Heretics and Horrors

London Guided Walks

I can’t deny that I am an avid groundhopper and a keen shirt collector but those who know me well would acknowledge I have other hobbies and interests. In fact a nurse called them “passions.” I am a life-long language learner, a massive fan of chess and a world traveller. Yes, I love learning the history of villages and cities the world over. 

I am up to about 50 countries and am looking forward to some serious groundhopping this autumn through Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany. Next summer is Romania and Georgia for the UEFA U-21 Finals. For the moment I am in London and following my beloved FC Deportivo Galicia and Gillingham. I am also exploring the nooks and crannies of London. Despite love affairs with Spain, Italy, Romania and Scandinavia, I still think it is the greatest city on earth. I love its diversity, its history, its sport (obviously!) its transport infrastructure and, well, pretty much everything about the city. I also think, arrogantly, I know a fair bit about it ….. or I did until yesterday! Let me explain …. 

I saw an advertisement for Guided London Walking Tours I followed a link to a very professional website where there was a fantastic range of tours to select from. What interested me was that this was not the usual “Free tour of Westminster” or “Free Tour of Theatreland.” I’d done several of those and felt rather unimpressed after I had paid my tip to somebody who had clearly been in London only a few months or years and was regurgitating a script. Those trips are fine for an overview – I have done them in several European cities and they were excellent starting points but I fear the Canadian guide of Amsterdam might struggle if she moved 100 yards off the route or a few words off the script. 

What caught my eye with London Guided Walks was the  specialist nature of the tours. These are not “fluff and stuff.” The “Heretics and Horrors City Walk” looked particularly interesting, I booked (easily and quickly) on their website and yesterday found myself at St Paul’s Cathedral. To be more accurate I found myself on “the concrete steps outside the CoOp on Cheapside, adjacent to St. Paul’s tube station.” The welcome email gave excellent directions, a contact number and an overall image of professionalism. Impressed.  

I was delighted that it was a small group of just eight people – two couples and four single participants. The guide Susan introduced herself, advised on safety requirements and we set off promptly (another tick!) She advised us what we would see and it was clear from the first few sentences that this was not for a first-timer. Excellent.    

The next ninety minutes went very fast. Susan was hugely impressive, clearly had an in depth knowledge of the area and shared this very competently. She was always in control of the group and did not allow herself to be interrupted by unnecessary or trivial questions and comments. When I go on one of these tours, I attend to learn from the guide. I am not interested in the thoughts of some random tourist from New Jersey who thinks we want to hear what he “knows” about Lady Di or Green Park!  I certainly walked away far more knowledgeable about that area of the Square Mile. What was most impressive was that at almost every building, Susan had a story and an explanation. I am guessing we only walked a mile at most and never more than a hundred yards at a time. Being just a few weeks off crutches, I was grateful for that. 

I should perhaps confirm that this was a paid tour. I wasted a couple of hours in Bucharest recently on a “free” tour. Sadly, there were over 50 participants including about 20 Madrid school kids who clearly had zero interest in the history of “Romania – The Road to Democracy.” From the questions and comments of the visitors yesterday it was clear that they were all very knowledgeable about London and, like me, were keen to learn even more. I am sure each one was delighted. I was.

All in all, an excellent tour. What did I learn? Well, I will let you find out for yourselves but I can assure you that you will be interested in Paul’s Cross (NOT St. Paul’s Cross!), Newgate Prison, Temple Bar and the history of St Barts to name just a few. What’s next?  A couple of big games this weekend and I think I will register for the “Wonders of Whitehall Walk” or maybe the “Southwark” tour…. or maybe both! You are most welcome to come to join me ….. as long as you do not interrupt the guide!  If you have a specialist interest, London Guided Walks also do private tours. The Rise of Chelsea under Mou?

Heretics and Horrors – London Guided walks

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