I knew my boys better than the average “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” hummer.

So, of course, my number one goal when I arrived in London was to reenact the famed Abbey Road crossing photo on the cover of the Beatles’ relentlessly excellent album, Abbey Road. This proved more difficult than I anticipated, and brought me down a few notches on my Beatles snobbery totem.

Luckily, we saved the Abbey Road crossing for our last day in London, just because we wanted to make sure we finished everything else and had as much time as we wanted to spend at the hallowed Beatles landmark. By then though, we’d learned something that was hard for me to come to terms with: The London Tube is outrageously expensive. For the average tourist, each ride on The Tube is £4.50 (roughly $6.80! Per ride!). Granted, The Tube is like driving shotgun in a Lamborghini compared to the rickety death trap I call the Chicago L Train (only $2.25/ride, which is still highway robbery), but for a college grad on her post-grad Eurotrip, using The Tube gets pretty costly pretty quickly.

tubemap-image-webThe Tube map divides London into 4 zones, and nearly all of the biggest tourist attractions are in Zones 1 & 2. Buying a day pass for Zones 1 & 2 is cheaper than buying a pass for all 4, so we took to doing that. On the day we wanted to see Abbey Road, we saw that the Abbey Road Tube Stop was just outside of Zone 2, just inching its way into Zone 3. So, we decided to still purchase the day pass for Zones 1 & 2, and just walk to the Abbey Road stop from the closest stop in Zone 2.

We got off at Pudding Mill Lane, which is the stop right before Abbey Road, and it is clear once we get off that this is not an area frequented by anyone in London, let alone tourists. We exit the Tube Station are are confronted with a freeway and an overpass and a lot of trash blowing in the wind left in the wake of zooming cars.

“Well, let’s start walking!” Aleah says. And we did. A mile and a half an 30 minutes later, we decide we can’t be walking in the right direction. After consulting our map, we find that we haven’t been, and that, from the Pudding Mill Lane stop, the Abbey Road stop is 45 minutes in the other direction. At that moment, I make an executive decision.

“Okay, let’s just get off at the Abbey Road stop and try to sneak out of the station—I know it’s in Zone 3, but what if they don’t notice? We can say we’re tourists and we didn’t know how The Tube worked!”

It was hot. We were sweaty. Our feet hurt, and we were in the middle of nowhere. “Okay,” Aleah said. In any other situation even mildly less desperate, I’m sure she would not have agreed as quickly.

Finally, we get back to the Pudding Mill Lane stop, accidentally take a train going in the wrong direction, right our course, and finally arrive at the Abbey Road stop. When we arrive, I noticed that there were no Tube Workers manning the exit booths, so I make a B-line for the exit—thrilled we’ll be able to exit at a Zone 3 stop without a Zone 3 pass, but I notice Aleah isn’t consumed with the same zeal I am.

Instead, she’s standing still, looking at the Tube Information boards near the station exit. I stand next to her and follow her eyeline, and I immediately deflate after reading the below:


After looking at the Tube Map again, it turns out that not only is the actual Abbey Road crossing at St. John’s Wood comfortably located within Zone 2, but it’s also ALL THE WAY on the other side of the city.

So, with our tails between our legs and feeling not only like newborn tourists, but also like half-assed Beatles fans, we get back on The Tube and sit, sweaty and silent, on the train until we get to St. John’s Wood. Finally, we get a picture on the WP_20130709_009crosswalk, but at what cost?

For the first time London tourist, let me tell you a few things. Look at the stops on the Tube Line pictured to the right. BE AWARE: The IMG_0873Tube Stop titles are often misleading. DO NOT expect to find either Waterloo Bridge or the battlefield from The Battle of Waterloo off the Waterloo stop. DO NOT expect to see either Westminster Abbey or Westminster Cathedral off of the Westminster stop. DO NOT expect to see any kind of James Bond fan sites off the Bond Street stop. DO NOT expect to see 221 B Baker Street off of the Baker Street stop. DO NOT expect to see any adorable Swiss-themed Cottages off of the Swiss Cottage stop. More importantly: DO NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER, OR A LONDON TUBE STOP BY ITS TITLE.

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