Most Dutch - Margriet
Best moustache - No winners
Most Irish - Triona & Martin
It was a reasonably quiet weekend as walks go, but none-the-less, still very enjoyable. On Saturday morning I did the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's with Margriet, from Holland. Aside from stopping for a drink in Covent Garden, we popped by the 12th century Temple church en route to St Paul's, which if you've ever seen the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, is where Tom Hanks comes when he arrives in London.
There are lots of other things I could have said about it other than mentioning Tom Hanks, but there you go. I've mentioned it before, but think I'll write a brief post about it soonish. Here's Margriet at the end of the walk outside St Paul's cathedral.
On Sunday, Triona and Martin who were over from Ireland came for a wander around the east end. Here they are standing in front of street artist Stik's piece on Princelet Street, just off Brick Lane.
Most Dutch - Margriet
Best moustache - No winners
Most Irish - Triona & Martin
It snowed for most of the walk on Saturday morning, so as you can imagine, was pretty cold. Still, five people ventured out with me for the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's, including Keith (from Canada) who came on the east London walk a year ago. He was joined by Natasha and Cerys and also Thomas and Charlyne from France.
They're standing in a little courtyard just off Carter Lane called Wardrobe Place. As you might be able to see from the plaque behind them, it was the site of something called the King's Wardrobe which was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666. The Wardrobe, originally housed within the Tower of London was where (as the name might suggest) King's kept their clothes, and also armour and treasure. It was moved in 1311 by Edward II to Lombard Street, then later to the site where the group are standing, by Edward III. It's currently a quiet little space populated by a few trees, offices, a hotel and enclosed largely by 18th century houses. If you have ever read any of Samuel Pepys' diary, the name might sound familiar, as 'The Wardrobe' was the generic name given to the surrounding area and one he mentioned quite frequently.
As I mentioned, Keith came on the east London walk previously. One of the first things he said when he met me on Saturday morning was 'I don't suppose we'll see quite so much street art today'. He was quite correct in this assumption, but at the end of the walk, as we were standing outside St Paul's cathedral, I noticed two pieces of painted chewing gum on the floor, that unless I'm mistaken, look suspiciously like the work of Ben Wilson (who I've mentioned before). He's a prolific street artist, who (if you hadn't already guessed) uses pieces of discarded chewing gum as his canvas. The ones we saw outside St Paul's cathedral looked like this:
Sunday was a nice compact group of Vix, Matt, Mary and Helen for the wander around the east end. Here they are at Columbia Road Flower Market, where I seem to quite often take group photos.
After the walk (again, bitterly cold) I noticed that Eine has re-painted his two well known pieces on Ebor Street. In fact, they were so well known, I'd wager that people just call it the 'Anti & Pro' street (I know I do), as it was emblazoned with the words ANTI and PRO. It now looks like this:
He kept one of the 'PRO's' which were on the Tea Building, so it now says PRO TAGONISTS.
Most French - Thomas & Charlyne
Most Canadian - Keith
Most Welsh - Cerys
Best moustache - No Winners
Most likely to have eaten Kendal Mint Cake - Helen
Jeepers. So it was a really lovely weekend of walks and met some great people and experienced very different types of weather. Saturday was one of those really nice cold, but crisp autumnal days and in the morning I met Kat and Nancy for the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's.
Here they both are outside the Royal Courts of Justice, which was unusually busy for a Saturday ('cause it was open) due to the London Open House Weekend which happens once a year and if you've never got involved, then you perhaps should next year, because it's great. Lots of buildings all over London, from the flat Jimi Hendrix died in to the Gherkin are open to the public for one weekend only.
We also sampled some tea at Twinings tea shop before winding our way through Fleet Street to finish at St Paul's. I'll also quickly mention that Nancy has her own mobile hairdressing business and zips around London on bike visiting people at home to cut their hair, so if you fancy having your hair coiffeured in the comfort of your own home, then get in touch with her.
Kat is one of a select group of people to do both Saturday walks on one day, so after a spot of lunch, returned for the afternoon walk from St Paul's to Monument, where she was joined by Rachel, Hannah, Claire and also Liron (who had done the east end walk previously) and David, both from Israel.
Rachel is busy, trying to uncover things to do, see, eat and experience in London for Londoners ... and anyone else for that matter, which she compiles in to a radio podcast for Shoreditch Radio and just last week unleashed a brand spanking new website called 'i love London town' ... which you should also check out. Anyway ... we had a wander around Borough and Southwark, before heading back over London Bridge to finish at the Monument.
Sunday was an entirely different weather kind of day and Sabine and Dario, from Germany, braved what began as a steady influx of greyness and rain to become mildly torrential during their exploration of the east end. We popped to the Geffrye Museum en-route, which is a great little place built in 1714 and now is a museum dedicated to the history of how people lived in London from 1600 to the present day.
Because of the Open House weekend, I took the liberty of taking them to the wonderful Hoxton Hall, built in 1863 and one of only two surviving Victorian music halls in London. It was originally called McDonald's Music Hall and strangely was forced to close down after less than ten years due to complaints about the noise.
Keenest double whammy Saturday walker - Kat
Best moustache - No winners
Most likely to be unobtrusively recording - Rachel
Most Israeli - Liron and David
Most German - Dario & Sabine
The sun actually made an appearance this weekend and Saturday was a scorcher. In the morning I was met by Gordon and Vivian from Manchester, Lis from Denmark and Michelle from Australia.
We made our way from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's and even managed to stop off for a drink in a 17th Century pub on the way. Here they are outside St Paul's cathedral at the end of the walk.
It looked like it was going to be another sunny day on Sunday for the east end walk, and was, except for a freak 45 minute deluge complete with thunder. However, Sanjeev, Josephine, Ant and Anna carried on regardless and by the end, we had all dried off again. They were a lovely group, and although Anna (from Greece) was the only non Londoner, she was strangely the only one to have previously visited Columbia Road flower market. Here they are just outside a pub called the Birdcage on our way from the market.
Incidentally, the fashion for keeping caged birds, which at one time could also be purchased from the market, was brought over by the Huguenots in the 17th Century.
Thanks to everyone who came on walks this weekend.
Best Tattoos - Michelle
Most Danish - Lis
Most involved in the Olympics - Anna
Best Moustache - No Winners
Best prepared with sun cream - Michelle and Anna
Best knowledge of good curry restaurants - Sanjeev and Josephine
The other week, I was asked to do a three day London walking extravaganza. Sheree and Cortney were visiting London for the first time, over from Wisconsin before heading off on a cruise, and wanted to pack in as much as possible in to their three days.
We spent the first day around Westminster, and aside from passing by Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, 'Big Ben', Downing Street, Horse Guards Parade. Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, St James's Palace and much more, they also spent some time in both Westminster Abbey and The Churchill War Rooms.
The second day began at the Tower of London (which they visited), and of course Tower Bridge, which is currently adorned with the Olympic Rings.
Then, after a minor detour through the City, including Leadenhall Market, the old Royal Exchange and the Bank of England we headed over London Bridge to Borough, taking in the 17th Century George Inn, Borough Market, Southwark Cathedral and of course Shakespeare's Globe Theatre before heading over to St Paul's cathedral.
After Sheree and Cortney had finished having a look around St Paul's we headed through Fleet Street taking in lots of places including Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Dr Johnson's House and Twinings Tea Shop, before finishing off at Covent Garden.
The final day was split between east and west London. It was pouring with rain in the morning. East London was grey and miserable, so I don't think it ingratiated itself with my two London explorers, but we did manage to pop to Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station, a constant source of delight for Harry Potter fans from all over the world.
In the afternoon, we headed west and Sheree and Cortney had a look around the recently refurbished Kensington Palace, where Queen Victoria was born and Princess Diana lived.
I think I'm still a bit undecided as to my thoughts on it, but it's certainly a different way to impart information in a museum setting, with the emphasis less on information boards and artifacts behind glass and more on exploration and uncovering information through emotion led stimulus, activities and participation.
Anyway, by this time I think we were all pretty knackered after three days exploring London, so on the way back to Victoria, where Sheree and Cortney were staying, we passed by the Royal Albert Hall and had a quick stop off at Harrods.
That's them pretending to be interested in the Albert memorial. We did a lot of walking over the three days and saw absolutely loads of stuff, and I should also add that Sheree and Cortney had both bought The London Pass before coming to the UK, so all the museums, cathedrals, palaces and wot not they visited had already been paid for, they didn't have to queue for a ticket and it also included all public transport travel for the three days.
Thanks to them both for putting up with me for three whole days.
Weekend Roundup - 28th/29th April '12
If you weren't already aware, the predominant theme of this weekend's London walks is rain. Paul who came on the east end walk this morning, described it as 'London rain', the kind of relentless grey drizzle that seems to have no beginning and no end until you can't actually quite remember a time when it wasn't constantly raining. This morning however saw a mild fluctuation in this constant wetness with some really quite forceful gusts of wind and moments of much heavier rain. Therefore I would like to congratulate everyone who turned out this weekend despite the ongoing showers, and would like to add, that I'm slightly miffed to note that as I write this, it has stopped raining.
I tried to take photos of the groups in brief moments of 'un-rain'.
Trafalgar Square to St Paul's
So, here are the group from Saturday morning, shortly after we met near to Trafalgar Square. It was a pretty international weekend walker wise and this group featuring Alina, Michaela, Roberta, Zuzanna and Briana came from Austria, Russia, Poland and the U.S.A.
Behind them, you can see the National Gallery which began in 1824 with just 38 paintings, housed in a town house in Mayfair. The current building was finished in 1838 and the collection now consists of over 2,300 works of art. It's well worth a visit and as the collection belongs to the public of the United Kingdom, it's FREE.
St Paul's to the Monument
In the afternoon there were nine brave souls, who when they booked the walk, possibly envisaged wandering around Borough market and Southwark bathed in glorious sunshine. Well, eight of them did, as Liam actually contacted me on Saturday morning to see if he could come, so he knew exactly what he was letting himself in for. There was a large Chilean contingent on Saturday afternoon so I added to my limited multi lingual capabilities and can now say 'Hombre Verdi' which is 'green man' in Spanish. However, I do realise that it might not open too many doors for me if I ever find myself in Spain ... or Chile for that matter.
Maria, Emma and Becky were all born and bred Londoners, and with Liam from Northern Ireland it was a heady mix. Standing in front of St Paul's cathedral you can also see Dominique, Rodrigo, Ximena, Patricia and Javier.
My neck of the woods - east end walk
Today's walk around London's east end was a bit of a wash out, with just three people deciding to venture out in the cold, wind and the wet. However, I'd like to think that up until the point where we were all freezing cold, soaked to the bone and lost the will to live ... we had fun. Didn't we? Even if Ruth, Paul and Andrea didn't ... I think I did. Fortunately they came armed with suitably cheery dispositions. Also, it was quite handy because we were only a small group and Paul had a really big umbrella, which isn't a euphemism, he did. You can see it here.
You see ... it's pretty big. Anyway ... they're standing in front of one of street artist Roa's large scale animals. I posted a thing on facebook at the beginning of last week to say that Roa had literally just put the finishing touches to a brand new addition in his menagerie of animals in east London with a giant hedgehog. It looks like this:
So there we have it. Another weekend, another trio of walks around London and once again I've been fortunate enough to meet some lovely people, who I hopefully might see again on another walk one day ... perhaps when the weather's a bit better.
Most inappropriate footwear - Maria (brand new white pumps - only £2.50 though)
Most Chilean group - Saturday afternoon
Biggest umbrella - Paul
Best moustache - No winners
Most last minute booking - Liam
Most Austrian - Michaela & Roberta
Most giggly group of international friends - Alina, Zuzanna & Briana
Most Columbian - Andrea
Weekend roundup - 21st/22nd Jan '12
The second weekend of London walks in 2012 have passed in a flurry of factoids, fun and perhaps another word beginning in 'F' that currently eludes me. Before I begin the weekend roundup I'm afraid I must start on a sour note; a sombre incident that I feel compelled to share or even warn you about. I feel it is my duty, although what you are about to read will perhaps outrage you as much as it did myself.
Before saturday afternoon's walk (which begins near to St Paul's cathedral), I thought I'd pop in to a nearby pub and become more familiar with Charles II. I ordered a pint of lime and soda and Charles II didn't order anything, because he existed only as pages in a book. The pub is called The Centre Page and is on that little stretch of walkway that runs between the 'wobbly bridge' and the cathedral. You can see it in the below picture. The yellowy building on the left.
I deliberately included St Paul's in the photo, so as to give you a better idea of where the pub is situated, so you can AVOID it. The reason being, because I ordered a lime & soda (admittedly a whole pint, with ice), the constituents of which, mainly being both lime and soda water costs almost nothing to produce, yet this drink, in this pub costs £3.10. That's right £3.10. It's a disgrace. Rant over.
Saturday - St Paul's to Monument
By the time I met Jeremy, Juliette and John at 2.30pm my lime and soda related outrage had subsided and we set off on our Londony adventure. Despite being a small group, I would reckon they were collectively of above average height, and John and Juliette were particularly keen to inspect the Occupy camp of tents clustered around the base of St Paul's.
I try to learn something new before each walk, regarding a particular facet of that walk and on Saturday I had decided to learn the exact term to describe why the Millennium Bridge is know as the 'Wobbly' bridge and that term (which I managed to drop in) is 'Synchronous Lateral Excitation', a phenomenon that has been known about for hundreds of years, but somehow, no one thought of mentioning to Norman Foster, responsible for building the bridge. If you're interested in finding out more about Synchronous Lateral Excitation, then you might be interested to read this paper on the subject by David E Newland from the Dept of Engineering at Cambridge University. Then again, you might not.
Anyway, we continued on through Bankside, Borough Market and surrounding area, then headed over London Bridge and finished up at the Monument. Here's a slightly blurry photo of Saturday's Chalkers looking a bit confused on London Bridge, or if not confused, certainly pointing on slightly different directions in a photo art directed by themselves.
Sunday - 'My neck of the woods'
I've been unsuccessfully attempting to take a few more photos on the walks, but have realised that if you're the tour guide person then it's quite hard to take photos of the group, as for quite a large portion of the walk I am talking. Anyway, it's something I'll work on, but if you come on a walk and take some photos, please feel free to email them to me, should you so desire. Unfortunately I only took one photo on Sunday.
So yes, I met Beth, Paul, Sam and Anna at the designated meeting point and did a slightly different route from previous Sunday walks, heading over to Spitalfields and then battling through the hoards up Brick Lane to Columbia Road before traversing Kingsland Road and returning to the Old Street area via Hoxton High Street. Unfortunately the Hoxton Street Monster Supply shop (a shop that provides everything a monster might need to ... well, be a monster) is closed on Sundays, but you can find out more about them here, and also the work they do in the local area through the Ministry of Stories.
Sam, who came on Sunday, is a resident of De Beavoir town in Hackney, so it was great to have a 'local' wanting to explore their area. I've discovered that people seem to consider that guided walks are for 'tourists', and although I'm biased I would argue that there's always something to discover about the place that you live.
The group were an easy going, inquisitive bunch and here they are at Columbia Road flower market.
Most alliterated group - Saturday Afternoon (Juliette, John & Jeremy)
Most French - Jeremy
Most Polish - Anna
Person who most judges historical figures based purely on their looks - Sam
Best moustache - No winners
Bits of london at night
Here are some photos of London at night. Not because I'm a photographer of any note, or can take night-esque photos, but purely because I really love London at night ... as well as most other times of day. No doubt I'll do more at some point.
weekend roundup - 10th/11th dec
On Saturday I was joined by Gaby and Erica, and after meeting at The Monument, quickly decanted to a nearby coffee place, where I was able to bore them with historical type stuff relating to the area and London Bridge from the warmth that being inside often brings.
They wanted to have a mooch round Borough Market. I took this photo whilst they were mooching.
In the background you can see Southwark Cathedral. I have a copy of brilliant panorama of London, Bankside and the Thames by Nicholas John Visscher. He made it in 1616, which incidentally was the same year that William Shakespeare died. That same church (didn't become a cathedral until 1905) is in that picture. Also, Edmund, Shakespeare's younger brother is buried there. I love the fact that it's still presiding over things.
Also, just a bit further along, next to the Wobbly Bridge is a house that people say that Christopher Wren lived in whilst watching St Paul's being built. There is a plaque on the house which says exactly the same thing. He didn't, the house wasn't built then. However, I've just started reading a book called 'The House by the Thames' by Gillian Tindall, which is all about that house through hundreds of years of history, or more to the point she uses it as a way of discussing the area. So far, so fascinating.
Here are Saturday's Chalkers, and from the photo, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the height of summer, and not a cold December morning.
We finished up in Ye Old Cheshire Cheese for a drinkie poops. It's the new pub on the site, built in 1667. The previous one burnt down in some kind of fire apparently.
Sunday. Yes, Sunday. 'My neck of the woods'. A few people dropped out, but despite the prevailing greyness and coldness of the day, we carried on, and I have to say, was rather enjoyable.
It was a Sunday, and on Sundays, the Methodists at the Wesleyan Chapel near Old Street hold a service, so I would like to thank them for not only welcoming us in, despite not wishing to attend the aforementioned service, but actively encouraging us to go and see their toilets. They're very proud of their toilets at the Wesleyan Chapel, and so they should be. They're original Crappers. Thomas Crapper is often accredited with inventing the flushing toilet, but it would seem, that particular accolade goes to a guy called John Harrington way back in 1596. Either way, Crapper did much for the modern day toilet and its flushing system, the Wesleyan Chapel have original Crappers and we went and saw them.
I also like the instructions written for Victorians, unsure of how a Crapper might work; 'PULL AND LET GO.'
The thing with the east end, it's a real hotch-potch, so you see Crappers, like you've just seen, plague burial grounds, Shakespeare's stomping ground and giant animals ...
... just one of the many pieces of street art that are all over the area. This particular creature was done by Peter Roa, who also painted the crane, which Kalpana (previous Chalker) took a picture of on Brick Lane last week. Anyway ... we then went and had a cuppa at I made it for you, which is a great little tea shop place that's opened up on Pitfield Street (which you can see in my last blog 'Shoreditch/Hoxton then & now') and wandered around the area, which I have to say has far more secrets than people give it credit for, until we stopped at The Water Poet, a pub named after an Elizabethan waterman called John Taylor. C'est tout.
Weekend Round up - 3rd & 4th Dec
The current walks are a bit of a work in progress, trying different things, getting feedback from chalkers, trying to figure out what works and what doesn't and so on. Robb who came on the first 'London in a nutshell' walk suggested trying it backwards. Not literally walking backwards, but starting at the end. I had been wondering the same thing myself, so on Saturday morning, the 7 would be chalkers very kindly agreed to meet me near Trafalgar Square instead.
Also, I'm very much under the impression that it's quite a long walk, again feedback that I've been getting. I'm very much of the opinion that walking tours should be fun, (or at least a little bit fun), and if people are getting tired, and hungry then it ceases being so fun. So, on Saturday I suggested trying a different and shorter walk finishing at St. Paul's and see then how everyone was doing.
I personally thought it was a good length and we finished by going up to the roof of the New Change shopping centre which not only gives you stunning views across London, but of St Paul's too. I took the following photo from up there one evening the other week.
Anyway, I really enjoyed it and they were a lovely group. Christina, who came on Saturday wrote a nice review on The Travel Editor website. I might be using the following quote in future marketing campaigns ... "Jonnie is endearingly scatty in his approach, like a fully loaded iPod of history set on shuffle." I think it's a good thing, maybe, unless you don't like scatty iPod shuffley history type things.
Pretty much all of the group then went for a well earned post walk drinkie poops in Ye Olde Watling nearby.
Sunday was an intimate affair, as a couple of people didn't turn up, but Kalpana and Matt valiantly agreed to go it alone. They of course had very little choice, as they'd come down from Birmingham. We had a wander around Shoreditch, Hoxton, Columbia Road (lots of Christmas trees there at the moment) and Spitalfields and after they left, apparently went for a curry on Brick Lane. Kalpana sent me a few photos she took on our travels and has very kindly let me put them up here.
Male Chalker, with the most female name - Joan
Best translator - Joan
Best moustache - Joan
Best sideburns - Joan
So, I'm thinking of having a minor walk re-shuffle in the new year. Nothing drastic, but will hopefully make them better and more enjoyable, so do check back to see what's happening.