Posts Tagged ‘Walking Tours’

There are over 450 licensed walking tour guides in Charleston and we chose to take two tours: a ghost tour and a historic tour. Usually Tripadvisor leads me in the right direction but, despite many rave reviews, the ghost tour with Tricia from the Ghostwalk was a disappointment for me.

Personally, I tuned out after she spoke about General Robert E. Lee haunting the Mills House Hotel (supposedly he’s been spotted running down the hallway). From what I’ve read about Lee, he was in Charleston for a short period in 1861. I’m guessing he would be haunting Gettysburg or Appomattox not the Mills House Hotel. Her story speculated the ghost of General Lee has also been seen on the balcony waiting for the CSS Hunley (submarine) to return. The dates don’t match up though ~ the Hunley sank after sinking the USS Housatonic in October 1863. To be fair, General Lee did watch the fire of 1861 engulf the city (start of the fire is unknown) from the balcony of the Mills House. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the story we were told.

Tricia seems like a very nice person but her tour was a mix of disjointed storytelling and lack of historic perspective. Mostly she showed photos with “orbs” that she considered to be ghosts. If you’re looking for a tour which is actually looking for ghosts, dwells on flickering lights and possible misty photos then she’s the tour guide for you.

Charleston St John's Lutheran Church Graveyard
Lutheran Church Graveyard

Charleston along the ghost Tour part of the magazine
The Powder Magazine ~ the house next to it is considered haunted (by a benevolent ghost)

Having taken Ghost Tours in many cities such as Quebec City, Alexandria (VA), London, Edinburgh and the Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA), which were all excellent, I was expecting more Charleston history included in the haunting tales.

The History of Charleston tour with Anne Middleton Herron was much more informative and interesting. Anne is a 13th generation Charlestonian and her family dates to the original settlers of 1670. Both her parents grew up on Church Street and Anne grew up in Charleston. She shared not only her extensive historical knowledge of the city but also her personal experience of roaming the city as a child. Her personal anecdotes and perspective added so much to the tour. She’s smart, easy-going, and kept us all interested throughout the two hours. It rained quite hard for the first hour but we were all so enthralled, we barely noticed. The tour ended at her parent’s home on Church street and we were treated to lemonade in the garden. Click here for more information and to make a reservation.  A few photos from the walking tour:

Anne Charleston Tour Guide
Anne ~ great tour guide and love her hat, too

Charleston Philadelphia Alley
Philadelphia Alley

Charleston part of Old wall
Charleston was one of three walled cities in the New World and this is a part of the original wall recently excavated.

Charleston Longitude Alley
Longitude Alley which is not on a longitude line

Charleston Carriage step II
These “carriage steps” are found throughout the historic part of Charleston

Charleston Cabblestone street V
One of the cobblestone roads

Charleston a peek into a garden
Peeking into one of the many beautiful Charleston private gardens

Charleston Hugenot Church architect
Steps of the French Huguenot Church ~ E.B. White was the architect for the church as well as other buildings in Charleston

Charleston Custom House
The tour met at the US Custom House

Dock Street Theater
Dock Street Theater ~ originally opened in 1736 but was most likely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1740. A hotel was built on its site but fell in disrepair. In the depression, it became a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project and a new theater was built within the shell of the Planter’s Hotel. The theater underwent a three-year, 19 million dollar renovation in 2007 and reopened in 2010. Next time I visit Charlesotn, I plan to see a production in the theater.
Charleston pre revolutionary brick home

Prerevolutionary Brick House

If you take only one walking tour in Charleston, I highly recommend Anne.

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London Belgrave Homes II

Walking around London with no particular destination is always a treat for me. The sights, the sounds, the people. I loved days when I had no fixed plans and could wander about. It wasn’t the case on this visit. With only four days in the city, we decided to re-visit as many of our favorite places and see as many friends as we could. That left little time for meandering.

Much as I enjoy doing my own research regarding the history of London, it’s always nice to go on a guided walk with one of the many, extremely knowledgeable and entertaining London Tour Guides. I’ve been on numerous London Walks which were all very pleasant and I learned a lot when we first moved to London. London Walks cover the basic history of a particular area and it’s mainly for those just visiting. For our return visit, I felt I’d outgrown the basic walks and wanted something more in-depth. A tour the locals would prefer.

Having followed Mark Rowland’s blog for over a year, I was thrilled when I read about his walk entitled The Gentlemen’s clubs of St James’s: Victorian London’s LinkedIn. It’s offered through Footprints of London.

We linked up with Mark in Green Park at 7 pm then went on a very thorough and interesting evening walk through Mayfair. He intertwined stories of these men’s clubs and how important they were for upper class networking.

White's on St James Street

Our first stop was White’s at 37 St James’s Street (building with the bay window in the above photo)

White’s Chocolate House was opened in 1698. Anyone could frequent it so long as they could pay a small fee. But by 1736, White’s owner realized it was much more lucrative to cater exclusively to the aristocratic men. These men would meet to discuss politics, world events and, of course, gossip. White’s became a members only club with a very long waiting list.

There was an awful lot of decadence happening behind the beautiful facade. Its members have always been the power brokers of Great Britain but White’s is also legendary for being a den of gambling, gossiping and conspicuous consumption. There’s a betting book which archives bets placed between 1743 to 1878. These wagers (and we’re talking about thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands) were placed on everything ~ sometimes morbid bets such as which celebrities would die first; personal bets as to length of pregnancies; and, as Mark told us, even a bet as to which of two raindrops would reach the bottom of the window pane first. Obviously men with way too much time and money on their hands.The betting lead to financial ruin for many.

To this day, White’s is an extremely exclusive club ~ there are 500 members, men only and a nine-year waiting list. Queen Elizabeth II is the only woman to have visited and that was back in 1991.

There were many other clubs we went by and talked about including Almacks, Brookes, Boodles, Automobile club, etc.  Mark had a lot of amusing tales as well as very interesting historic facts. Originally, when I told my 16-year-old the name of the tour, I got a raised eyebrow and a not so subtle skeptical look. About an hour into the walk, she whispered in my ear “This isn’t what I expected. It’s really interesting.”

London Chatham House
Chatham House, London

My favorite was the very respectable Chatham House. Membership consist of people and organizations interested in international affairs. Membership includes business leaders, academics, diplomats, the media, non-governmental organizations, policy-makers and researchers. It is ranked as the 2nd top Think Tank worldwide (Brookings Institute is #1).

And I’m a big fan of the Chatham House Rule which states:

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

If you’re able to partake in one of the Footprints of London walking tours, you won’t be disappointed. Click here for additional information and to pre-book your tour. There are several walks I’d love to go on and they will definitely be on the agenda next time we’re in London.

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It’s our one month “Living in London” anniversary! I spent the day roaming around the city. Started with a London Walks (London’s Hidden Village) which ambled around the Southbank/Bermondsey area. Interesting to get off the beaten tourist path and into another neighborhood.

Industrial Age housing for workers

Our London Walks guide, Ann

The building in the photo below is so odd.  If you stand right in front of it, the wall is flat but it’s been painted so when you look at it from across the street, it looks like it’s the corner of the building. Honestly, it’s a FLAT wall!

Corner wall or is it…

After the walk, I had lunch at The Anchor restaurant which has a nice riverside patio along the Thames.  The restaurant was originally built in 1770 but I don’t believe there’s much left of the original building.  After lunch, my friend Rhonda and I ambled through the famous Borough Market.  The market has roots back to 1276 (first mentioned) but the current building has been there since 1851.  The retail market is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and, even though it’s packed with vendors selling fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, sweets and more, the only thing I bought were savory pies from Pieministers.  John’s pie had beef & beer and Logan’s pie was vegetarian with goat cheese.  Rave reviews from both of them so we’ll definitely have them again.

Here’s Rhonda checking out a bread stand:

The Tower Bridge is always a joy to see especially on a beautiful sunny day like today.

Although I was exhausted from my day out in London, I couldn’t resist an event happening in Chelsea called “Vino and Vinyasa” (Yoga and Wine tasting).  I almost got waylaid by all the stores I passed along King’s Road as I headed to the event, but I made it and really enjoyed the evening.  Since I’m yoga challenged, it might have been better to have the wine before yoga!

As I expected, our time here in London is going quickly and I plan to continue having exhausting days as I explore/savor all London has to offer.

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