When I started working as a tour guide I tended to avoid Soho with its narrow streets and busy pavements. However over the past 18 months or so I have developed a couple of foodie themed walks and now love guiding in the area. It is busy – especially on a Saturday afternoon – but some streets are quieter than others and Soho has such a fascinating history that it is now one of my favourite places in Central London.
Last weekend I led a new walk for Walk London
* entitled The Real West End
which was in the vicinity of the Jubilee Walkway
and included parts of Covent Garden and Soho. Taking up to 50 people on a walk where previously I had only led half that number (and in a less busy part of town) initially filled me with trepidation.
However I purchased an amplifier (a bargain at £5) and planned the walk so we only stopped at places where there was enough room for us and passers by without anyone having to step in the road. It meant a bit of forward guiding eg talking about the House of St Barnabas before we arrived there – but there were also places where we were able to stand with a big group opposite the building in question and everyone could hear me too.
Over the course of the weekend I led the walk 3 times and from the applause at the end together with some tips plus two 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor
it was a great success.
There were a couple of challenges to overcome on the walk – Seven Dials was busier than normal with a shopping day and people picnicking in the middle of what is normally the road, meeting another tour group halfway along Goodwins Court (a very narrow passageway that links St Martin’s Lane with Bedfordbury – see picture below), and a disinterested elderly man on the 3rd (and hottest) walk of the weekend who in retrospect I now wonder if he had signed up for the walk by mistake and was really one of the film extras that we encountered at the beginning of the walk – the co-ordinators there were similarly dressed to us.
After the success of last weekend’s walks my Foodie History Tour of Soho
this coming Saturday for up to 15 people (especially finishing at Imli Street
with some Indian-inspired cocktail samples) should be a doddle!
* Walk London organise free walks 3 times a year – Spring into Summer (just finished), Autumn Ambles (27 & 28 September 2014) and Winter Wanders (usually January). Bookmark their website to be kept informed of walks coming up.
The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End.
Details of all her walks are listed here.
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