One of the things nobody talks about in relation to the East End is that the second it comes up in conversation people tend to fall into one of two camps – Phil Mitchell impersonators, or ‘you schlaaagg’ types. From the moment I booked myself on to Undiscovered London‘s East End tour to the moment I was actually at the meeting point I was in full-on ‘Schlaaagg’ mode (easy now).
The tour itself is a pretty casual setup. You look for the group of people (if I’m honest, mostly tourists) standing by a particular statue at Liverpool Street station and you all stare at each other suspiciously until your tour guide arrives, orange umbrella in hand, to unite you in learning.
The tour starts by taking you into the middle of city office blocks and fancy glass apartment buildings. You get the chance to annoy hundreds of lunching office workers while you stop to look at ruins and hear about the walls of the old city, fires, and plague pits. It’s fun.
As you leave the shiny new buildings behind and head into Spitalfields and Brick Lane the talk turns to marginally-more-recent history, like Jack The Ripper, window taxes, and people throwing shit out of their windows. If you’re a British person who went to a British school there’s a lot you’ll already have heard, but that doesn’t actually make it any less interesting to see the real-life places and examples. It’s history in action, if you want to sound a little bit douchey about it.
After learning about the olden days we moved onto something distinctly more modern – Street Art. As a person with a woefully poor knowledge of artists who aren’t a couple of hundred years old (I can do the older ones because I sometimes sneak into the loos at the National Gallery) I found this part fascinating. To learn that there were more artists than just Banksy was one thing, but to find out the meanings behind a lot of their work and what their massive price tags could go up to added another element. Eddie, our tour guide, seriously knew his stuff.
A walking tour isn’t necessarily the kind of thing someone might think to do if it’s in the city they live or work in, and a lot of that (if my friends are anything to go by) is down to pride. We want to automatically be seen to be an authority on all things London. In reality, though, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that we’re interested and that we still have something to learn. I’ll start:
“My name is Nicola and, even though I live in London, I learnt a lot on a walking tour.”
Now go forth, be curious, and check out undiscovered London.
For Undiscovered London’s tours and a whole load of other things to do all over the city, don’t forget to check out our main site – We have everything you need to start ticking off your bucket list.