"London Walks" is perhaps the foremost walking tour company in London. They have been around since the 1960's, and all you need to take one of their many (usually 2 hour) walking tours is to show up outside the designated underground (subway) station at the proper time, and give the guide £6, or £5 if you are 65 or older. The number of participants vary from a dozen or so, to more than 50 . I have have taken a number of these walks on my visits to London, and most of them were good value for the money. I took more pictures on some then others. Here are my walks.
One of the nicest of the two-hour walking tours I did was one called "Old Westminster." Westminster was once a separate city from London and it still has a distinctive nature. It roughly corresponds with what is called London's West End, the theatrical and governmental area of the city. Here are my photos taken in this historic district.
The first three pictures are of Westminster Hall, originally built in the 11th Century as a part of the palace complex of Westminster, and still a part of Parliament, today used primarily for State occasions. The next four pictures are of Westminster Abby. Three photos are of the North (main) entrance, and the last photo shows the West tourist entrance.
Our group next went around a few corners to a residential district that has a lot of colorful history. Here is where many prominent politicians lived (and plotted). A famous British impresario also lived here, and the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Alec Guinness were said to frequent the house. The only house I identified is the one at 14 Barton Street where T. E. Lawrence once stayed. Notice on one place is a faded World War II bomb shelter sign.
Now we headed north, across the Thames (that's pronounced "Tims") to get a better view of Parliament and the clock tower that contains the famous "Big Ben" bell. But first, you will see my photo of Lambeth Castle, the only castle in the city, and the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Then, the "tourist" photo of Parliament, and finally, the British Airways "London Eye" Ferris wheel, the largest in the world at over 500 feet tall. (I got much better photos of Parliament on the day I rode the "Eye.")
On another day, I did a walking tour called "Inside Westminster," which covered mostly different areas than the first Westminster walk. This one was also longer, beginning at 10 am and lasting till 4 pm. The group met at Hyde Park Corner, and the first order of business was to check out the nearby impressive Wellington Arch, a monument to the famous Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. We were able to go up into the structure and take some nice photos from the top level.
The first picture is of the arch. The second photo shows what is supposedly the most expensive hotel in London, The Lanesborough. The Royal Suite (complete with your own butler) can be had for a paltry $5800 per night. The third photo shows the entrance to Buckingham Palace gardens, and I think the last one looks into The Green Park, which is where we headed for the scenic trek to Buckingham Palace.
We arrived at the palace grounds shortly before the changing of the guard, which I photographed 28 years ago, and again in 2001. All I can say is I got pictures of some guards in different uniforms this time. Here is the palace and grounds, and the guards marching.
The flowers were so nice at this time of year, I decided to take some more photos. The first is directly in front of, and across the street from the palace. The others are in St. James Park nearby.
I made one independent visit to a tourist attraction near Buckingham Palace, The Royal Mews. This is where the royal coaches are kept, as well as the horses that pull those coaches. This was not a walking tour, but I am describing my visit here because there is no other logical place to put it. Here are some photos I took of the fancy coaches.
I also signed on for a visit to the Buckingham Palace State Rooms. The interior of the palace was quite impressive, but no photos were allowed. I did take a few pictures of the palace gardens, since I had to exit the palace grounds through that area.
OK, so much for that. Back to the Westminster walking tour. Now, we will walk through a really pretty royal park, St. James. We are headed for what's left of Whitehall Palace, the Banqueting House. The rest of the palace was destroyed by fire in 1698. We are retracing the steps of King Charles I, who walked through this park to the house for his beheading in 1649 by order of Oliver Cromwell. (Yuk!) The great hall has a beautiful ceiling, painted by Peter Paul Rubens, the Flemish artist much admired by Charles I. Here are my pictures, first in St. James Park.
and, for contrast, St. James Park four months later on another visit (September):
Now, the Banqueting House.
That's all of my photos from this walking tour. That afternoon, after lunch at a small cafe, we toured inside Westminster Abby, the church where all British monarchs have been crowned since 1066. Sorry, no cameras allowed inside.
I did two different "Sherlock Holmes." walks and an independent visit to the Sherlock Holmes Museum on different visits to London. The first walk was in areas mentioned in some of Conan Doyle's novels, and was near the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Here are some pictures I took on that walk. The building or area shown in each photo supposedly has some connection to a Holmes story.
I do recall that this (two photos below) is the address where Dr. Watson lived.
Another time, I took a second Holmes-related walk. there were maybe a dozen of us, and our guide took us all over the Trafalgar region of town, looking at places mentioned in various Holmes mysteries. I only have a few photos. One is a working gas light. There are still a number of these around London. Then, the "Sherlock Holmes Restaurant near Trafalgar Square. (I had lunch here in1977.) Upstairs, several rooms have been converted to a recreation of Holmes' study.
Here are the photos I took in the Sherlock Holmes Museum on, of course, Baker Street! I entered the doorway shown in the first photo, climbed the stairs, and was transported into the famous detective's dwelling. Some of the wax figures depict characters from Conan Doyle's stories. Others show what the flat might have looked like when Holmes lived there. By the way, there is no real 221B Baker Street in modern London. That address would be the lot on which a commercial building is located. The "museum" nest door sells Holmes-related merchandise (coffee mugs, etc). to tourists.
OK, what's next. One day I joined a walking tour that had to do with Harry Potter's London connections. The following photos were taken in an area that the film makers supposedly used as the inspiration for Diagon Alley, the place where the wizards went to get their supplies. You can see that some of the shops in these photos do have rather sinister names, no doubt designed to cash in on the Potter films' popularity.
So where are we now? These next pictures had to be taken in
London's posh Mayfair district, where even humble abodes cost in the millions.
I did a walking tour there, and here are my photos. The third picture looks
into The Green Park, which leads to Buckingham Palace. (Hence, the royal
gates.) The church shown in the second row, Grosvenor Chapel, was
used by the American Army as a garrison church during the
Second World War.
JACK THE RIPPER
I kept putting off this walk, but finally got around to doing it in June, 2006. (I must be a glutton for punishment. I did the Greenwich tour earlier the same day.) This was the only evening walk I ever took, and there were so many people wanting to take it, they had to split us between two guides. The fellow I went with is supposedly an expert on Jack the Ripper, and has written a book on the topic. Here is his bio:
He's the author of the definitive book on the subject, the best-selling The Complete Jack the Ripper.* He's the former Curator of the City of London Police Crime Museum. He's a two-time Chariman of the Crime Writers" Association. He's been the chief consultant for every major television programme and film on the Ripper over the past 20 years. Indeed he's appeared on several of those programmes, including one that recently aired in the United States. And he will be appearing in another one that's in the pipeline. Donald was the consultant for the recent Johnny Depp film on the Ripper, called "From Hell...". Indeed, Johnny came to London in order to go on a private Ripper walk with Don.
OK, so now you will be disappointed, because I took so few photos on such an interesting excursion. So sue me! The walk we took covered the areas where Jack's four victims lived, and where their gruesome remains were found. I really don't remember why I took so few photos. Let's see, the church in the first picture is where the prostitutes hung out looking for customers. The brown building in the third photo is where Jack left a note taunting the police. The middle photo? Sorry, I don't remember the significance of the building.
This is another walk I wanted to take for a long time, but only got around to doing in June, 2006. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed. There were not that many opportunities for picture taking. The area around the intersection of the Regent's Canal and the Grand Union Canal in northern London is called 'Little Venice" because the decorated houseboats moored on the canal remind people of Venice, I suppose. Some of the neighborhoods surrounding the canals are rather interesting, and posh.
THE BRITISH MUSEUM
From it's web site: The British Museum, founded in 1753, holds in trust for the nation and the world a collection of art and antiquities from ancient and living cultures. Housed in one of Britain's architectural landmarks, the collection is one of the finest in existence, spanning two million years of human history. Access to the collections is free
I couldn't see much of the treasures that are kept there in two hours, but the group I was with did see some highlights, including the famous Rosetta Stone. First the exterior of the museum, then the Rosetta Stone. The other photos are of portions recovered from the Acropolis in Greece in 1816. These are the so-called "Elgin Marbles." The last photo may be a bit grizzly - it is a 2000 year old man, Called the Lindow Man, he was preserved in a peat bog. When the body was discovered, it was freeze-dried and put on display.
You can't begin to do such a fine museum justice in two hours. Two week, maybe. I need to return on my own and spend much more time here.
ST JAMES PARK VICINITY
Now a walking tour in the vicinity of St. James Park. The highlight of the walk was St. James Palace, built by Henry Vlll. It was the official residence of the monarchs until the time of Queen Victoria, and is still used for state functions. The first photos are of some rather elaborate houses in the area, then the palace with a single guard outside the entrance. Then some nearby shops that cater to the royals. You can see the crests displayed on these shops, showing that the place is an official shop of the royalty. (Prince so-and-so purchases his shoes here, etc.)
John Lobb's is supposedly the finest bootmakers in the world. (They say so themselves.) Here is a link to their catalog. There you will find the price sheets. I advise you to have a stiff drink and sit down before checking the prices. One British Pound is about two U.S. Dollars.
Here is their catalog, Click Here
Next, the famous Christies Auction House and then a pretty park. London is full of nice parks. As for the other photos, I haven't the foggiest. I know I took them on the same walking tour (digital cameras record the date and time every picture is taken) and as I recall, at least one building is a "Gentlemen's Club" You know, one of those places you have to be filthy rich to enter.
THE SQUARE MILE
And another walking tour, the Famous "Square Mile." Many years ago, London consisted mainly of the area now known as central London. But the great fire of 1666 changed all of that. The central square mile area, where the fire started, was mostly destroyed, and during the rebuilding the city began to spread outward. Here are my pictures. The first few, just outside the Monument Underground stop, show the imposing monument that was built to commemorate the great fire. Then, some typical narrow streets that remain from centuries ago. Easy to see how a fire would spread in such a crowded area. Would you believe I don't remember what this imposing Greek architecture building is? Same for the modern looking monstrosity. But I remember the ancient Roman ruins that were discovered when they were excavating for a new building.
It's hard to believe that the next set of photos are at......City Hall! Some Hall.
Moving on, I am now in an exclusive area called Highgate, from the fact that it probably is the highest point in mostly flat London. A number of famous people lived here, as you will see from the photos. I remember that I had a hard time finding the nearest underground station to get back to my hotel after I took this walking tour.
Some of you may be excited by the next photos. I took them while on a Beetles walking tour. There is a church where one of them was married, a house where several Beatles lived at one time or another, and of course the famous Abby Road, where the studio that turned out many of their hits is located. The crosswalk photo means nothing to me (HERESY!!) but will be recognized by any true fan. There also is a marker to the poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in this area.
THE COURT DISTRICT
Next, a walk around the court district, where the law schools are located. Some pretty scenery here. The first photo shows a street vendor's wares. Nice to see such colorful flowers in December. And here is a shop where the lawyers and judges buy their robes and wigs. Then, a church that was consecrated in 1185 by none less than the Patriarch of Jerusalem! It is still in use today. The church survived the Great Fire, but not German bombs. What we have today is largely a restoration. The church was built by the Knights Templar as a 'Round', on the plan of Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre, Unfortunately, it is used as a setting in The Da Vinci Code, thereby giving the poor church some claim to infamy.
"Darkest Victorian London.". So where are we? We are in several of the old exclusive neighborhoods where everybody who was anybody once lived. Some of what we saw wasn't so grand, including (not shown below) a pauper's cemetery.
Finally, from another walking tour of interesting streets in London. We are close to Oxford Street, the biggest fancy shopping street in the city. The mall stores decorated for Christmas are rather expensive to shop.
Now I decided it was time to sample some of London's museums. This was not a walking tour, but rather an independent visit. Two of the best are located almost next door to each other. First, the Museum of Natural History. Yes, that's an ice skating rink next door. By the way, temperatures were around 50 degrees when these were taken..
On to the Museum of Science and Technology. I took some interesting photos inside, and here they are.
Those were my walking tours and independent explorations ....so far.