One of the things I vowed to do on my 50 before 30 list (no.48) was to ‘Be a tourist in my own town and go and check out the local history’ and last weekend I did just that.
I have never been on a real bus tour of London, never, I mean, I live around the corner- why would I when there are so many other more exotic places to go right? WRONG! There is so much history right on your doorstep, whether you live in central London or the streams of the Cotswolds, History is everywhere if only you’d look for it!
When I received an email from a PR company asking me to come up to London for a tour I bit their hand off. I hadn’t heard of London Duck Tours before but evidently had seen their buses about (how could you not) and was super intrigued. After a visit to their website I was hooked (no pun intended). We planned for a day of chilling and watching London from afar.
We headed up to London bright and early. Note I am not a snob but I hate trains. It’s the way your bum sticks to the seat and if you sit up to the table you will always find that hiding chewing gum, so we drove up to Greenwich and parked there and then got the tube across to Waterloo. Super quick, super easy and super cheap. We don’t have Oyster cards so we just used contactless and I think it was around £4 return! Barg!
We arrived half an hour early to Belverdere Rd which seems a little excessive, however, you need to arrive 15minutes early anyway and we wanted to land ourselves a good window seat for photos. Needless to say we were first to arrive and was greeted by the lovely Joanne. She was so nice and full of life and let us get on first to ensure some good seats. She even tried to get us on an earlier bus so we didn’t need to wait as long but they were all full. So we boarded our 12pm tour as booked and awaited London with budding excitement.
Now this wasn’t just any tour this was a Amphibious Adventure. This was a bus AND a boat. The transportations were originally used on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. They didn’t have any roofs and were usually camouflage green (of course) and are called a DUKW. The D is the year (1942), the U is for Utility, the K means front wheel drive and W means real wheel drive. They have been adapted since to meet regulations etc and painted bright yellow also.
You can spot these bright yellow boat buses a mile off, loud and bright but in a good way. I was very fortunate to be able to take my partner and step son and they absolutely loved the day out!
From here on there are a lot of did you knows and you never guess what’s… I warn you… But I was fascinated, there was so much that I didn’t know and my history knowledge is actually pretty reasonable- or so I thought.
Did you know (see there’s the first) London was founded east of St Paul’s Cathedral then in the 1400’s people began to move over to the west side?!?
So the tour starts on Belverdere Road which runs parallel to the Thames and is right by the London Eye. From there we drove swiftly via Big Ben, St Margarets Church and Parliament square. Did you know there is a small electrical current running through the statue of Sir Winston Churchill. This was a dying wish from him so that pigeons would not constantly land on his statue and poop all the time. If you look at the statue it is the only one that is particularly clean because of this.
We then swung by the entrance to Downing St where, ironically, they were delivering traffic cones and we couldn’t see a thing, never mind it’s only a street (just kidding). Then we passed on to the Horse Guards at the entrance to Buckingham Palace. It’s weird to think that it is so easily just there and not really hidden and tucked away.
Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall and then on to St James’ Palace. Then on to Piccadilly, of which was named after the gentleman that used to own the land- fun fact for you right there. Next was The Ritz and then Green Park. Did you know Green Park used to be (years ago) the Plague Pits. You will also never see any flowers in Green Park. This is because one day when Kind Charles reigned, he took his doting wife for a daily walk when she asked him to give some flowers to the fairest lady. Grinning gleefully of course. However, he gave a bunch of flowers to a passer-by and out of jealousy his wife ordered all the flowers to be removed from Green Park and none ever to be planted again and to this day none have.
Shortly after passing Green Park you will see Down St which is one of many locations over London that has a disused tube line running through it. It is stations like these that are used for films etc.
Passed Hyde Park and then Buckingham Palace Gardens. Bucking Palace was actually purchased for only £23,000 in 1837 by Albert and Victoria. Did you know there are 800 members of staff at the Palace, 775 rooms and 350 clocks!
We then passed on to MI5, The Tate and then MI6. Did you know MI6 is 9 floors high and 5 floors deep with added bomb blast protection! How crazy is that? Obviously it makes sense but bomb blast protection is like something you see in the movies.
Next we hit the water. Time to travel up the Thames! We sailed up the Thames to see Lambeth Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. It is actually illegal to die at the house of Parliament – how ridiculous is that?!
So the Thames is one of the cleanest rivers is Europe and the cleanest in England- not that you would think that with its brown waters. There are also over 300 species of fish including Salmon and Seahorses.
On the South side of the Thames you can see Lions heads along the wall with a circular bar in their mouths. It is said they were put there for the North more posh people to have something nice to look at when looking across to the south. The saying ‘If the lion drinks, London will sink’ refers to these Lions. It is said if the water of the Thames were to ever raise to the level of the lions mouth then severe flooding would occur.
After seeing this we head for shore and passed by Milbank. Formally known for its prison and sending the prisoners to Australia which is where we get the name POM from (Prisoner Of Milbank) as it was written on their tops.
Lastly we headed back to the eye via the Florence Nightingale Museum at St Thomas’ Hospital. It is because of her we have such things as one bed per patient.
The tour lasted around 75 minutes but this is obviously traffic dependant. All of these sites were on the Classic sightseeing tour, however, there are so many tours to choose from. From 007 tours to D-Day tours to Code Breaker Challenge tours. They really have thought of everything.
I loved my day out in London. It is very rarely I am up in London on pleasure let alone non-stressful pleasure so this was really nice to sit back and let someone else do the work but at the same time seeing everything. For those that want to see what London has to offer this is a great way to see little snippets. Having seen certain locations I can’t wait to go back up and get a closer look at individual places. It also is a great way to give you a sense of location too. Where things are in relation to where you are and what tube exit you just came out of can be really hard in London and I think the classic tour really opens up where you are and what London has to offer.
The added extra of sailing down the Thames was a great way to see things from a distance too.
My step son especially loved it and was quite upset when it came to an end. I was a little worried of him getting a bit bored as he is only 6 years old but from the minute he sat on the bus he was super excited and was pointing and laughing at everything. His eyes lit of when we hit the Thames it was lovely to see. This tour is a great day out for couples, family, singles… it covers you all. 100% one of the best ways of seeing London. I must make a point of going on a Duck Tour in other cities across the globe.
I would like to make a point of saying a special thanks to the lovely Joanna who’s customer service went above and beyond and also to Frances for being an amazing tour guide and made us laugh the whole way.
If you would like to go on a Duck Tour head over to their website and book your tickets. Happy Quacking!