Ours begins outside the Marylebone tube stop and rail station, where Désirée, our glamorous, fake leopard skin—wearing guide (the kind of woman Ringo always seemed to date), quickly corrals our cheerful group of 25 fans from around the world. Our boys happen to be the only kids, but Richard Porter later tells us, "Quite often it's kids dragging their parents along—not the other way around."
Désirée gets right down to business, pointing out locations from the start of the movie A Hard Day's Night, the scene that would define Beatlemania forever: throngs of screaming girls chasing John, Paul, George, and Ringo in the streets, through the station, and onto a train. From there it's a short walk to the Westminster Registry Office, where Paul married Linda while thousands of fans blocked Marylebone Road; the former location of the Apple Shop (once a shoplifter's paradise) and Apple Music headquarters; and the flat at 34 Montagu Square where Ringo lived, Paul wrote "Eleanor Rigby," and John and Yoko were busted for marijuana possession. "If you were a teen girl in 1966," Désirée says, gesturing toward the door of the flat, "more than any other place in the world, this was where you wanted to be." Though our kids, in 1966, were 25 and 29 years away from being born, they follow every word.
The final stop is a short tube ride away at the Abbey Road Studios, where our boys add their signatures to the wall outside, covered with writing (it's painted over every four months). And then it's off to the pièce de résistance, the Abbey Road crosswalk. Désirée tells us which way we'll have to face to re-create the cover of the album for a snapshot; we hesitate, but Gabriel and Charlie will have none of our self-consciousness.
"Why did the Beatles break up?" Gabriel asks on the way to the Abbey Road Café for souvenir Lennon sunglasses. But we're no more able to answer now than we were when it happened. Fortunately, we don't have to, because Charlie pipes up, "Where did they live when they were little?" Now here's a question we'll be able to answer.
"Wednesday morning at five o'clock as the day begins . . ." Actually, our train leaves at 10 on Wednesday, bound for Liverpool. This time, partly to accommodate our kids' short legs, we've chosen the luxury of wheels: a Magical Mystery Tour bus ride with sing-alongs. But the British rail system leaves us stalled just outside Liverpool for so long that by the time we arrive, the tour has taken off. Trying to salvage the day, we approach a taxi driver and ask if he knows where some of the Beatles sites are. This, we realize in retrospect, is like asking a Parisian cabbie if he knows how to get to the Eiffel Tower. Without missing a beat, our driver coolly flips down his visor, pulls out a yellowing photocopy of the Beatles Pocket Map & Guide to Liverpool, and says, "Where to first, guv?"