Have you ever walked around your own city as a tourist? I’ve lived in London for over 20 years and there are lots of places I haven’t visited or explored yet. It’s surprising how much we can all take our own towns and cities for granted. Although with so many incredible places to visit in London, I think no length of time would ever be enough.
So, when an invitation from Original Travel arrived to join a mini-press trip around London, it was an opportunity too good to miss. Why you may ask if I already live in London? Well, I know from experience how great they are at uncovering hidden gems, exploring off the beaten track and incorporating local experiences. All this and more was delivered on an Original Travel family trip we booked to Kerala in 2018. Specialising in luxury tailor-made holidays, their ethos is Life is in the Detail, knowing that it’s the small touches that make a holiday unique and different.
Under the spotlight was the East London area of Shoreditch known for its thriving creative scene. Being my closest neighbourhood, I was intrigued to see if I’d discover any new gems whilst being a tourist in London with Original Travel.
Best Italian Restaurant in London
The tour started on the corner of Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch at the quirky, larger than life Italian trattoria, Gloria. As you walk in a glamorous retro bar decked in grey and pink marble alongside fringed lamps greets you. A prelude to the rest of the decor about to dazzle the eyes.
With two floors, the upstairs is like stepping into the 50s with striped booths, hanging greenery and colourful flowers. The downstairs is the complete opposite. Darker, moodier and channelling a 70s Capri lounge vibe with an open kitchen and mirrored ceilings.
We enjoyed lunch in the private wine room filled with 3,000 bottles of wine. The delectable Italian classics were neverending from the kitchen. We dined on Napolitalian pizzas, ribbons of malfada pasta covered in mascarpone and flecked with black truffle shavings. The famous lemon meringue pie standing over a foot tall was ended our feast.
It was the perfect setting to indulge and hear more about Original Travel and its plans for the coming year. In this new age of travel Original Travel is championing a new concept – Travel Less, Travel Better. It’s a way of encouraging fewer holidays, by making them count and practising slow travel. Travelling less is a strange philosophy for a travel company to adopt, but one that currently resonates with the world. By taking fewer trips travellers can help minimise the impact on the environment and also plan to travel for longer periods of time instead.
Shoreditch Street Art Tour
Bellies full, we next headed off the beaten track and dived into alternative London on a Shoreditch street art tour of London. Our street art guide led us through the bohemian neighbourhood, pointing out pieces by famous artists such as Banksy, Jimmy C and Stik.
We stopped at a fascinating spot many would wander straight past. A site where archaeologists recently found the remains of The Curtain Theatre. A predecessor to The Globe on the Southbank, it was where Willam Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was first performed. The only clue for passerby’s to this historical spot is the nearby wall of the Horse and Groom pub. Street artist Osch has encapsulated the tragic love story with a mural of two figures entwined.
The tour continued past Ebor Street full of the most vibrant street art and onto Redchurch Street one of the hippest shopping streets in the area. We stopped at my favourite street art piece Bubble Girl, which has stood the test of time for over ten years.
Whilst admiring the work none other than James Cochrane (Jimmy C), the artist behind the artwork joined the tour. Being able to meet the artist and learn about his career path from Australia to London took the tour to the next level.
Cargo, a popular live music venue in Shoreditch was our next stop where we had the chance to create our own street art masterpiece. Let loose with a multitude of colourful spray paints on our own canvas and not a wall thankfully.
For our final location, we were whisked off in a Black Cab. Our cabbie was one of Original Travel’s London concierge team. Chosen for their in-depth knowledge and passion for London, Black Cab drivers make the ideal concierge. The company has a network of concierges in every destination at hand to make trips run seamlessly.
The trip ended on a high with an exclusive insight into an artisan globemakers workshop. Bellerby & Co is one of only two handmade globe making companies in the world. Founder Peter Bellerby started the company in 2008 after he failed to find a special globe for his father’s 80th. It led to him to making his own globe by hand and today his successful business combines traditional techniques with pioneering designs to expertly craft handmade globes.
The opportunity to watch the artisans engaged in their craft was a real treat, as the doors to the workshop are usually closed to the public. Commissions are bought to life by a team of cartographers, illustrators, engravers, woodworkers and painters. with meaningful personalisations such as significant travel routes, pets or hometowns.
We even had a chance to master the art ourselves, by glueing watercolour strips of cartography in place on a resin ball. Who knew how hard it would be to line all the elements up precisely? I think I’ll stick to my day job, but it was a great end to our mini-press trip.
Plan a Trip
Original Travel is similar to Bellerby & Co with the bespoke service they offer to travellers. The tailor-made holidays are curated to you and your needs by expert guides. From start to finish every element is organised to help create a stress-free travel experience with fast track check-in, airport lounge access and local concierges as standard.
The new Travel Less, Travel Better concept also features a new collection of holidays, including philanthropic, responsible travel, slow travel, rail and road trips and sabbatical itineraries. If you’re thinking of staying closer to home there are lots of UK holidays itineraries around the British Isles to choose from too. It could be a peaceful escape to the Cotswolds to explore the quaint villages and countryside.
Or how about a family-friendly holiday to Scotland where you can discover Edinburgh, spend a day in a private castle and enjoy the Scottish Highlands.
There is something for every taste, interest and age. Now the only question is, where to next?