I enjoy learning the history of a city, how and why it developed its footprint, the buildings that grew, the ones that didn’t survive, it’s famous sons and daughters etc. I find such information enhances the understanding of a city’s character.
I was recently given, as a gift, an opportunity for a guided tour of Hidden London (https://funlondontours.com/tours/hidden-london-walking-tour/ ). The alleyways and courtyards of the Temple District and Fleet Street were introduced to us by our guide Gavin. In 1.5 hours, we were led through the very unknown (to me at least) history and hidden gems. Now, I could describe the tour in detail but that would spoil the surprise should you be encouraged to go.
All I will say – as is so often the case – if you live in London you are likely to have walked by the alleyways and buildings and not looked up, stopped to view or understood in whose steps you were walking. At least that is how I felt – I was familiar with the area yet felt I had not seen it at all. Note to self – look where you are going!
The group, on the day I went, was made up of 10 people who were from out of the city. Gavin was very informed and shared his knowledge in a friendly and entertaining way – it was as if he was living the tale he was telling, which made it all the more real.
Trying not to give anything away yet sharing the enthusiasm from the walk is difficult. So, briefly, we started at a taxi rank, understood why wedding cakes look like they do, walked across a river without using a bridge or wetting our feet, learnt of hidden sanctuaries of famous authors (remember to touch the stone) and tourist scams.
We heard of the lasting influence of the Knights Templar, the particularities of famous figures and the uncomfortable origins of well-known nursery rhymes whilst walking amongst the evidence of more recent history.
What always surprises me in such busy crowded cities is how easy it is to be in a peaceful park and/or seating area away from the bustle so do ask your guide about the weekend access gate to such a place.