In my first real blog post, I want to go back in the past to give you a bit more background on how I came to discover London and how all the tips and tiny pieces of wisdom I hope to share on this blog in the future came into existence.
Contrary to what I aim to do with this blog, this post will not contain many specific tips on any London Areas, so you might want to skip directly to the next post that contains actual tips on how you can get started on exploring London by foot
As a disclaimer- I am not a trained tour guide and I have followed no classes, courses or any of the like. I am not even a historian (I still mess up all the English Kings when on walks). I am just a hobby explorer.
My walking story
The first walk – Self guided Tourist Kamikaze
My love affair with London started when I visited for the first time in the Summer of 2005 for a few days. It was only weeks after the horrible terror attack of 7/7, so the tube was not running smoothly and if I took it, I seemed to be the only passenger (together with a few bobbies…). Needless to say that this gave me a totally wrong picture of the tube – I thought it was absolutely great! Frequent trains, always having a seat, personal protection by the police……(by now, this image has been corrected …) – but also expensive and underground, so I did not see much.
So I resorted to walking and boy, it was amazing. The first day was a route from Westminster to Kensington Palace, from there via Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace back to Westminster, along the Southbank to Tower Bridge, back to Tate and over Millenium Bridge, back to Paddington and into the train to Slough, where I was staying….I was dead but completely and utterly sold to and in love with this city. I would be back!
The second walk – discovering “London Walks”
On my second visit, I found a flyer in the hostel I was staying at- “London Walks” (www.walks.com) …. Little did I know that this flyer would be the start of my London discoveries. But at this time it was just what I was looking for. I felt that I had “checked the boxes” for the typical tourist and wanted to see something “real/authentic” (this idea will come back in many posts, I am afraid!).
So I chose the “Little Venice” Walk, in an area I had never heard of. The first challenge was getting to the starting point at Warwick Avenue Tube. At that time, I was still a proper German and arrived about 25 min early so nobody was there. Luckily, the guide showed up and with a small group of 5 we went. Shaugn (one of London Walk’s finest guides) made the quaint streets of Little Venice come to life with all kinds of stories and even sang a song or two. And the canal….so beautiful… Nothing “really” super interesting but I was so excited that I had discovered such a nice place.
Moving to London – going all the way…
When I finally moved to London in 2011 (a dream that started in those few days in 2005), probably the first thing I did was to pick up a London Walks flyer and start going on their walks (they have a “frequent walker pass” to save a few quid if you go more often). Until today, I have probably been on more than 20 of their walks in all corners of London and I have learnt so much (and forgotten most of it!). All those guides are not only experts but true characters and they bring an area to life.
After a while, I was lucky enough to go on more guided walks, via the “Walk London” free walks that are organised twice annually (www.walklondon.org.uk) and also started buying many, many, many guide books and reading Time Out magazine as a prime source of information, starting to venture out on my own, often by bike.
Lastly, this post would not be complete without mentioning Footprints of London (www.footprintsoflondon.com) . It’s a collective of guides, offering so many walks not only on certain areas, but all kinds of interesting topics, from History over foodie walks to tracing the lives of famous Londoners. It’s where I met Rob, who is one of the founding guides and the best specialist on Islington I know. Not only has he guided some of the best walks in London I took so far (see in my next post), but he has been kind enough to give me a glimpse of how to be a good guide and prepare an interesting walk. I really cannot thank him enough and I am looking forwards to many more walks with Rob.