So now we are in London…it’s Tuesday around lunchtime but my body thinks its 6am and I pulled an all-nighter (just an FYI – I haven’t purposely pulled an “all-nighter” since 1997). We stayed in the St. David’s hotel in Paddington. Just a 3 minute walk from the underground station. We had a twin room with en-suite bathroom. They offer several variations of rooms at different levels but I am kinda picky about not using the hall bath, so this one worked for us. Its not large, but everything worked and since all we were doing was storing our luggage, sleeping and showering it suited us just fine.
This is the room. All of it. I am standing at the door. The only part you can’t see is the wall with the faux fireplace and the 18″ TV hanging in the corner. The absolute only complaint is the lack of a closet or dresser to store clothes. There is just the hanging bar and the shelves that you see in the corner. Still, it was a great value for London and I would stay there again in a heartbeat!
And the bathroom. Again, all of it.
We were both tired and hungry, but I knew that we shouldn’t sleep, that would just throw our body clocks more out of whack, so we decided to go on a walking tour that I had read about on-line. This was a free guided walking tour. I used Free London Walking Tours after doing a bunch of reading on Trip Advisor. There are several tour companies that you can use, but I can absolutely recommend Nick and his group, he was fantastic!! No reservations needed, each tour has a meeting place on the website, always by a tube stop. You just show up and look for the green umbrella and join the tour!
We got there early and just walked into the first pub we saw to get some food. Pubs in London are different than in the US, for the most part you don’t need to wait to be seated, just grab a table where you see one. Decide what you would like to eat/drink, then head up to the bar to place your order…and pay for it there, before you get your food. Let the bartender know where your sitting and take your drinks. A server will bring your food when it’s ready. It’s an efficient process, but it takes a little getting used to if you’re an American!
After a traditional fish & chips and a pint, we still had a bit of time before the tour so we headed to Starbucks for some much needed caffeine! We then wandered over to the meeting spot and sure enough, Nick was there with his green umbrella. There were a few others there waiting and eventually we ended up with a group of about 10 people. There was quite a mix, two youngish (late teens, early 20’s) guys from Argentina, a 20 something single girl from Italy, a family of 3 from Seattle and an older (late 40ish) British couple.
This particular tour started at the Monument to the Great Fire of London. This monument is 202 feet tall and it happens to be exactly 202 feet from the spot where the fire started on Pudding Lane. Fun Fact: there was originally an inscription on one of the sides blaming the French Catholics for starting the fire, but in 1830 that line was removed.
We then walked up Lovat Lane. An old cobblestone road that still has its medieval character. Another fun fact: Here is where you can see how the “loo” got its name: In the early days of hygiene, people would just throw the contents of their chamber pots out the window onto the street below. As a “courtesy,” they would yell out “Garde a l’eau!” The British anglicized that to “Gardy-loo” and eventually just “loo.” There…now you know!
See the little trough in the center? That helped everything get on down the hill to the Thames.
We meandered our way through this part of London with Nick pointing out some really cool tidbits and buildings. A living wall:
The old posts used to help horse drawn carriages turn the corners:
Leadenhall Market…Otherwise known as the entrance to Diagon Alley!
The Royal Exchange. This is where Royal Proclamations are read by the criers. We were asked not to take pictures as we walked through the building but currently it is filled with high end boutiques, restaurants and services. In the past it has been home to such institutions as Lloyd’s of London.
We saw St. Mary-le-Bow…in order to claim Cockney heritage, you must have been born within earshot of the bells in this tower. There has been a church on this site since Saxon times and is regarded as the second most important church in the City of London, after St. Paul’s…we’ll get there too…hold your horses!!
We saw St. Bartholomew-the-Great, the oldest church in London:
And finally to the Golden Boy of Pye Corner, where the Great Fire of London was finally contained after destroying over 13,000 homes, 87 churches, 44 company halls, but surprisingly few actual lives if history is to be believed…only 16.
From there, we moved to St. Paul’s Cathedral where our tour ended. I learned so much from this tour and I would certainly recommend it to anyone travelling to London. The tip given at the end is well worth what you get out of it! In case you missed it, the website is here: http://freelondonwalkingtours.com/tour/fire-pestilence-and-plague
St. Paul’s at dusk.
After the tour ended, we headed back to our room to crash finally!!! Tomorrow we are catching the Eurostar to Paris and we have to be at the train station at 6am!!!