Another secret to reveal (after my first festival admission) – my knowledge of London is terrible. I mean, obviously, I can recognise all of the famous sights and when friends come to visit I can point at things knowledgably and say “Ah yes, that’s Big Ben over there”. But what I can’t do is find my way between said points.
Despite the fact that I’ve worked in London for the past couple of years, I am absolutely hopeless when it comes to finding my way around. I blame it on the fact that I spend most of my time on the Underground, so although I can successfully navigate from A to B I couldn’t tell you where said places are in relation to each other. How do you get from Big Ben to Buckingham Palace? Pass.
So when The Original Tour invited me to take part in The Original Tour Big Blogger Bus Day Out I jumped at the chance. Finally an opportunity to really get to know the city!
I was quite looking forward to being a tourist for the day and skipped to the station from my home in Reading in glorious sunshine. However, as seems to be the law when you’re a visitor in London, I was greeted to the city by a downpour. Turns out ballet shoes are not made for the rain.
I arrived at The Original Tour visitor centre slightly damp and met the other bloggers who I would be joining for the day. We squelched our way over the road to get on the Yellow Route bus. The route takes in London’s landmark attractions and is one of three routes which are covered by the 24 hour tickets.
The double-decker buses are, somewhat optimistically for the UK, open-topped so we huddled into the few covered seats at the very front of the bus. Deciding to embrace the moment, we had our cameras at the ready as we zoomed past the city’s most famous landmarks.
The commentary from our guide Sasha was excellent and really is one the big selling points of taking a tour. I’m not exaggerating when I say I learnt more about London in the couple of hours on the bus than I have in all of the many, many, visits I have made to the city by myself.
Some of my favourite facts, which have now joined my list of useless-knowledge-which-will-probably-come-up-in-a-pub-quiz-one-day, were:
• The phrase “Bless you” when somebody sneezes came about during the The Great Plague of London, when people said it after someone sneezed as there often wasn’t time to locate a priest before they dropped dead.
• The Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London are known as Beefeaters as they used to be paid in beef.
• Big Ben is actually just the name of the clock and the tower it sits in was renamed Elizabeth Tower in recognition of The Queen to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee.
• Samuel Pepys buried some cheese during the Great Fire of London, as it was a very expensive luxury. It was never found.
• And, most importantly, there are 40 shoe shops on Oxford Street – How didn’t I know this???
While we could see all of the sights perfectly through the rain splattered windows, my photos weren’t as successful and I did feel for the other tourists who were desperately trying to capture shots of the Capital to take home to show their families and friends.
After a couple of hours our tour was over, although obviously ticket holders are free to hop on and off at any of the 80 bus stops which are located around the city. The ticket also includes a number of free walking tours, including the Rock n Roll Walk and Jack the Ripper, as well as a Thames cruise pass between Westminster and Tower Hill Piers.
However with our heads full of facts, our stomachs were rumbling, so we headed to Planet Hollywood for lunch (which offers a 20% discount to The Original Tour ticket holders).
Despite the rain, I had a great tour and finally feel like I know a bit more about London. I’m just waiting for friends to come and visit me now so that I can impress them with my superior knowledge!
A big thank you to The Original Tour for hosting me. All views and opinions about the tour are my own.