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Hoffman Estates, Illinois
March 2, 2006
From journal My Trip to London
Grand Junction, Colorado
July 25, 2005
From journal 3 days in London
London, United Kingdom
July 18, 2005
After a brief stop at one of the largest remaining segments of the original Roman city walls, we began our tour of the Jack the Ripper murder sites. As we wound our way through the dark passages of Whitechapel while listening to the details of the crimes, we were given a sense of the desperate lives the victims lived. The poor suffered terribly during the late 19th century in London, and the murders raised awareness of their plight and led to reform.
Few of the murder sites are still in their original condition, but the pub the victims (and Jack) frequented is still in business. The Ten Bells Pub marks the end of the tour, and this is not a great part of town at night. Be sure you know how to get to the nearest Tube stop before you allow your guide to get away.
If you are traveling with children, I do NOT recommend this tour. The murders are described in gory detail, and I would not feel safe walking in this area at night without being part of a group.
From journal The Original London Walks
los angeles, California
April 10, 2005
Start at Westminster Bridge, enjoying the view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from the middle of the bridge, and then walk back towards the city. The view up and down the river from here is gorgeous as well.
At Parliament Square, you can also get a glimpse of the two white towers of the beautiful Westminster Abbey (definitely worth a visit!) In Parliament Square, there's a famous statue of Winston Churchill and other important dignitaries.
As you start your stroll down Whitehall, you will see all the most important buildings in London--ministries of finance, treasury, etc. Stop at the Cenotaph, a beautiful monument honoring the dead of WWI and WWII. Depending on the level of security, you can also peek down Downing Street to see the prime minister's residence. You can also see the horse guards a little farther down.
As you walk, look occasionally back towards Big Ben. The views up and down this street give continually great photo ops.
We stopped for beer and fish-and-chips at Clarence Pub along the way. Delicious!
Soon you'll be at Trafalgar Square, where you can climb the lions, feed the pigeons, and people-watch. Soak it in!
If you're not too tired, you can head down up to Piccadilly Circus, the Times Square of London. We walked down Piccadilly toward Green Park back to our hotel. There were many opportunities to buys souvenirs or stop for a snack.
From journal Short but Sweet in London
Charlotte, North Carolina
April 4, 2005
It was a cold and foggy November evening when we set off on foot in search of some ghosts--just perfect for some good ghost stories. Our tour guide was Corrine, who is also an actress. She arrived with an even whiter face than you find on an English lass and dressed all in black. There were originally over 100 people who showed up for this tour. Guests were from all over the States and the world. The group was so big, in fact, they had to call for back-up and take two groups so everyone could hear.
You go down narrow and winding paths to hear about haunted buildings, churches, and pubs. You hear about and see the haunted London Bridge, churches that had to double as morgues during the plague and still have the sick who don’t care to leave, haunted Coven Garden (they also throw in some entertaining Hollywood gossip, since Harry Potter was filmed there--nothing bad, just a bit cheeky!), and the souls left behind after horrendous murders.
Corrine was absolutely wonderful and such a great storyteller. They get their stories from a number of places. One search on places such as www.amazon.com should give you a list of plenty of London ghost stories. This group meets at the Monument, and you take the Monument tube to get there. Corrine also knows her way around, so she will help you find your way if you get lost when they return, or join her for a pint in the pub. You do not meet at an office, so you might want to take a restroom stop at the tube, as well as pick up a beverage. The tour last about 90 minutes. It is a pretty easy walk and doesn’t get too strenuous or fast-paced. They do go down cobblestone streets, in case you or someone with you is in a wheelchair. The Original London Walks host a number of walks and tours. The also have several other haunted tours, including "Ghosts, Gaslights, and Guinness," "Ghosts of the Old City," "West End Ghosts," and "Jack the Ripper Haunts." You can visit them at www.walks.com. The walks only cost 5 pounds, making it one of your best bets. Advanced tickets are encouraged during tourist season and in October. In off-season, you simply show up at the meeting place.
From journal Fun and Funky London
January 12, 2005
From journal Did they just say "last call"?!
October 22, 2004
The topics run the gamut -- recent walks I’ve been on include Christopher Wren’s London, The Victoria & Albert Museum Tour, Old Westminster – 1,000 Years of History, and Strictly Confidential – The Distinctly Different Royal Route. They were all well worth the time (I’ve actually done the V&A walk twice – it was different both times.)
This group also hosts "Explorer Days," which are full day excursions, mostly to areas outside London. These are good deals; you get the same great guides, free time to explore on your own, and the train tickets are discounted from what you'd pay if you went on your own. Explorer Days go to places like Bath, Stonehenge, Oxford, the Cotswolds, Brighton – sometimes they're combined – a half day in Oxford, a half day in the Cotswolds, for example.
I recently went on the Salisbury and Stonehenge Explorer Day. We took a train ride out to Salisbury, had a guided tour of the cathedral, an hour or so for lunch, then we took a bus to Stonehenge where we had a private tour of the stones – you really can’t beat the knowledge these guides possess – and then we returned to Salisbury and had about an hour on our own to shop or whatever before returning to the train station. It was a full day, but well worth it!
London Walks also does evening walks, mainly consisting of Pub Walks, and of course, the famous Jack the Ripper walk. The cost is reasonable – £6 for a walk, £11 for Explorer Days (plus the tariff for train tickets). They also have a Walkabout Card, which you pay one pound for at your first walk, then all additional walks are one pound less – £5 or £10. It can be a good deal, but even the guides will tell you that it’s only worth it if you plan to go on more than, say, three walks. Visit the London Walks website for lots more information and detailed descriptions of the walks.
From journal Spring Vacation in My Favorite City
March 29, 2004
Across the street from the museum is a comic book shop (a favorite of the husband). I would quote the name of it if I could remember. Again, it’s another great place to hit.
From journal Honeymoon to Merry Ol' London
Dagenham, United Kingdom
October 28, 2003
Often overlooked are the capital's Victorian cemeteries. These peaceful beautiful yet spooky and eerie wildernesses of gravestones and ornate tombs sometimes contain the graves of eminent former Londoners
Brompton Cemetery (www.royalparks.gov.uk) and the Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, among others.
Bunhill Fields Burial Ground covers four acres and was founded as a cemetery for non-conformists in the early 1700s. Among the notables buried at Bunhill Fields Burial Ground (http://web.ukonline.co.uk/cj.tolley/nch-bunhill.htm) are William Blake and his wife Catherine, John Owen, Daniel Defoe, Susana Wesley, John Bunyon, and Isaac Watts.
Kensal Green Cemetery (Harrow Road, London, W10; tel: 020 8969 0152 www.kensalgreen.co.uk) boasts the graves of classic novelists Trollope and Thackeray and the groundbreaking Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom.
From journal Free things to do
Hamilton Square, New Jersey
April 6, 2003
For more than 40 years, The Original London Walks has been offering visitors and locals alike the opportunity to see sights in London where tour buses can’t go. Tours range from the royal (Strictly Confidential) to the flamboyant (The London of Oscar Wilde) to the inebriated (nightly pubwalks in different neighborhoods) to the downright scary (Jack the Ripper’s Haunts, especially when led by Donald Rumbelow). You’ll not only see famous sights (or places that should be), you’ll likely learn a fair amount about the history of London and its workings.
On this trip, I took the Legal and Illegal London tour. Our tour guide Gillian met a group of about 40 people, mostly British and American ranging in age from 7 to senior citizen, efficiently collected our fees, and led us away from the busy Holborn tube stop to Lincoln’s Inn. We sat in the chapel and heard about the medieval origins of the British legal profession, the difference between barristers and solicitors and the practice of leaving babies in the undercroft to be raised by the members of the Inn. Continuing the walk, we got a glimpse of court (legal, not royal) attire in a shop window, found out why 18th-century aristocrats slept with silver mousetraps on their pillows and learned why you don’t want to find yourself in Carey Street (it’s the home of the Bankruptcy Court in London).
We made our way through Carey Street from Lincoln’s Inn to the Strand, where we stopped to look at the amazing Royal Courts of Justice. Its architect, George Edmund Street, designed a number of churches in the High Victorian Gothic style during the mid-19th-century. According to Gillian, Street never got his wish to design a cathedral. Instead, he lived out his dream on the home of Britain’s highest civil courts.
Crossing over the Strand, we entered the Inner Temple, another of the Inns of Court. Formerly the London headquarters of the Knights Templar, the Inner Temple houses a beautiful 12th-century round church, whose design is based on Middle Eastern churches the knights encountered while fighting in the Crusades. We walked through the Inn’s precincts (luckily, none of us had a dog, as signs were posted prohibiting non-residents from bringing them onto the grounds) and passed into the Middle Temple.
A £10 "tip" allowed our group into Middle Temple Hall, which was being decorated for Christmas. Built in the late 16th-century, the hall contains a table that seems to be about 50-feet long that was made from planks from a single tree. Turn around, though, to see the most incredible feature of the room. An elaborately carved wooden screen surrounds the entrance. Virtually destroyed during the Blitz in World War II, the restored work appears flawless.
I would highly recommend any of the London Walks tours. Check out their website for walk details and schedules. At £5 for a two-hour tour, it’s one of London’s best bargains.
From journal Give Thanks for London!