Hampton Court with London Walks

Our December 2006 trip to London was relatively brief... enough to get out of town for a memorable New Year's Eve but not too long to get burned out. Given that we only had so much time to work with, we thought it might be worthwhile to take a little guided tour of something while in the London area. Now, mind you, we're not "guided tour" types. We're pretty much freespirits who, while relatively structured in our travels, do it all on our own.

So, we thought... what the heck... let's see how we can find a tour that will shed a little more light on the sites we see. After doing some research, London Walks came highly recommended. As mentioned on their own web page, Fodor's claims, "London Walks was the first and is the best of the walking tour firms." Wow... that's some endorsement... and we're sure that in many ways, it's probably true. I just don't know how true it was for us. Let me explain...

I printed out a few tour options before we left for London but we didnt' decide on what tour to take until we arrived. We opted for a tour of Hampton Court - the royal palace of Cardinal Wolsey and, eventually, King Henry VIII. We met Hillary, our guide, at Waterloo Station. What we envisioned to be a tour of ten, maybe twelve people turned into a tour of over forty people.

I don't have to tell you how well that worked for us... forty people? This isn't going to be very personalized, we thought. Indeed, it wasn't. Not only did we find that everything took longer (getting tickets, going into the palace), it was just hard to hear since we were in a crowd. Another big drawback was the guide. Yes, she was quite nice but her proper English voice lacked in the volume department. Not only that, her pace was dreeeeadfully slow. Not glacial... but certainly not brisk enough to keep our attention.

This commentary is scintillating!

In fact, the pace and the process was so hard for us to handle that, well, we left the tour. Granted, we ate the 15 pounds or so (I think) that it cost each one of us but we just didn't want to waste our time. We wandered to the Tudor kitchens and enjoyed the rest of the grounds on our own... and you know, we had more fun.

BUT... that was our experience. It could be that we just picked a busy tour or just had a guide that, well, we normally wouldn't pick. You'll have to find out on your own but, for us, it's either a "one on two" guide or we're on our own. Sooner or later, I'll post an entry on Hampton Court. London Walks aside, we highly recommend visiting. It is a splendid palace.

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