London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

FREE Walks – Local London Guiding Day – 11/10/2014

Save the date – Saturday 11th October is this year’s Local London Guiding Day.  This is the fifth year running that London’s four local guiding associations – City of London, Westminster, Clerkenwell & Islington and Greenwich have got together to offer a day of free walks on a specific theme.

This year’s theme is The Georgians. Each guiding association has created an hour long walk in their respective area which they will repeat throughout the day from 10am until 4pm. No booking is required – just turn up!

The walks are free but there will be a collection for the Royal British Legion at the end of each walk.

You may need quite good eyesight to read the flyer below, so details of each of the walks are as follows:

City of London:  Georgian Life in the City
What was it like to live in Georgian times? Learn a little bit more about daily life in the City, see buildings from the time and hear stories of those who lived and made their mark while a George was on the throne.
Meet: Bank station, exit 3, Royal Exchange

Clerkenwell and Islington Guides: Bad, Sad, … and Mad!
A fascinating walk through the Georgian streets and squares of Islington exploring the world of the Four Georges.
Meet: Angel station

Greenwich Tour Guides: Inheritance, Indulgence and Infighting
Follow in the buckled shoe footsteps of England’s Hanoverian monarchs and their dysfunctional families amid more grand Georgian architecture than you can shake a powdered periwig at.
Meet: Cutty Sark DLR station

Westminster Guides: Through a Fanlight Darkly
Sometimes the most secret places are closest to the busiest streets. Join us to explore one such area and to meet its Georgian inhabitants.
Meet: the forecourt of Charing Cross station, in front of the hotel.

In the meantime like this page on Facebook with some tantalising teasers about the walks!

Twitter – A Beginner’s Guide (Updated for 2014)

Twitter has improved in the 2 years since I wrote my original post so I have updated it (with screenshots this time thanks to the amazingly useful Dropbox).

I am rather obsessed with social media and I’m always going on about how Twitter or Facebook and of course blogging are good for getting your name (and business) known. You may wonder how Twitter can help you so much as you are limited to 140 characters per tweet but it is amazing once you know how.


Start off by going to the sign up page of www.twitter.com and creating yourself a Twitter ID. This needs to be l4 characters or less.

“WestminsterWalks” was too many letters so I am @WWalks. You don’t have to put your real name on the sign-up page but whatever you put will appear next to your Twitter ID on your tweets. “WminsterGuides” is “Westminster Guides” but my Twitter page “WWalks” has my real name next to it. If you use your real name in this way people that don’t know your Twitter ID will still be able to find you.

Once you are signed up create a short profile stating what you do and ideally include a link to your website. It is also preferable to have a photo to show you’re serious about Twitter. You could maybe use a logo if you don’t want to use a personal photo.
How to start

Even before you are following anyone and have no followers it’s best to do one or two tweets introducing yourself so potential followers can see who you are.  You could just say something about a walk coming up or have a link to your website. If people look at your profile and you haven’t tweeted yet they are unlikely to follow you.

If you click on “Home” you will see a picture of a quill pen on the far right hand side. Click on this and a box comes up. You can then type, add photos and even add your location.




What to Tweet

I tweet about walks coming up but I also tweet about things I find of interest in London and think worth sharing. Reply to others’ tweets (the option to “reply” is underneath each tweet), get involved and share information via the re-tweet button. If people realise you are willing to share they are more likely to reciprocate. There is also the option to favourite (ie like).


Links

Links are automatically shortened so there’s no need to worry about their length.

Notifications

Click on the picture of the bell and you will see who has re-tweeted you, followed you, favourited you etc. I have set it up so that I receive a text too which is useful if you are away from internet access. Click on the picture of the cog to the left of the quill and then click on “Settings” to choose your notification preferences.

Who to Follow

As you start following people they will in most cases follow you back. However don’t automatically follow everyone that follows you. Check out their tweets first – are you interested in what they have to say or could they be useful to you. It’s also worth checking when they last tweeted – anything more than a few months ago means their account is probably dormant.  

I started off by following lots of museums, London themed websites such as Ian Visits,  Londonist and London Historians, hotels, London enthusiasts and also fellow Westminster Guides. As my walks are mainly food and drink themed I also follow lots of cafes, cocktail bars and restaurants. Since Summer 2013 I have been doing local walks too so now follow lots of Walthamstow and Chingford based businesses.

People use Twitter in different ways. I dip in and out, others try to read every single tweet in their timeline. This is impossible. Yes I do follow over 2000 accounts but I have managed somehow not to get addicted to constantly reading my timeline.
Hashtags

Have you ever seen adverts with a “#” in front of a phrase and wondered what it meant. Well, this is a hashtag and is a way of categorising tweets. If you are attending a talk or conference there is likely to be a specific hashtag so all tweets about the event that include that hashtag will be grouped together. I now can’t watch TV without following comments about that programme on Twitter at the same time!  More info on hash tags is here.

The one that you will see the most is #FF – this means “Follow Friday” and the Twitter user will list a number of Twitter accounts he/she is recommending.

Analytics

An automatically generated email is sent to Twitter users each week which usefully lists your best performing tweets. It is sometimes surprising what is the most popular and therefore helps improve your output.

This morning via Twitter I discovered an even more useful tool where from the moment you sign up your tweets are analysed.  Details are here

This tool only works for tweets written after you sign up to the service which is why my statistics are so low at the moment.

There is also a separate page where you can analyse your followers ie where they come from and who they follow ie 82% of my followers are from the UK and 30% follow @LondonHistorian (a very worthwhile organisation to follow and to join –  but I digress).


Dos and Don’ts


Do share other people’s tweets by re-tweeting. 

Do send thank you tweets to organisations but on the other hand don’t send thank yous when people follow you. If you’ve enjoyed the theatre, a walk or an event of some kind (even if not related to your business) send the organisation a tweet (although make sure you don’t start your tweet off with their ID* ) and you will find that in 9 cases out of 10 they will re-tweet your tweet to their followers which should hopefully give you wider exposure. You can then do the same if you receive similar tweets!  I once tweeted about a production at Wilton’s Music Hall remarking that the actor looked like Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. The actor (unfortunately not Colin Firth) re-tweeted it and thus brought more people to me.

*You need at least one character (even just a dot) before “@[name] otherwise your tweets will only get a very limited audience.

Do Favourite other people’s tweets. This is like a bookmark which you can come back to. People looking at your profile can also see your favourites so know more about you.

Do tweet at varying times of the day about an upcoming walk/event but don’t repeat too many times which is boring for your followers.

Don’t just promote yourself. This is boring for your followers and they are likely to unfollow you.

Don’t send a series of the same tweet to lots of individual organisations. Your other followers will see this same message over and over again and are likely to unfollow you. I see this mistake time and time again. It is extremely annoying for your followers and those that you are targeting are likely to ignore you as you are spamming them anyway!

Don’t say thank you individually to all your followers for following you. This has actually put me off following people as the majority of their tweets are acknowledgments for following them!

Don’t just re-tweet other people’s tweets. Give yourself a voice, have something to say. I personally am unlikely to follow people who don’t have their own identity.

Protected or not protected

Twitter is a public forum. Anything you tweet can be found by anyone whether or not they are on Twitter themselves. If you are not keen on this you can make your tweets protected. This would mean that only your followers (who have all in this case been individually approved by yourself) would see your tweets. To my mind this defeats the object of Twitter which is to gain a large audience in a short time. However if you do want to find out more about protecting your tweets details are here.

As a result of my original post back in August 2012 a Westminster Guide @GWinLondon joined Twitter and  is now a prolific tweeter with more than double the amount of followers I have!

Good luck and if you have any tips to add please put them in the comments below.


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 of London. 
Details of all her walks are listed here.  
To sign up to Joanna’s mailing list click here
Follow on Twitter @wwalks
or like on Facebook

Geneva – an unexpected treat

Until a friend moved to Geneva earlier this year the city didn’t have a place on my “to visit” list.  It had been somewhere I had passed through on my way to various ski resorts but I had never thought to stop. However after a 4 day visit last week my opinion has changed and I would definitely recommend a trip.

Geneva is an expensive city but many of the museums are free and the biggest bonus of all is free transport for tourists which surely cancels out some of the other expenses incurred.

Free transport for tourists

All travel on the extensive network of buses, trams, trolleybuses and even taxi boats on various routes across the lake is free as is transport to and from the airport by train (around 6 minutes). When you check into your hotel/hostel/campsite you are given a dated card for the duration of your stay.

Getting around isn’t limited to these forms of transport either as from mid April to October you can hire bikes for free (up to 4 hours) too.

You might wonder how you can initially get from the airport to your hotel for free.  In the baggage collection hall is a ticket machine that dispenses free transport tickets valid for 80 minutes. There is a big sign saying “Public Transport to Geneva – Free Ticket” but I witnessed several tourists paying for tickets at the machine next to it.  Scroll down on this link for a picture so you know what to look for.  All you need to do is press the button and a ticket will emerge from the slot.

You can even use your free transport card to go over the border into France but don’t forget to take Euros.

There are two things that you need to be aware of in Geneva – firstly that the Old Town is at the top of a very steep hill (although bus no. 36 can transport you up there should you wish). Secondly the town is sometimes on two levels which makes reading a one-dimensional map difficult.

What to see

Whenever I go abroad I tend to seek out the smaller attractions rather than the big museums which in some instances are similar to those we have in London.  After enjoying Secret London and Secret Brussels I bought a copy of Secret Geneva which gave a lot of historical details about some of the odder things around the City.  You can read my review here.  One thing that I didn’t get to do was count up exactly how many statues there were in the city which depicted people in the nude – there certainly seemed to be a lot! For other suggestions of things to do in the City this website (which also covers other cities) was useful too.

Maison Tavel

This was my first museum visit in Geneva and was definitely my favourite.  It is the oldest house in Geneva and houses the Museum of Urban History and Daily Life. The museum is free but it is definitely worth investing in 5 CHF for an audio guide which really enhanced my visit.

The tour starts outside where you gaze up at the mysterious heads on the outside of the building. I have never seen anything quite like this before.  These heads are replicas, the originals were removed to prevent further decay and can now be seen within the museum.  No-one knows exactly why they are there. I would love to be able to go back in time to find out the real story.  It was incredibly hard to get a good picture of the outside as it is a very narrow street but if you scroll down to the last page of this booklet you can see where the heads are situated.

Every single floor had something of interest to me and it really was a place full of surprises.  The vast cellars are from the original house pre-1334 which destroyed the rest of the building. Originally these cellars wouldn’t have been connected to the main house; access was via a set of enormous doors from the street.

The other highlight from the house was the amazing Magnin relief map which showed the City prior to the removal of the defences in 1850. I spent at least 10 minutes looking at this model in all its intricate detail.

Before you leave it is definitely worth watching the video about the history of Geneva from the Ice Age onwards which lasts 12 minutes.

The museum is in the Old Town and bus no. 36 stops nearby if you want to avoid the steep climb up the hill.

Museum of Art and History

There were two reasons I wanted to visit this museum the first of which was to see a number of rooms that had been transported from Lower Zizers Castle – quite bizarre.  Again my photos aren’t up to much but hopefully they will give you an idea.  Within these rooms were some enormous china central heating structures complete with a seat on the top!

The second reason to visit this museum was to see the exhibition on Geneva and English Satire which is on until the end of August.  I discovered that it was in a separate building in Promenade du Pin which I eventually found when I discovered that I was on the wrong level and looking at a park on the map that didn’t seem to exist in real life – there was several lanes of traffic where the park should have been – until I discovered that the park was actually above me!  I didn’t quite succeed in getting my head around this aspect of Geneva.

Both exhibitions were free.

The building housing the Cabinet d’arts Graphiques was quite anonymous looking and seemed to be deserted. However I soon discovered the exhibition was on the 3rd floor. The exhibition compared the satirical cartoons of London and Geneva; it was fascinating for me.

Ariana Museum

Visiting this museum on my last morning in Geneva, I didn’t quite have enough time to do it justice. It is an amazing building.  It was built to house the collections of Gustave Revilliod and today holds an amazing collection of ceramics and glass.  There is a small tea room with a lovely balcony too.  I got there via tram no. 15 from Gare du Cornavin to Nations the last stop on that route, right next door to the United Nations building.

I was a bit anxious about getting back in time for my flight so I really must return at some point in the future for a proper look.

My second to last recommendation is to visit the tower of St Pierre Cathedral.  It is free entrance into the cathedral but well worth paying 5 CHF to go up to the top of the tower.  Quite by accident I ended up halfway up the tower at 12 midday and it was amazing to hear all the bells of Geneva chiming out of sync. If I had been really organised I would have been at the top of the tower where I could have seen the bells too.

When I came back down from the tower I went to the back of the Cathedral and down a steep flight of steps – Passage des Degres-de-Poules which emerges opposite the Lutheran Church which doesn’t look anything like a church from the outside.  The reason why is in the Secret Geneva book but I don’t have it to hand at the moment.  I was at the church for one of their regular free lunchtime recitals. On the way down I passed a shady garden.

Finally, whilst unexpectedly taking a black cab from London City Airport right through Central London to Heathrow at the start of my trip (as my flight to Geneva was cancelled)  I couldn’t help but share a few London tips with my fellow passengers. In exchange I discovered that there was free live music at sunrise at the Bains des Paquis by the lake in Geneva and free outdoor cinema too. Unfortunately I ran out of days to do either of these things but they are definitely on my to do list for next time.

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 of London. 
Details of all her walks are listed here.  
To sign up to Joanna’s mailing list click here
Follow on Twitter @wwalks
or like on Facebook

Soho Summer Strolls

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.
Goodwins Court WC2. Photo by Jenny Pedler
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.  
Both the foodie walk mentioned above and the Soho pub-themed walk can be booked for private groups
To sign up to Joanna’s mailing list click here
Follow on Twitter @wwalks
or like on Facebook

New pub discoveries

There has been an unexcusable gap in my blog postings recently mostly because I am doing too much. I am still looking for the perfect work/life balance – a part-time job rather than ongoing temping (which I have too much of) so I can have more time for guiding and for relaxing too!

On Saturday night (after leading a walk in St James’s) I managed to fit in the last 3 pubs of Part Z of Londonist’s 2 year alphabetical pub crawl. Out of 26 crawls I managed 10 although unfortunately I was not always able to complete the whole evening.
It was good to finish Part Z in a pub I had never previously visited.  Yards from Borough High Street and St George The Martyr Church (which I have been to) I never knew this pub existed. The Royal Oak, Tabard Street reminded me somewhat (I can’t quite explain why!) of another pub near Waterloo East. After several pints I couldn’t remember the name of the pub nor the street but my description of “Coronation Street style houses” was enough for one of the London/pub aficionados with me to instantly guess correctly. The street is Roupell Street – see the photo below. The pub there is the King’s Arms.
Roupell Street, SE1. Photo by Banalities via Creative Commons

The King’s Arms, Roupell Street, SE1. Photo by Ewan Munro via Creative Commons
The similarity is possibly because they are both on a corner but I need to re-visit both to double-check.
The Royal Oak has a really local feel to it. Look at the net curtains in the windows.
Photo by Ewan Munro (who was on this same pub crawl but earlier in the day) via Creative Commons
The Royal Oak is one of only two pubs in London (the other being in Wandsworth) that is run by Harveys the Sussex brewers. 
I know a lot of great pubs in Central London but it’s great to find that there are more to discover. This is the second good one to be added to my repertoire in recent months having been introduced to the Cleveland Arms near Paddington Station via the London Travel Planner.
Looking at Londonist’s list of their favourite pubs in Borough and Bankside I see there are 3 more I don’t know in that area. I may have to spend some of my temping lunchtimes (I am currently temping close to Borough Market) visiting a few more (drinking shandy of course)!
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.
To sign up to Joanna’s mailing list click here
Follow on Twitter @wwalks
or like on Facebook

A Soho singalong

On Tuesday night this week, rather by accident, I did something I’ve never done before – I took part in a singalong around the old Joanna.

I arrived at the Coach & Horses, Greek Street just as the pianist was starting. She rattled off a few well known tunes – My Old Man, Roll out the Barrel etc but at 7.30pm most people in the pub ignored her.

Photo courtesy of https://twitter.com/London_Nut

Only an hour later it was a different story.  Although it turned into a bit of a karaoke session at one point – with groups of work colleagues singing along to tunes from the Jungle Book and Oliver (words provided) – after a short break she was back on the traditional songs.  Soon loads of people were singing along (including me); not needing words to the famous Londony songs. I can’t sing that well so really hope she was attracted to our table by the much better voices of @London_nut and his girlfriend A.

We were amazed to discover that Lili Davies – or to give her her stage name, Magic Betty, was from Romania!  She said she had learned all the songs from scratch. I must admit I initially felt a bit cheated. I wanted her to be London born and bred.  However she is very entertaining and I will definitely return.

The Coach and Horses has singalongs around the piano every Tuesday and Saturday at 7.30pm. I expect Saturday evenings will be a different crowd entirely. There are a number of different performers; Magic Betty will next be performing there on Saturday 22nd March.

There are lots of other good reasons to visit the pub. They only serve vegetarian food, upstairs there is a “secret” tea room and they sell at least 5 varieties of pickled egg! (I have to confess I have never eaten a pickled egg – maybe I should try one here.)  Any recommendations for a particular flavour?

The pub has got a fascinating history too and if you want to discover that why not book on my Soho Sunday Pub Themed Stroll – a new public date coming very soon.

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.
To sign up to Joanna’s mailing list click here
Follow on Twitter @wwalks
or like on Facebook

New competition – Win 2 places on one of my walks!

Where in London can you find this sculpture?

I posted this picture on Twitter at lunchtime today with that very question.  I’ve had a couple of re-tweets but no correct answers so wonder if I should give you a clue.

Clue - I found this sculpture on one of the tube strike days when walking between London Bridge and Westminster Bridge on the south side of the river.

Does that help?

First person to respond with the correct answer – either on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below will win 2 places on one of my walks. I am planning to add some walks into my calendar very soon so watch this space!

Sculptures, Scones & Shh – some of my London discoveries

It’s only since qualifying as a tour guide in 2009 that I have realised just how much there is to see and do in London, and how much of it is free.  In the past few years I have discovered Londonist, Ian VisitsTom Tired of London, Tired of Life, and many other London blogs all with ideas of unusual things to do in the capital and of course London Historians which has introduced me to many other London obsessives and I would thoroughly recommend joining.* 

As fast as I discover places I have new ones to add to the list. It’s great! These are some of my best finds over the last few years.

Cafes in unexpected places

Whilst studying for my guiding exam in Mayfair one of my first unusual discoveries was that Sotheby’s in New Bond Street has a cafe with a very reasonably priced small cream tea.

Their “small tea” consists of a toasted tea cake, a portion of scones with cream and jam and a pot of tea; all for £9.10. With the addition of mini bagels the cost is just over £14 and even with a glass of Champagne you are left with change from £25. It’s not the grand affair that you would get at some of the Mayfair hotels – and not as much food – but taking afternoon tea at a hotel with a glass of Champagne you would be looking at least double that!  Sotheby’s cafe is only open Monday to Friday – 9.30am-5pm and you do need to book.  Whilst there have a wander around their galleries to see what is coming up for auction.

Also discovered on my exam walk is the cafe within Dover Street Market.  This isn’t a market in the usual sense of the word but a very expensive clothes shop selling designer brands. I have to admit when I first visited the shop I found the shop assistants rather scary but now I just head to the lift to make my way to the top floor where the cafe is situated.

The Rose Bakery is the London outpost of a British cafe which opened in Paris in 2002.  It was founded by Rose Carrarini who is sister-in-law to Rei Kawakubo founder of Comme des Garçons the principal designer within Dover Street Market which is probably how the cafe has ended up in this location. Tokyo and Seoul now have Rose Bakeries of their own too.

The cafe is light and airy with a small outside terrace. The food is good too and comprises salads, sandwiches, soups and cakes. It’s open every day but it’s best to check the opening times first.  I am quite surprised to find that it now has its own page on the DSM website as previously there has been barely anything online; it really is a word of mouth type of place.

Hidden sculptures

I thought I knew Mayfair pretty well having studied there for my guiding exam, based my course project on it and been guiding through it since qualifying.  So I was very surprised last year (when taking a short-cut) to discover a set of 3 sculptures commemorating the famous photographer Terence Donovan close to his old studio. These 3 sculptures – depicting the photographer, the model (Twiggy) and a shopper who has stumbled across the “photo shoot” – really are in deepest Mayfair.

The sculptures are by Neal French and can be found in Bourdon Place which is parallel with Grosvenor Hill and Grosvenor Street.  Incidentally Brown’s Hotel in Albemarle Street nearby have named their bar after him – Donovan’s – where they display some of his photographs; the more risqué photos can be found in the “Naughty Corner”! (See my blog post here about Browns’ Bloody Mary.)

Both my Belgravia and St James’s walks also include hidden sculptures – some of these are so tucked away I sometimes wonder if the only people to see them are those on my walks!
Just around the corner from the Mayfair sculptures can be found another favourite place – Hedonism Wines - an amazing shop, really worth visiting. 

My favourite small house museum

The next place I am going to share in this post isn’t in Mayfair; in fact it’s not even in Westminster but in Hammersmith.

Some time ago I signed up to receive email newsletters from London Shh, Small Historic Houses which keep me updated about museums such as the Handel House Museum, the Benjamin Franklin Museum and, a new one on me 7 Hammersmith Terrace, home to Emery Walker. I am ashamed to say that not only had I not heard of the museum but I had no knowledge of typographer and printer Emery Walker either.  When I discovered that 7 Hammersmith Terrace is the last Arts and Craft interior left in Britain and that it is practically untouched I had to visit. I took the opportunity in May 2012 to arrange a visit for the Westminster Guides and I have to say we were all practically blown away by the interior.

Emery Walker was a friend and colleague to William Morris and because of this the house contains many Morris originals – wallpaper, wall hangings even William Morris lino. The architect Philip Webb was also a friend and left his possessions to Walker and these are also to be found throughout the house. There is so much more than this though – it is like a time capsule. The house has remained virtually unaltered because Walker left the house to his daughter who in turn left it to her companion who then formed a trust to preserve it for the future. More details about the house can be found on the excellent Londonphile blog.

I have been to many historic houses over the years and am sometimes dismayed that the houses are bare and lacking in possessions; I have now been completely spoiled with this one and would thoroughly recommend a visit. Each tour is limited to 8 people so you do need to book in advance.  They are currently looking for volunteers to help out this summer so if you live in the area maybe you could help.

A walk along the Thames afterwards with lunch at the Dove is a great way to complete your visit to Hammersmith.

A hidden church

Lastly, this unusual shaped church is a recent find and I hope to include it in a mainly pub-themed walk around Fitzrovia soon.

This is only a small selection of places I have discovered in the past 5 years or so and I’m continuing to discover more many of which will end up on one of my walks. All my walks include hidden tea shops, pubs and anything else I may have discovered along the way together with of course the historical narrative.

Further afield

This post is just about London but there’s so much more to discover in the rest of the country. I’ve just nominated a couple of my hidden London favourites on this map but you may want to look at what else has been suggested around the country or even add some yourself.

*London Historians hold a monthly pub meet for members and non-members alike. It’s held upstairs at the Windsor Castle pub, Francis Street SW1 from 6.30pm usually until closing time on the first Wednesday of every month – next one is Wednesday 5th February. There’s no obligation to join if you go along and it’s just a social so turn up any time. Maybe see you there!

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.
To sign up to Joanna’s mailing list click here
Follow on Twitter @wwalks
or like on Facebook

Random Acts of Kindness in WC2

I am sure it was via Twitter that I kept seeing the area of St Martin’s Courtyard cropping up. As a Westminster Guide I was ashamed to say I didn’t recognise the street so set out earlier this week (in the rain!) with a mission to find it.

It turns out that St Martin’s Courtyard is a new name for Slingsby Place – an enclave bordered by Mercer Street, Long Acre and St Martin’s Lane in Covent Garden.

Within it can be found a number of shops, bars and restaurants.  Some of the shops were unfortunately out of my price range but there are a number of restaurants that look worth visiting.

There is another reason to visit as from now until Christmas Eve the Courtyard have a special Random Acts of Kindness event where random shoppers, diners and even browsers are given amazing prizes such as a meal, a makeover or a wine tasting! Definitely worth dropping in if you’re nearby.

And tonight from 5pm to 7pm (Thursday 19th December) and this coming Saturday there will be live music and mulled wine too.

Thursday 19 December, 5pm-7pm  –  English National Opera Community Choir
Saturday 21 December, 2pm-4pm –  Roo Savill

There are also some fabulous Christmas decorations! Worth another wander I think!

The location of St Martin’s Courtyard can be found on this link.http://www.stmartinscourtyard.com/FindUs

Find out more on Twitter from @smccoventgarden or follow the hashtag #RAOK.

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 bookable private walks are listed here and upcoming public walks are here.

The Road to Recovery & Better Health!

Injuring my foot in June this year whilst on a walk in Walthamstow was not a good thing to happen to a tour guide. I cancelled walks, I gave away walks to other guiding colleagues and did what the doctor ordered (mostly) which was to rest. Without a car not walking at all was impossible but I did try. Instead of walking from Victoria to Westminster Abbey or Liverpool Street to London Bridge for my various temping assignments (in my other job as a legal secretary) I took the bus. Nordic walking in Epping Forest is (still) on hold.

I am still guiding – in fact the next week is quite busy with a number of Christmas Lights walks – but I’m trying to be sensible in between as I’m still not fully recovered.

This sedentary lifestyle has of course had an adverse effect on my weight which has shot up in the last few months. I don’t usually watch my weight but the fact that I can’t get into quite a few of my clothes tells me all I need to know.

I have also got myself into a bit of an unhealthy lifestyle – drinking a bit too much, having a few too many late nights and then not able to get up in the morning, missing breakfast and grabbing a croissant on the way. Not good. I have known for a while that things need to change but haven’t done anything about it.

So when I received an invite to a Healthy Eating Class at the Underground Cookery School organised by simplyhealth I thought this was perfect timing and would hopefully be the catalyst for me to start changing my diet and lifestyle.

On arrival at the School’s base in City Road near Old Street we were offered a choice of carrot or orange juice. Strangely I have never tried carrot juice so I had to go for this. It turned out to be a mixture of not just carrots but celery and spinach and I have to say was delicious. I am seriously considering buying a juicer now!

Photo courtesy of the Underground Cookery School

I have never yet included a recipe on a blogpost but this was so delicious I have to share it!

To make about a pint of juice:

450g carrots (skin left on)
1 stick celery
small handful of flat leaf parsley
large handful of spinach
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

The next part of the event was a talk entitled “Eat Yourself Young” by nutritionist Kate Cook. This was a real eye opener. I recognised lots of bad habits I had got into mostly caused by a lack of sleep and the knock-on effects the next day.  I have also never really thought of the long-term effects on my body. Kate told us that “Genes load the gun but lifestyle pulls the trigger”. That really made me think.

One of the keys to a healthy lifestyle is to keep your blood sugar level well balanced. I was amazed to discover how much sugar is in a glass of orange juice; it’s much better for your body to drink the aforementioned vegetable juice than the usual fruit juices.

Kate’s reference to The Numskulls who used to appear in the Beano made me laugh but it brought the point home; showing how your body is affected when your blood sugar level is raised.

Kate emphasised that it’s much better to slowly change your diet to a good one than to diet off and on. She did encouragingly say that it’s impossible to change your way of life overnight; it will take time.

More of Kate’s advice can be found on this post by simplyhealth the hosts of the event.

The next part of the day was to do prepare and cook our meal. The menu was:

We were split into groups and my group’s first task was to fillet a mackerel. This was nowhere near as hard as anticipated.

After washing my hands my next task was to peel some pears. I was slow but I was methodical.  However I completely failed at the third task which was to de-bone a chicken. It probably didn’t help that I was feeling a bit under the weather and was standing next to the cooker but I started to feel a bit unwell at the thought of pulling the chicken apart and had to abandon this and watch from a safe distance.

The last (and best) part of the day was to eat the meal we had helped to prepare. I am there – honest! I was at the far end of the table and can just about see my turquoise clad arm!

The highlight for me was the pan fried chicken with puy lentils which had a spicy kick and was absolutely delicious. I definitely want to cook it for myself – minus the de-boning part of course.

The recipe to this dish can be found here. If you want to make it spicy the ratio is half a large red chilli de-seeded per portion.

I have recipes for all the items on the menu above so please feel free to ask me if you would like any of them.

What an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday; I learned so much and hope to start putting it all into practice soon. I am also planning to ask my GP to refer me to a podiatrist so I can find out what is wrong with my foot and get fully back to my normal energetic self.

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 bookable private walks are listed here and upcoming public walks are here.