Archive | 2:02 pm

My name is Alison, and I am an addict.

12 May

I’m addicted to walking tours. Simply cannot get enough of them. That either means I’m a nerd or a retiree. You do the math.

In any case, there’s a great walking tour company here in London (London Walks) willing to indulge me. Since I’ve been to London before and checked off most of the typical touristy spots in other visits, I’m using these walks to familiarize myself with some of the lesser-explored bits of the city.

King Kong, Elvis and Henry VIII - I like the way they think!

Monday I did the “London’s Secret Village” tour, which had us tromping around in Clerkenwell – in London’s central borough of Islington. Among the highlights:

  • Seeing where William Wallace (you know, the dude from Braveheart?) was beheaded.
  • Visiting a Plague Pit, knowing the soil below me was the resting place for hundreds of bodies from the 1665 plague.
  • Crossing the square where Dickens’ Oliver Twist got nabbed for picking the wrong pocket.
  • Learning that the subterranean River Fleet had so much sewer gas build up that it once exploded.
  • Spotting one of London’s most filmed churches – St. Bartholomew’s Church – known from The Other Boleyn Girl, Sherlock Holmes, Four Weddings & a Funeral, etc. – and learning that Henry VIII is considered the church’s second founder simply for not having it torn down when he was demolishing all things Catholic.

Jesus Hot Tub Time Machine.

Tuesday, Alan joined me for the “Inside the Ancient City” tour, where we weaved around back alleys north of the Tower and St. Paul’s. Among its highlights:

  • Pepys (pronounced “Peeps” like the Easter treat, not some version of Pepsi, which is what I was trying to do) – who wrote an amazing diary during the plague/fire of the 1600s but kept it in code because he was cheating on his wife.
    • Another Pepys reference that made me feel like I knew him: when his place was on the edge of the fire line, he figured he had half a day to save his prized possessions before the place burned. What did he do? Buried cases wine and a wheel of parmesan cheese. (I totally appreciate his priorities.)
  • Leadenhall Market: a cute functioning arcade that served as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies.
  • The most perfect church in London: the church of St. Stephen Walbrook, which looks like nothing on the outside, but is a breath-taking church on the inside. Courtesy of Sir Christopher Wren (as is almost every other church in this city).
    • Odd note: the interior may be gorgeous, but the priest there in the 1970s decided to have a new, central altar commissioned by Henry Moore. I’m sure in an art museum it would look amazing, but in the midst of a 17th century church, it looks a bit odd. Like a Flintstone hot tub.
  • George & Vulture Pub: where Dickens’ family still meets every Christmas Eve to have dinner and raise a toast in his honor.

The thing that made the joint tour with Alan particularly fun was that we had a guy in the tour group who was VOCALLY EXCITED. By which I mean that he would burst out in a loud affirmation occasionally. I nicknamed him “Blurt Reynolds,” but Alan, being a bit more kind, referred to him as, “Joie de Vivre.”

I think London is having a mellowing effect on Alan.

(I’ve also done the Hampstead and Kensington walks, and will summarize them later for my friends who are armchair travelers.)

The moral(s) of this story: walking tours rock, I’m a nerd, and you might actually learn a bit of British trivia from reading this blog. Please humor me.