The current Coronavirus pandemic has obviously affected everyone in many different ways, and like most of the world, we are currently in ‘lockdown’.
Board games which had previously been languishing at the back of a cupboard have resurfaced, been dusted down and played once again. One of these is the UK version of Monopoly which, as I’m sure you know, is based around streets and areas in London. As we were playing the game the other day, it dawned on me that under the current climate and restrictions, this Monopoly board is as close as I’ll get to wandering London’s iconic streets for quite some time. Most of them I would ordinarily be showing people on a tour; Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Fleet Street, Whitehall, Pall Mall and Mayfair to name a few.
I also recalled how many times over the last decade on my walking tours that as I’ve walked down Strand, for instance, people have said “Oh, I only know the Strand from the Monopoly board …it’s red isn’t it?” The same comments have been made about Leicester Square (yellow), Bow Street (orange), Pall Mall (pink), Whitechapel Road (brown) and so on.
I had realised a long time ago that for first time visitors to London, planning their trip from somewhere on the other side of the globe, or even for UK residents coming down for a weekend, it’s a daunting prospect. London is a vast metropolis with a population of just under 9 million people living in 32 boroughs (and the City of London), across just over 600 square miles. There are hundreds of museums, a host of tourist attractions spread far and wide, a myriad of hotels, bed and breakfasts and Air BnBs, thousands of restaurants, pubs and cafes, off the beaten path hidden gems, must-see tourist hot spots, super trendy hipster areas and places you might just want to avoid altogether.
In my correspondence with people who have contacted me about doing private walks, if appropriate, I’ve attempted to help them sift through some of this stuff and steer their decision making in terms of which areas they should stay in or which museums and attractions they should visit, explaining where the places are that they want to visit, how to get there and how best to structure their time. I’ve always thought I should endeavour to create something practical to help visitors to London who might be sitting at home trawling through the internet thinking “Where do I start?”, but never known how best to structure it or indeed had the time or inclination.
As I was sitting looking at the Monopoly board the other day, I realised that this was the structure that had eluded me. The board is by no means exhaustive and omits vast swathes of London, but the streets and areas that are included are actually wonderfully suited to visitors to London and the things that might interest them.
And so it is …over the coming weeks and months (or however long it takes) I will post here my ‘Monopoly Guide to London for Tourists’. Due to the real world geographical proximity of a number of the squares I will undoubtedly group some together, but will aim to provide an informative guide to each Monopoly square (property) and answer reasonably succinctly the following questions: Where is it? What’s the story? (a brief historical note) How do I get there? Where would I stay? …and What’s of interest? The last category will include museums, galleries, hidden gems, eateries, pubs, attractions or anything else I think you should see and do in that particular area. I’m going to include some hand drawn maps and at the end, a larger one to hopefully give some context of where all these places are in relation to each other and by proxy, their associated sights and places of interest.
I will approach each square on the board in the order they appear when playing the game and my intention is rather than each post being an in depth historical account, to be a fun, informative and useful tool for first-time visitors to London, as after all, it is these people I often have the pleasure of showing around London, and hope that in the not too distant future, will have that opportunity again.
In the meantime, I realise that this is a particularly challenging time, so wish everyone well.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.