Table of Contents
- 1 The Knowledge
- 2 London’s Blue Badge Guides
- 3 The Tour is named, The Tides of Time – A Riverside Stroll.
- 4 The Romans founded it.
- 5 William the Conqueror
- 6 The Great Fire of London in 1666
- 7 Riverside Stroll along The Thames
- 8 Clink Jailhouse
- 9 Suffolk Cathedral
- 10 The Anchor Pub
- 11 Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
- 12 Tate Modern Museum
To be a registered Taxi Driver in London, one needs to pass something called “The Knowledge”. It is considered one of the toughest tests in the world. A London Taxi Driver is expected to know every nook of London with no aid of a map or GPS. They know how to get their customers to where they need to get to. They are the benchmark in livery service.
London’s Blue Badge Guides
In terms of touring, and providing their customers the same expertise service, London’s Blue Badge Guides set the benchmark for their industry. The docents chosen by Context Travel for their London tours are all Blue Badge.
Like a sheriff in a Western, there she stood on a cold day, with the sun gleaming on her badge, ready to draw her gun full of knowledge. Okay, enough with the metaphors, Sarah was as nice as can be with a big smile and a rounded voice. She did, however, have a command about her, which definitely gave us the impression that she knew her stuff.
We were joined by another family of three, also with a daughter (much older than Bailey) from Washington, D.C. Sarah started with introducing herself and each other, then introduced us to the proper City of London, which is not to be confused with what we loosely define as London these days (which includes 31 other boroughs, one of which is Westminster).
The Romans founded it.
Until this day, The City of London is an entity all its own, just as it was when the Romans founded it. The City of London has its own mayor that solely governs the town as opposed to the other boroughs that share a Lord Mayor.
William the Conqueror
Then, just like a concert, the crescendo starts with the story of William the Conqueror and the construction of the Tower of London and the place it has in history; from it being a Royal Palace and Fortress, to currently housing the Crown Jewels. There was, of course, mention of the Yeomen (not to be called Beefeaters) and the Ravens that protect the Tower.
The Great Fire of London in 1666
The Greatest Hits kept coming, there was the Great Fire of 1666 that wiped out most of London, and how from then onward, all buildings in London were built in stone. There was The Blitz in World War II that damaged or destroyed 1/6th of London, which included much of the architecture by Christopher Wren. This all brought up to accentuate a town that knows how to rise out of the ashes just like a Phoenix or the grave like Lazarus. Sarah pointed out all the new modern architecture that scrape the skies of London and how it doesn’t look back and keeps progressing. No fire, no war, will stop its rise.
Riverside Stroll along The Thames
Living up to its billing, we were taken on a Riverside Stroll along The Thames. We were shown the Tower Bridge which serves as a marker for the East of the City. We were taken along the banks of the river which hosted the largest port in the world before WWI and continued to be the largest port in Europe right up until WWII.
There was London Bridge, and the history of it “falling down” and coming up many times, and the significance of the bridge and the role it played in the towns urbanization and socialization. We experienced Dickensian London by strolling through, what was once considered the underbelly of the town in the Victorian era, which included a visit to the Clink Jailhouse.
Crossing over to the regenerated and pedestrianized South Bank, was a highlight for my family. We were briefed on the great role Ferrymen played in those days when bridges were limited. We passed an underappreciated Suffolk Cathedral which was as beautiful as the ones often visited on the other side.
The Anchor Pub
We listened to funny stories told by Sarah about some of the oldest pubs in London. One being The Anchor Pub, where a man named Samuel Pepys watched the City of London on fire in 1666, and kept a record of it while probably having a pint or two, which also guaranteed us that the pub is, at least, 350 years old.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
We then passed a car park, where in 1989, the site of the original Globe theater was unearthed. Yes, Shakespeare’s Famous Globe Theatre! Many things continue to be dug up all over London as this town literally has “history on top of history”, as Sarah pointed out. We did pass Sam Wanamaker’s rebuilt Shakespearean Globe and were able to digest what the original may have looked like in Mr. Shakespeare’s time.
Tate Modern Museum
As it was pointed out earlier, London is a Historical City, but also a City that leads the future. So it was fitting that we ended our tour in front of the former Bankside Power Station, which has been transformed into London’s Tate Modern Museum, which has the likes of Roy Lichtenstein’s work installed within.
The banks of the Thames tells a great story, but better when someone with “The Knowledge” puts it into words. Thank you, Sarah and Context Travels for letting us experience London’s Tides of Time.
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