A romantic walking tour of Little Venice
On a recent London trip, we decided we’d like to see more of the quintessential romantic areas of London. London Walks’ Little Venice tour fit the bill for a romantic walking tour perfectly. Little Venice is renowned as one of London’s most romantic settings. This date came the day after our camera broke, so we apologise for the photography in this post! Our guide’s name was Shaughan Seymour, and he is an actor. London Walks’ tours cost £10 each. The Little Venice tour begins at Warwick Avenue underground station. Beside it is a cabmen’s shelter, where London taxi drivers can go for a cup of tea and some lunch.
Little Venice is described as one of London’s loveliest and most romantic areas, making it perfect for a romantic walking tour. It wasn’t quite as romantic as we had hoped, though. This was because the tour focused far less on the canals than we had thought it would. Instead, we went on a tour of many extremely posh Victorian houses, with white stucco. Shaughan delighted in telling us who lived, or had lived, in them. It really is a who’s who of famous people, from Noel Gallagher and David Gilmour, to Joan Collins and Michael Flatley. Flatley is apparently rather obsessed with himself, having pictures of himself and his initials everywhere.
The canals are extremely romantic
We soon passed over a bridge where we got our first glimpses of the beautifully picturesque canal. It was timed well, as a barge passed underneath us as we looked through the railings. More celebrity houses came at every turn. Shaughan even treated us to some vintage karaoke outside Bill Kenwright’s home. We were told how Alexander Fleming had discovered penicillin around the Paddington area where we found ourselves. A nearby housing block is named in his honour.
Our next stop was in the churchyard of St Mary on Paddington Green. The graves here are set along the edge of the walls, as it was converted into a public park. A famous Victorian actress called Sarah Siddons is buried here. This led Shaughan to treat us to a bit of Victorian karaoke, with a ditty about a milkman. We also learned the story behind the phrase ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. Walking over another pretty bridge, we finally arrived in Little Venice itself. The area’s name started as an in-joke, and was deployed by property companies to make the area more desirable to live in. It has indeed worked. The only real similarity with Venice is the canals. It is where the Regent’s Canal meets the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal.
The owners really make an effort with their boats
Along the canal itself, the walk was far more romantic than it was previously, and we were shown yet more celebrity houses. There was even a boat that was visited by Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan. Richard Branson’s famous houseboat, where he lived as he started his business career, is normally docked here. It is a very expensive place to run one apparently. Many of the moored boats that we passed are very attractive, many with potted plants or pieces of astroturf to give a more rural atmosphere to it.
Shaughan pointed out the ramps that appeared every now and then, which were used by horses to get out if they fell in the canal. Horses were widely used in Victorian times. We were also told the meaning of the phrase ‘legging it’. It comes from when canal boat owners would have to push their way through tunnels with their legs if their horse couldn’t get through.
As we went under one bridge, a barge was passing under it too. A guy was sitting on the roof and nearly had his head chopped off as he hadn’t realised how low the bridge was. We passed a pub that is always host to a celebrity or two according to Shaughan, who often sounded like a gossip columnist. Moving away from the canals, a pretty little mews street was on our left. A mews is a set of former stables, which look rather atmospheric nowadays. He pointed out a hole in the ground that was used for storing coal.
£5,000 for a pineapple?
Another interesting thing that Shaughan pointed out was what the acorn looking things that are a common feature on gates, walls and general architecture are. Apparently, they are actually pineapples. Now just a humble fruit, they were once the ultimate display of wealth, such was their rarity. People often rented one just for a couple of days to show off. A sign of hospitality, as well as to show off, since a pineapple cost the equivalent of £5,000 in today’s money. He also pointed out a passion flower. They are so named due to symbolism related to the last days and crucifixion of Jesus.
We ended up at the Prince Alfred pub, with its compartmentalised rooms, and the building, now the Colonnade Hotel, where Alan Turing, who broke the Enigma code, was born. The tour ended here, rather abruptly we felt. It was slightly shorter than one and a half hours, as opposed to the promised two hours. However, it was a very informative tour, and London Walks are a very well respected company. They offer hundreds of different tours around London. What we would say, however, is that if you would like to do a romantic walking tour of London, try a self-guided tour of the canals. They really are beautiful! Seeing celebrity houses is nice and all, but for romance we’d recommend the canals.
Where would you recommend for a romantic walking tour? Have you ever been to Little Venice?