The Day a Londoner became a tourist in London

I am an ordinary Londoner and wanted to feel what it was like to be “a Londoner who walked like a tourist in London”.  I approached Golden Tours and asked if they could help me out.

Here is my story of the day I became a sightseeing tourist in London.  I booked myself on the Golden Tours Total London Experience with a Traditional Pub Lunch.

At 8.45am on one of the coldest days of the year, (London was experiencing heavy snowfall) I was welcomed by Sarah who possessed the warmest of all the smiles I have ever witnessed on the busy streets of London.

I was quickly introduced to James Hart, a Qualified Blue Badge guide who led me, together with several other passengers onto the luxurious coach. James introduced himself and our driver Bob and welcomed us onto the tour. Driving though London on a normal day tries anyone’s patience but today with snow, ice and lots of traffic, it must have tested Bob’s skills to the limit? If so, we were none the wiser as he was as calm as ever.

As I had been on lots of city tours around the world using on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus services, I knew what to expect of the day’s proceedings or at least I thought I did!

In the warm luxurious coach heading through Belgravia came my first taste to what I was going to experience for the rest of the day.  James pointed out 180 Ebury Street, where young Leopold Mozart lived and composed his first two symphonies, K16 and K19.

But James did not stop here. He also pointed out the home of Ian Fleming (007 fame), Winston Churchill (wartime British Prime minister), Margaret Thatcher (still lives here), Andrew Lloyd Webber, and so many other famous people as we comfortably cruised through with sub-zero temperature outside .  I noticed how all my fellow tourists were completely silent and totally captivated by James’ knowledge of London. This was turning out to be a fantastic “On-Site” history lesson.

We learned that the present Duke of Westminster owned almost all the properties in this area of London.  We passed through Hyde Park Corner and were pointed towards the Wellington Arch, New Zealand War Memorial (oh so that’s what it is – us Londoners just drive or walk past without realising what exactly these structures are), Speakers Corner and all the while James told of the fascinating history behind each.

We stopped at Buckingham Palace and had a great photo opportunity.  James pointed out the flying flag which meant that our Queen was inside.  I wondered what the commuters thought about us taking lots of pictures in front of the Palace as I’m sure for them it would not be so fascinating.  Being a Londoner myself, I have never posed for a picture outside Buckingham Palace – a whole new experience for me too.

The highlight of this tour for me personally was our exclusive visit to the Household Cavalry Museum.  In here we got to try on the uniforms of the Royal Horse guards and their shiny brass helmets with a plume of horse hair from the top.

During this tour I learnt which house the present Queen was born, where Churchill directed his war cabinet from, the residence of President Eisenhower and a whole lot more ….

After Lunch in a pub in Convent Garden and a bit of free time for browsing, Bob picked us up, bang on time.

In the afternoon, James taught us the history behind the buildings that house the embassies of USA, Japan, Germany as well as St Paul’s Cathedral. At St Paul’s James took us into the Quire where normally visitors are not allowed. We were able to see where Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington is laid to rest in 1852.

At St Paul’s we also saw a statue that was built by Nicholas Stone in memory of John Donneby, the famous poet. The statue is based on a drawing which was commissioned by Donneby himself as he lay dying. It was one of the few drawings to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Some other fascinating places rich in history we visited were; Westminster Abbey where Prince William is to be married to Kate Middleton in April 2011 and the Tower of London where we were given a fascinating personal tour by a Beefeater – Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London. He showed us the Royal Crown Jewels in the Royal vault.  While he was not allowed to divulge today’s password, he informed us that the previous day’s password had been “bathtub”.   Upon hearing this, I did wonder if today’s password may be “snowflakes”.

From the Tower Pier under the majestic Tower Bridge, we took the Thames Clipper, a luxurious high speed catamaran, to Westminster Pier for the flight on the London Eye.

I will leave it to your imagination just how fascinating London looked under the snow at this time of the evening.

In my group there were people from Australia, Singapore, USA, India, China and Russia. They were all impressed with the experience and stated that this tour was worth every penny. They had nothing but praise for our dear old guide James who had made the whole tour so special.

As a Londoner, experiencing the rich history of London as a tourist was so fascinating for me. I thoroughly enjoyed my day as a sightseer in my home city.

kesh