‘Free tour?…It’s free?’ you may suspiciously ask.
Yes, my dears, it’s all free.
‘Surely there must be a catch?’
No catch whatsoever. I should know. I was on it recently!
Kind of buzzing that this weekend trip to London will be the first ever trip I would make as a serious travel blogger, I knew I wanted to do London justice. And also, I wanted my first trip to promote Britain as a great place to travel for backpackers! But where better to start than with a walking tour! A free one that is!
I knew which company I would want to go with as I went with these guys in Munich, Germany, .. Sandeman’s New Europe Tours.
Pleasantly surprised, I booked their FREE tour online to which they sent me a confirmation email for a ticket for myself and my friend Jennifer who would be accompanying me for the tour. Funny at the time, there was no option for ‘Miss’ to book Jennifer’s ticket so in the end she had to go as ‘Mrs’. I thought about putting my surname as her surname to give her a shock but thought better of it! Who knows where the Fraud Squad may be hanging around!
Picking up Jennifer after her journey to London from Southampton on National Express, we hung around what we thought was Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner Tube Station looking out for a guide in a red t-shirt with the company logo on it. The tours run from 11am and 1pm but knowing that it was a Saturday, we booked on the 1pm one to make use of the afternoon.
Coming up to 12.55pm, we still couldn’t see the red t-shirt and checked the instructions. The website clearly says meet outside Exit 2 Hyde Park Corner next to Wellington Arch. We were next to an Arch and outside a tube exit. But with me being an insufferable know it all, I proclaimed this is where we were meant to be. Jennifer said pleasantly, why don’t we just check we are at the right exit? Trooping down the stairs into the station, we soon discovered that we were actually at exit 1! My bad! Running like hell outside Exit 2, passing a disgruntled busker, we found the guide and we were the only ones there! The guide asked us to grab some coffee first while we wait for more people and I certainly needed the loo. We asked where, back to exit 1 it is! Passing the even more disgruntled busker without a glance in his direction (he was playing way bad) we relieved ourselves and got some snacks. Then back to exit 2, passing the busker who’s surely must be thinking we are torturing him by not paying.
By the time we arrived, there were absolutely LOADS of people! Luckily, the 2 guides there shouted out to separate the group into 2…one for the Spanish speaking guide and one for the English speaking guide.
Making sure we were on the English side, imagine we ended up on the Spanish side and Jennifer and I (both deaf people) intently lip-reading the guide and not understanding a word what was said?!
We followed who was about to give us an awesome and hilarious tour! He’s the tour guide called Myles (sorry to the guy if I got it wrong!) and when we first met him, he looked shy and reserved but no no no! As soon the tour started, I could not believe how animated and physical he was to become! Stamping his feet, jumping around, gesticulating wildly and shouting, he certainly kept us entertained from start to finish! Not only he was entertaining but he was very, very knowledgeable about London (kudos, it’s in the job description!) As a keen historian, I thought I knew most things about London but he kept on surprising me particularly with his own anecdotes!
Without revealing too much on what he said on the tour (I want you to go on it yourself!), this is where we went:
1) Wellington Arch – now Jennifer and I know exactly what the Wellington Arch is as we were stood under the wrong one for ages! Myles gives an amusing take on the man Wellington himself! There’s an interesting feature of the Arch that’s connected to the London Underground…He also undertakes a quick overview of the Royal History and then unscientific surveys of democracy vs absolute monarchy! Beware your answers!
2) Constitution Hill – hilarious stories about Buckingham Palace Break-ins, why this hill was named so and many more.
3) Buckingham Palace – the source of Jennifer’s merry amusement. We find out how to tell if the Queen’s at home (no we didn’t break in), more about the royals themselves and also Myles recounts about the story Princess Anne becomes the first royal to obtain a criminal record – much to Jennifer’s amusement!
4) Clarence House – We watch the guards in action, they scared Myles by stamping their feet in time to end one of his sentences!
5) St James Palace – find out why Princess Diana hated this Palace. Jennifer and I had fun playing with one of the empty guard boxes!
6) Nell’s House – A famous mistress of King Charles II, this is when Myles become the most animated! Quoting the shouts of the crowds at the time who hated her and lobbed vegetables at her, it was pretty unfortunate an old lady was passing by him and he shouted out ‘Get away from London you filthy Catholic Whore!’ (with emphasis on whore!). She took it well!
7) Duke of York Column – I’m not gonna reveal what happens there but it’s funny!
8) Trafalgar Square – Did you know the smallest Police Station is there?
9) St James Park – ask about the royal Pelican! You won’t believe it! He also tells us how amazing Winston Churchill is.
10) Changing of the Horse Guards – don’t get in their way!
11) Gardens of 10 Downing Street – we didn’t go in but I didn’t realise that all my times in London, I was actually going past the gardens of10 Downing Street!
12) Big Ben – It shouldn’t be called Big Ben…
13) Westminster Abbey – Find out how it was built. Also, I got a history question wrong there! Owned!
14) Westminister Palace – The Queen does not want you to die in here…find out why.
15) Houses of Parliament – Myles finishes off the tour with a story telling how the House of Parliament and Lords nearly met their end…
I have to tell you that there was loads more places that we visited but I don’t want to reveal too much.
The tour lasted 3 hours and quite frankly it was the best 3 hours of my time in London at the weekend. I really, really enjoyed this and I really wanted to continue on the tour at the end that becomes the London Pub Crawl tour which you get to experience the Nightlife in true style finishing at The Ministry of Sound! But I had other plans. When I come to London again, I will jump on this!
Like I said, best 3 hours to spend in London seeing the sights and learning the bloody, funny and gorgeous history behind it all. The tour guides are giving up their free time to do this and they work for tips so if you feel like the tour was fantastic, then I’d recommend you to give them some money as they really know their stuff.
I’m giving them 5/5 Rexy Stars!
To find out more about their other tours in London, check out their website: Sandeman’s New London Tours and really, you’re in for a treat!