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.