London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

A Walk In The City (And Beyond)

28/07/2002, By Candice Caster

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 15644 votes

To experience the City of London, that old part of London consisting of one square mile, is to travel through layers of time. Now the financial centre of the world, it is a contrast of the old and the new - a vast array of skyscrapers set among historic landmarks that have somehow survived against all odds: The Great Fire and the Blitz being two of its more imposing challenges.

300,000 people are employed in this small area during the working week, although only 6,000 actually live within its boundaries. This is a place of tremendous energy that is contagious, and it was with exhilaration and vigour that my husband and I set off down King William Street one Thursday morning.

A little early for our Original London Walk, we had sought refuge from the crowded streets in a café for a jam doughnut and a cup of tea.

We were to meet up with the walking tour that would take us through the City (“The Square Mile: 2,000 Years of History”) at the Monument, the tower commemorating the great fire of London. Although we had been to London several times, we had never spent any time in the City beyond St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The Monument

Great value for a mere five pounds, the walk promised (and delivered) a guided tour that featured a plethora of information and little-known facts, sprinkled with amusing anecdotes about some of the people, including royals, who were players on the stage of this historic place.

June was our guide, and we began, after a few words about the Monument, by walking the short distance to Pudding Lane where the Great Fire began in a baker’s oven, although we were told that he denied responsibility for the incendiary act.

We moved on, and she then took us down the most wonderful passageway that she said epitomized the streets of early London. We continued on our way to the oldest coffee house in London, taking in the unique buildings, clocks and archways as we went.

However, my husband and I always seemed to always be lagging behind, caught up by the sight of an intriguing window or doorway, or photographing a pot of beautiful flowers. June would smile indulgently as we, apologetically, hurried to catch up with the rest of the group; she was very patient with us!

We saw the George and Vulture, a pub mentioned by Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers, and we stood on the corner in front of Mansion House (home of the Lord Mayor of London) across from the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England.

The Guildhall

We stopped at the Temple of Mithras, the remains of a Roman temple uncovered during the bombing of World War II. It was impressive to see not one Rolls Royce, but three, complete with chauffeurs, in front of Guildhall, the seat of government of the City for over 800 years and the oldest secular stone building in London.

Both the Great Fire and the Blitz were unkind to Guildhall (not to mention the architects of modern times who designed several bizarre additions thereto). The Original London Walk brochure had mentioned that this particular walk sometimes included a visit inside Guildhall, and indeed, a smiling but somewhat harried man ran out and told June we could all come inside if we hurried as there was a meeting about to begin in half an hour.

As this was January, even though it was a day of indescribably beautiful sunshine and blue skies, it was a bit cold and we had been outside for several hours now, so it felt good just to go inside somewhere! What better place to warm ourselves than in the Great Hall of this medieval building.

The Guildhall - Interior

Resembling a cathedral rather than the banquet/meeting hall it serves as, the Great Hall contains beautiful stained-glass windows, galleries and stone arches; monuments to heroes and leaders such as Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill line the walls.

As people were beginning to filter in and we had been there awhile, we left and continued on our walk to St. Paul’s Cross outside of the great cathedral which was, sadly, the end of the line.

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Re: A Walk In The City (And Beyond)

By Mikala Roth 01/08/2002, (Rating: 2.9 from 14701 votes)

This is an excellent article written with such clarity and enthusium. Great job, Candice!

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Re: A Walk In The City (And Beyond)

By Martin Carr 01/08/2002, (Rating: 2.9 from 14650 votes)

Not sure if one or five is the highest rating -- whatever it is, this piece deserves it. Good job, Candice. This brought back some good memories for me. Last September I went on a Ghost Tour of the City -- the mist-enshrouded Guildhall and walking through the tiny, ages-old alleys and walkways of this wonderful city are experiences I'll never forget.

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Re: A Walk In The City (And Beyond)

By Phil Pacey Hobart Tasmania 08/08/2002, (Rating: 2.9 from 14605 votes)

A great story Candice and brings back many memories, but i have been on tours where our guide has spent much of his or her time looking for stragglers. tut tut.

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Re: A Walk In The City (And Beyond)

By Elaine 13/08/2002, (Rating: 2.9 from 14586 votes)

Excellent. I have been on the night 'ghost walk' and it was superb. Even though you know there are no ghosts (?? - well maybe) I was expecting to see one just because of the way the stories were told and how our guide looked and acted!

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