Lovers of photography, off-the-beaten-track travel, and terrific stories will find a new friend for life in Corinna, owner of Hairy Goat London Photography Mystery Tour. She is hands-down the finest tour guide I've ever had, in any city. But that's selling her short, because she is more than a mere guide. I've not written a tour review before, but this experience is simply a gem.
Passionate about the hidden gems of London as she is about photography (and full of warmth to put you immediately at ease), Corinna of Hairy Goat Tours is exactly who you're looking for if you're tired of the massive tour groups and are looking for a little help -- and a lot of fun -- in getting to know London better, in a new and unique way.
I found myself with exactly one day to spend in London, a city I'd lived in briefly for six months a long time ago. I'd been to most of the main attractions, and I didn't want to spend my day in a museum, this time around. I was looking for something different, but I wasn't quite sure what.
Enter Corinna and Hairy Goat. I found her online and emailed her at 11pm the night before my one scheduled free day in London. To my amazement, she emailed me back right away. She encouraged me to join a couple who'd be touring the back streets of East London with her the next day at 11am. Her obvious enthusiasm for her work intrigued me and convinced me to go.
I am so thrilled that I did. Photography lovers, storytellers (and listeners!), folks who "know" a little of London but can't figure out quite how to get more immersed in the city: this is your tour. Bring any camera you wish -- it doesn't matter. Or don't bring a camera -- it doesn't matter. (But the shots you'll get will amaze you if you do!)
What matters is that Corinna is a professional lover of life in London, and her exuberance is infectious. In no time at all, she had us "running around like a hairy goat" (an expression from her native Australia, and thus the name of the company), fascinated by gorgeous sights and back streets and markets we wouldn't have found on our own. We happened to be a camera-happy bunch, so our tour quickly reflected that, with many stops to catch the perfect shot. But Corinna works to create a personalized, intimate tour experience, based on who's along for the fun.
I can't recommend this enough if you've become blase or bored (or just embarrassed) by the usual flashy tour buses and offerings. Our group of mild introverts became fast friends thanks to Corinna's confidence and energy. We left Tower Hill at 11am, and because we enjoyed our adventures in East London's nooks and crannies so much, didn't stop for the day until -- 2? 3? I wish I could tell you how the long the tour was, but it morphed into a fantastic lunch and rounds-of-pints at an out-of-the-way pub!
The time absolutely flew, due to Corinna's knowledge of London, combined with her great sense of humor and fine wit. If she didn't know the answer to a question, she was quick to say she didn't know (but one could tell she was making a note to herself to find out ASAP). Her energy is boundless, and her sensitive, professional approach to figuring out what made our group "tick" was excellent.
But what did we do? Is it a photo tour? A mystery tour? An adventure tour? Yes, yes, and yes -- if you bring curiosity and are ready to engage with London in a new way. We shot grand buildings -- from bizarre angles, at her gentle coaxing. We looked WAY up -- ever seen London's gilded grasshopper weathervane? Nope, we hadn't either. We looked down...to find words scrawled all over the ground beneath us (I'm not telling you where, either -- you have to go to find out). We worked with the weather (mostly gray, some late sun) and the wet patches and endless mirrored glass buildings to create our own "personalized postcards" of London. A photog herself, her tips and BIG way of seeing the world went a long way in creating an incredibly fun, incredibly creative experience.
I am looking over my photos (it should be said that mine were all taken on my iPhone, with a little fun editing them in CameraBag) and I am, quite frankly, stunned by their beauty. I like photography, but traveling with just an iPhone camera, I wasn't expecting much. But Corinna has a funny way of bringing out the best in just about everyone she comes across, I think -- and the day made me a far better photographer than I knew I could be. I emailed her my best shots, and she wrote back right away (again), this time with congrats on the great images.
I left London smiling and feeling like I'd spent the day with old friends -- and that London, somehow, had become an old friend, too.
Thank you, Corinna, if you read this!
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