Having previously lived in London, I was used to the 'walking with purpose' style of travelling. Looking straight ahead, and getting to the place we needed to be as quickly as possible.
Walking from the station to our meeting point at Monument, I looked around only to see street signs, and ignored so much history in such a short journey. But 4 hours on this tour and I saw a completely different side to London. One that I knew existed but didn't take a step back to really acknowledge.
The tour group consisted of an Australian couple, myself and our guide, Joe. It was nice to know that although the tour had a structure, we could personalise it to take our own little adventures. I suppose that is one of the many perks to walking around in a small group.
One of the people on our tour was very interested in Shakespeare, and had studied some of his work at university. Herself and Joe shared anecdotes about the writer, and we all learned something new in the process. Joe told us that a lot of his stories and nuggets of information came from people on his tours and you could tell that he had a genuine interest in the stories you shared as well.
When the itinerary said that the tour would be 4 - 4.5 hours long, I didn't think I would be able to make it through the day or there wouldn't be enough to do in order to fill the time. But in all honesty, I don't think it was long enough. I craved more information, everything we walked past - I wanted to know the story behind it. And a lot of the time, Joe knew the story.
He showed great passion for London, and made it obvious that it wasn't just a day job for him, but also a hobby. Joe had clearly invested a lot of time into exploring London, instead of just reading it from books. He knew the side roads and the best places to get a duck sandwich and good cup of coffee. He made you feel comfortable enough that you could just interrupt him at any point to ask a question or go off on a tangent to something that he had said. He was a great tour guide, and it was a great tour.
I could easily recommend it to anyone, living in London or not. These tours can teach you things from historical facts to the origin of famous phrases. I can guarantee everyone will go away from this experience knowing something that they didn't know before.
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