I’ve come along way from the timid unsure stay on the path traveler I once was. Not only have I become more brave then I once was, but my overall approach to travel has changed a lot. After years of family and solo travel I’ve finally found just the right combination of togetherness and alone time that allows everyone to get what they need out of our family vacations.
I’ve now added something new to our family vacations… personal days! Yes, togetherness is a great thing, but you can’t underestimate the value of a little personal time to recharge and regroup. Even when on vacation!
My most recent personal vacation day was a private walking tour through the city of London. As an aspiring photographer I loved this four hour lesson and photo tour around London. I chose The City of London and East London, but choose the areas that appeal most to you. You’ll get private instruction along with a walking tour which includes a nice amount of history. I admit that photography and history might be two things that my family are less than excited about, so this was the perfect choice for a solo adventure.
I met, Steve, my guide at the crack of dawn in a coffee shop, and we spent a good amount of time talking about photography and basic technique before we hit the streets. Hoping to come away from our vacation with what I felt would be iconic photos of London, I had some preconceived ideas of what I thought those photos might be. I might have gotten those ideas from looking at Instagram too much.
I soon realized that Steve’s personal style, and my preconceived ideas didn’t match up. I was privately concerned that I might not get out of this tour what I hoped, but decided to just go with it and see how it went.
I had the best time! Not only did I learn a lot about the places we visited during our tour, but I was opened up to a completely different perspective where my photos are concerned. I came away with a lot of new knowledge and some unique photos I am really pleased with.
Ruins of St. Dunstan-in-the-East
There has been a St. Dunstan-in-the-East church in this location since 1100, but when the most recent church building took extensive damage during the Blitz in WWII the decision was made not to rebuild. The ruins became public gardens in 1971, and are a popular place for photo shoots.
This unique and fun Street art installation represents the history of London! It’s inlaid into the pavement on Plantation Lane. You’ll find everything from major events and famous landmarks to both long forgotten and new Street names.
From the Ancient Romans to Harry Potter and everything in between the Leadenhall Market has had a place in London’s history since the very beginning. You might recognize it as the entrance to Diagon Alley from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Go early, or after hours for people free photos.
Damien Hirst ‘Temple’
It wasn’t all ancient history on this tour. This very large anatomical man created by artist Damien Hirst is part of the Sculpture in the City initiative, which places sculpture and art near some of the city’s most famous landmarks. The statue is made of bronze and weighs over three tons.
The Lloyds of London Building
The Lloyd’s Building is located on Lime Street on the former site of the East India Trading Company’s headquarters. Due to it’s unique architecture it was given a Grade 1 listing only 25 years after it was built. All of the building’s services including the lifts are on the outside.
Jamaica Coffee House/George & Vulture
The Jamaica Wine house is thought to be the site of London’s first coffee house, and is located in St. Michaels Alley, which is part of a labyrinth of medieval alleys and courtyards in the heart of The City. It’s just next to the George & Vulture a pub, which was popular with Charles Dickens, and is mentioned multiple times in his novel The Pickwick Papers.
St. Michaels Cornhill Parish Church
St. Michaels is a medieval parish church, which sits on the site of a Roman Forum from the first Century AD. The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, and the present church was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren.
The Cornhill Devils
Fierce looking gargoyles, known as the Cornhill Devils, overlook St. Peter’s Church from the building next door. They were placed there after a land dispute with the church’s rector caused the architect to literally “go back to the drawing board.”
Christ Church Spitalfields
Christ Church Spitalfields was commissioned by an act of Parliament in 1711, which called for fifty new churches to be built. The churches would serve new settlers many of whom were French Huguenots. Only 12 churches were actually built.
One of our favorite London locations, I was delighted to revisit this area during the tour. Brick Lane, which no longer refers to just one street, but rather an area, has a long and fascinating history. I admit its the street art and food that draws me to this area.
The Royal Exchange was opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1571, and according to the sign I read is the heart of The City of London. I was interested to learn it’s one of the locations where a herald proclaims the new monarch’s reign. I found a tiny puddle in which to take this reflection shot outside the Royal Exchange because while we did have a lot of clouds during our visit we didn’t have much rain.
hilarystyle’s Travel Revelations:
- Real world advice from other travelers is golden.
- Mixing our days with self guided activities and guided tours means we are free to discover things on our own, but also ensures that we’ll get the most out our visit.
- I admit to a preference for small groups or private tours.
- We don’t have to be together every moment of our vacation, it’s okay to split up and pursue individual interests.
Tips & Advice:
- I booked my tour in advance through Harry Goat Photography Tours and Adventures.
- My tour guide was Steve Franck, and the tour was four hours.
- I chose The City of London rather than Houses of Parliament due to the ongoing renovations. You can choose from a variety of tours and locations both private and group.
- These are just a few of the locations we visited on our tour.
- Would you like to see some of these London locations on your own.
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Take Me With You!
Would you like directions to these fabulous places? Why not take me with you! You can download this and other fun hilarystyle articles using the GPSmyCity app!
OK two things …… first I need to do this tour, I have a new camera and am frightened to go out of manual mode and second where can I learn how to do the annotated map thing. Brilliant post.
LOL! So glad you enjoyed! By the way, what camera did you end up with? I made the map using Google maps. If you have a google account you can create one using My Maps. You can google it! Ha!
Panasonic Lumix G7 – love how light it is but have no idea what all the buttons mean!
Definitely take the tour! You’ll learn a ton!
I keep on reading stuff but I think I to be out there and clicking!
Exactly! There is nothing like doing!
You took some awesome photos. I like that you chose the City and East. I’m biased and think East is the best as I live here😂 Brick Lane is one of my fave places too. I notice something new there every time x
I love those areas! I tend toward the more quirky in my everyday life, so makes perfect sense! Xx
Alex - My LIfe Long Holiday
Thankfully my husband and I do love to see the same things when we travel but I definitely get on his nerves the amount of time I spend taking photos so I can relate to you enjoying some alone time. Your photo’s are absolutely stunning and I love the long exposure/graffiti ones – I can’t quite remember what you have to do to apperture and iso when you have a long shutter speed but you have inspired me to google it (unless you fancy sharing) because I just love the blurred passersby next to the street art. #citytripping
Thank you! I was pretty happy with the photos from this outing! We have very similar interests in our family, but they hate waiting around while I get just the right shot. You’ll need to experiment with the shutter speed to get the blurry people. I didn’t have a tripod on this expedition, but it’s helpful! Happy clicking!
Lydia C. Lee
Really great shots!! #Citytripping
What a brilliant post. And amazing photos. London is such a wonderful place and I love living here and walking around in central London is such a great feeling. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post .#citytripping
Thank you! It is a fabulous city with so much to offer! I think we often get carried away with trying for big picture photos, at least I do, and forget about smaller details and places. This tour was great for that!
Truly stunning photos! I love London,it’s such a beautiful city. I have never thought about taking a walking tour though. Such a good way to see all the popular sites!
Thank you!! It is beautiful isn’t it! Funny, I thought maybe some of these were a little off the beaten path. Ha ha!
Mama Travels Earth
Love the photos! Very inspiring, especially like the street art – living in Bristol, it’s very familiar to me and it’s great to see some in another city.
I love street art! So glad you enjoyed the post! I hope to see the art in Bristol someday!
Oh wow you have some stellar photos! I am drooling over the puddle reflection shots. And you have seen some new-to-me places that I now want to check out! Especially Brick Lane. Have heard of many of these places, great to get some visuals for them, though. I love your suggestion of having a personal day or activity…I think we are moving in that direction for our family trips. I suppose for myself and a lot of parents, we feel selfish or bad for not keeping an entire family vacation completely family-oriented. We probably will all benefit from having some personal space while staying in close quarters for days on end! Haha! Our upcoming trip to Rome has one or two things we are doing in smaller units or as a couple, but your post has given me that nudge to book a museum ticket that I have been considering, for just myself. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
I’m so glad you’re inspired! Lucky me, my husband doesn’t mind doing something different with my boys, usually sleeping in, while I do my own thing! In many cases I’ve returned excited to share with them bits and pieces of what I’ve learned and with them well rested they’re excited to listen!
What awesome pics! Ive never thought about a Photo Tour before but this post is definitely food for thought for the next time we are in London. #FarawayFiles
Thank you! A photo tour in any city is a great idea if you love taking photos! I took a fabulous one in New Orleans as well!
These are simply gorgeous photos, you can be extremely proud of these. The red bus reflection is outstanding. It is interesting that you say you had pre-conceived notions because of Instagram. Instagram has quite a restrictive culture and it is good to feel able to break free of that. #FarawayFiles
Thank you so much! You’re right about Instagram. The photos can be amazing, but also repetitive. I realized that wanting to go to the same places as other just for a photo was a restriction in itself. Especially with limited time.
Your photos are incredible, Hilary. There are some really unique photos of London here and you’ve introduced me to some lesser known parts of the city that I’d really like to explore. Fabulous post, you’ve really inspired me. #FarawayFiles
Thank you!! I hope you do get a chance to go exploring, and if so I’ll be interested to hear Edward’s take. Xx
I love the City of London, I worked there for around 27 years and it is so much more than just a financial district. The history and stories are incredible, the tiny little lanes and alleys make you very inquisitive.
An interesting fact is that there are no ‘roads’ in the Square Mile, they are all named Lane, Street, Hill, Court, Yard, Alley, Passage to name just a few, there are some quite obscure ones too like, ‘Poultry and Princes’ or ‘Puddle Dock’. #farawayfiles
That is fascinating! I assume it’s purposeful? I love wandering down the lanes, alleys, etc. you never know what you’ll find.
Hilary, I think you had an excellent opportunity to discover way more of London (as compared to what we are used to see). One of the things I have learned by traveling is that a place is more than what we seen in photos or in TV. And I say that because it seems like most people go to a place and take photos of the same thing. When you start seeing the same photos of a place over and over again, you start to think a place if purely the photos but that is not true. I would like to see more of London (or any other city) than the usual. I keep taking notes for my May trip. #FarawayFiles
You’re exactly right! This tour was a definite reminder of that. Even when we do go to those ultra popular places it’s important to try and see them from a different perspective. I’ll look forward to reading all about your London discoveries!
fifi + hop
Such a fabulous post! Good for you to go on a private tour and do what you want to do. Like some other comments here, I’m usually on par with my family as to what we want to see, but they are so over all the photo taking now. My girls hardly let me take photos of them now because it’s just another photo that takes up their time. Oy vey! Fab photos. #farawayfiles
Thank you! Yes, it’s not that they and I aren’t on the same page, but if I say photos, they get so annoyed.
Love the motion shots and focus on details! I haven’t thought to take a photography tour – great idea! Love that you carved out personal time on your holiday. It often depends on how LONG we are going for, but we try to steal a few adult moments before the teens are ready to start exploring in the morning or in the late afternoon when they are ready for some downtime. That is usually when I go snap all my photos! Great images and post Hilary. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles
Length of trip definitely plays a factor.
It’s funny how much my travel interests have changed since we first started family travel. I always wanted as much togetherness as possible… enter teens… alone time rules!
Trish @ Mum's Gone To
Stunning photos! I love all the movement, the unusual subject matter and wow, the buses in the puddle!! And all in just a few hours. Incredible.
Thank you! It was a wonderful tour, and I’m pleased with many of the photos. I could snap for hours and hours…
SeasonedTravelr, aka Jessica
Wow, I am super impressed with these photos! How gorgeous and artistic. I especially loved the ones with people (some blurred, awesome effect) and street art. I’ve only spent a short time in London unfortunately, and I was with my mother and her friend, so I definitely wish I had had some free personal time to explore the city on my own! All of these locations look lovely, I can’t wait to go back and get a fresh look at London. Thanks for the inspiration! #FarawayFiles
Thank you! I love London, but with so much to see and do it’s taken me multiple visits to see as much as I have and my lust is still so long…
Elizabeth (Wander Mum)
I absolutely love the photos you took! It was clearly a really beneficial tour. I’d love to do it, I’d definitely like to get a renewed perspective on my photography! Thanks for linking #citytripping
Thank you! It was very beneficial and fun too!
Lots of great ideas for London walks there. Thank you.
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed!!