Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

To Get to Know the Inner Workings of London, Take a Hike

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

To Get to Know the Inner Workings of London, Take a Hike

Article excerpt

Q. What's the best way to really see London without hiring a private guide, which we can't afford? We'll be there this spring, and we want to do more than watch the Changing of the Guard, visit the Tower of London, and the other obvious things, which we've already done.

A. Take a walk - an organized walk with a guide who'll lead you to fascinating places.

The first person to tap into the big pool of tourists seeking "something different" was an Australian who, in 1965, decided to do something about what he considered "the banality of standard tourist fare." Someone should put up a monument to that Aussie and his bright idea.

Today his company, called The Original London Walks, is owned by David Tucker, a self-described "farm boy from Wisconsin" who went to London 20 years ago to get a doctorate in English at the University of London and never left.

From the London Walks brochure, you can choose a Jack the Ripper Haunts tour - the most popular of the London Walks - or Dickens' London, the Beatles London Town, Ghosts of the Old City, In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, Mayfair, London by Gaslight, cemetery tours, a pub walk and dozens of others.

The pub walk takes you past the new Globe Theater near the site of Shakespeare's original. Still under construction, it's due to open in April. Walk along Clink Street, named for an old prison there that became a slang word for jails everywhere; pause at the ruins of a 13th-century palace; see Southwark Cathedral and a vast wholesale fruit and vegetable market.

Along the way, Tucker tells stories and gestures across the river to point out landmarks in The City, London's financial center: St. Paul's Cathedral, St. Mary Le Bow church, St. Bride's (its steeple is the model for tiered wedding cakes).

Tucker leads a few walks a week, as does his wife, Mary, with 23 other guides completing the company list. Most are moonlighting: Donald, who leads the Jack the Ripper walks, wrote the definitive book on the 19th-century murderer; Richard P., who leads the Beatles tour, is president of the London Beatles Fan Club and editor of the club's magazine.

Joining a walk in London involves finding one's way to meet the host or hostess, and the lesson in riding the Underground is another step in a visitor's appreciation of the city. …

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