Posts by grahamwalker1

Tower of London and River Sightseeing Tour

Posted on March 11, 2012

Step aboard the spacious River Liner outside the Houses of Parliament (Westminster Pier) and sit back as the sights and splendour of London unfold round every bend of your journey on the Tower of London and Thames River Sightseeing Cruise. Weave your way past the London Eye turning slowly and majestically, the Royal Festival Hall, the Tate Modern and the Globehome to England’s most famous bard, William ShakespeareWatch as the waterfront fills with monuments to London’s historical past: the Savoy Hotel, Cleopatra’s Needle, the Oxo Building and Billingsgate Market with St.Paul’s Cathedral dominating the skyline. Glide past HMS Belfast before disembarking in front ofTower Bridge, the most iconic of London’s landmarks.

Step into the Tower of London, home to the Crown Jewels and savour its dark and mysterious past. Wander through the Bloody Tower where the two young Princes disappeared in 1483, reportedly murdered by their uncle, Richard III; the torture chambers where Guy Fawkes, architect of the Gunpowder Plot, and his co-conspirators were subjected to the infamous rack.  Join the Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) and follow the trail past the Traitors Gate through the White Tower to the execution bloc where poor Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey lost their heads. Visit the armoury, the menagerie and the jewel house and discover the history of one of the bastions of Britain where William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart, Henry III and Edward Ist reigned supreme.

If you’re lucky you might see the famous black ravens or perhaps the ghost of the headless Anne Boleyn or one of the other guests who were sent to the tower.

© Graham Walker 2012

Originally published on viator.com

Small Group Walking Tour of London

Posted on March 11, 2012

Our group on the Small-Group Evening Walking Tour of London with Fish and Chips Dinner was small and intimate–six in total including our guide, Matt, who seemed to be a repository of every known fact about the history of London. Armed with his iPad, brimming with images and photographs, we set off on a journey of discovery about London’s heartland, its dark and sinister past, and its resurgence as a world financial powerhouse.

Starting at the Tower of London, illuminated by floodlights and packed with skaters on the ice rink in a former moat, the atmosphere was somewhat surreal, bordering on magical. Scratch behind the surface, however, and you were suddenly reminded of its grisly past: of beheadings, torture, imprisonment, murder and the Traitors Gate.

Following the Thames Path

We moved along the Thames Path with wonderful views of Tower BridgeHMS Belfast and the magnificent new Shard Building soaring high into the night sky, soon to be the tallest building in Europe. Ahead stood London Bridge, which was the replacement for the one sold to an American millionaire for $2.4 million and now straddles Lake Havasu City in Arizona. We were reminded that this was the spot where traitor’s heads were stuck on spikes, a stark deterrent to any potential transgressor.

Cutting right over the bridge we paused at Southwark Cathedral with its beautiful stained glass windows before descending into Borough Road Market, passing the Golden Hind, the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s galley. From there we moved on past the notorious Clink Prison before turning back to the river for one of the most beautiful views imaginable. St. Paul’s Cathedral on the right, standing majestically on Ludgate Hill; the Globe Theatre on the left, the birthplace of many of Shakespeare’s plays; and ahead the Millennium Bridge, Norman Foster’s creation, and the Tate Modern.

Seeing London lit up at night

We moved on to Blackfriars Bridge and descended down a winding staircase to a shingle beach with the waters lapping gently nearby. Huge chains and sunken staves were a reminder of the medieval harbours that dominated this part of London.  We returned to the Thames Path, moved through the crowds outside the National Theatre before passing the London Eye brightly lit in blue and turning gently in the evening air. Across the river stood Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, iconic symbols of Britain’s imperial past.

The evening ended on a high in one of the best fish and chip restaurants in London tucked behind the Old Vic Theatre near Waterloo Station. Cod, chips, mushy peas, pickles, onions, tea, bread and butter.  What more could a man (or woman) ask for?

© Graham Walker 2012

Originally published by Viator.com

East London Walking Tour with Indian Meal

Posted on March 11, 2012

Take the guided walk through the heartland of the City of London on the East London Small-Group Walking Tour with Indian Lunch and savour the splendour of the monuments to Britain’s imperial past.  Wander through cobbled streets and alleyways and be transported back in time from Saxon and Roman London to the present where towering skyscrapers stand as symbols to London’s financial strength. Finish in Brick Lane, home to the Bengali community and sample some of their world famous dishes.

Starting on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, this walk begins on the steps ofSt.Paul’sthe magnificent cathedral designed by Sir Christopher Wren, built in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London in 1666 and now the focal point of the anti-capitalism protests. You continue on to the Guildhall, the headquarters of the City of London Corporation; the Mansion House, home to the Lord Mayor; the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England before stopping at the Monument, built to commemorate the Great Fire, which started accidentally in Pudding Lane in the street nearby.

Move on past the London Stone, through Leadenhall Market, the original site of the Roman City of Londonium, before its ruthless sacking by Queen Boadicea in AD 60, then move into the heart of London’s financial centre. Walk in the shadows of the Lloyds Bank building, designed by Richard Rogers, and the Swiss Re building nicknamed the Gherkin, site of the famous Baltic Exchange before its destruction by the IRA in 1992.

Relax a while in the comparative solitude of the gardens of St. Dunstan’s in the East, bombed out in the Blitz, before moving northwards through Petticoat Lane towards Spitalfields Market and Whitechapel, the killing ground of Jack the Ripper. Pass the Ten Bells pub where his victims all drank before their terrible murders before moving down the Georgian Streets to Brick Lane and its vibrant Bengali Community, now referred to as Banglatown. Sample samosas and sweets in the array of local shops before finishing the walk with a meal in one of the best curry houses in the area. A journey of stark contrasts but one to remember.

© Graham Walker 2012

Originally published by Viator

Damascus

Posted on March 8, 2012

There are seven gates surrounding the Old City of Damascus and to pass through any of them is to enter a time warp, where you leave the present behind and step into a world of fantasy and make believe. Time has stood still in the oldest inhabited city in the world and all semblance of modernity has failed to penetrate its inner walls. Cars are almost non-existent and the sounds that you hear are of horse and donkey hooves and the myriad of footsteps in the narrow, cobbled alleyways. Go by night when darkness settles over the city and Damascenes flock to the sanctuary of this place in search of spiritual guidance, shopping or just the wonderful conviviality of its people. Step into the…

Sharm El Sheikh

Posted on March 8, 2012

The rain came down without any warning. But this was not just normal rain. It started with a few drops then the dark skies suddenly erupted and dumped their deluge on the hotel. One minute we were dining in the Arabic restaurant, the next, a large hole appeared in the ceiling and a torrent of water poured through. Our waiter, Mohammed, looked up, smiled and asked if we would like any drinks. Reassured by his presence we ordered beer and wine and tried to ignore the chaos around us. A waterfall appeared by the entrance and the restaurant started to flood. We raised our feet and carried on eating. Waiters donned makeshift macs made from blue plastic bags and attacked the water with brushes…

A Day in Verona

Posted on February 28, 2012

One hour West of Venice on the Eurostar train, lies the beautiful city of Verona, nestling on the banks of the River Adige and now given the prestige status of being a UNESCO World Heritage Center. A visit here is a chance to step back in time, to capture the grandeur and splendor of a city steeped in history, with its vast Roman amphitheater, L’Arena, its churches and the Duomo Cathedral and its famous castle, Castelvecchio seized by endless invaders before Verona became a key political and economic center following the unification of Italy. Verona will, however, always be remembered for its tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet, immortalized by William Shakespeare. Ancient Theater The city itself is compact enough to see everything in a day on foot, and there is a Hop on…

A Day in Malaga

Posted on February 28, 2012

So there you are, lying by the pool, enjoying the Spanish sunshine and staring up at the crystal blue sky and the white fluffy clouds floating by, when you hear those dreaded words. “Dad, can we go to Aqualand tomorrow?” Your body starts to twitch involuntarily at the prospect of thousands of screaming, sunburnt kids hurtling down death defying water slides and encouraging you to join in. The lack of shade, the smell of hot dogs, overcooked onions and tortillas and queues for toilets shatter your peace and tranquillity and induce a state of semi-paralysis. You try to ignore it, but your wife joins in. “Go on, you know how much you’ll love it.” Well if you have no excuses, don’t despair. Here’s the…