Last Saturday, I enjoyed a guided walk around Belgravia and Knightsbridge on the "Macarons and Mews" tour. The guided tour is conducted by Yannick Pucci, who is knowledgeable about London history and architecture. Yannick's story was similar to my own in that he was born in another country and came to the UK to study and liked it so much that he stayed. The tour that I was on was quite small, and there were four of us in total. I met another girl from the USA (Chicago) and a couple who were originally from amazing Basingstoke (where I live). We were all around the same age and had the same interests, so it was a great tour to be on. I think I can vouch for everyone when I say that we had a lot of fun and laughter, and we learned a lot too.
For regular readers of my blog, you know that I like to get up to new and interesting events in London and around the world. I love history, art, travel, and I do have a bit of a sweet tooth (I love afternoon tea). A few months ago, I came across the walk and wanted to sign up. I do love macarons, and I have tried many in London as I endeavour to find the best London macarons. I also know a little bit about the mews as I came across some on a walk through London by mistake several years ago.
Mews. For those who do not know what mews are, they were a series of terraced buildings and stables where the horses were kept, and the rooms above were reserved for the workers. The mews are amongst the most desireable central London residences now. They are located throughout London, but this walk covered some located in Belgravia and Knightsbridge. They are often considered hidden gems of London that one would overlook.
We met up at Hyde Park Corner in front of the Lanesborough Hotel to wait for the tour to begin. I've walked by here so many times, but I actually never knew that the building was a hotel or gave it any thought. Admittedly, I typically walk on the opposite side of the road. The hotel is currently being refurbished. Near to it is an old entrance to the tube station. The roads here are always busy, and I always see (or hear first) expensive cars on the roads here.
We walked off the main road, and as we walked further amongst the buildings, London's noise became much quieter. We were in Belgravia near the square, and this is where a lot of embassies are. We were told some more facts about the area, but I not going to give everything away; you'll have to book the tour to see the mews for yourselves and try the macarons.
We checked out the first mews, which was a beautiful and quiet area. Some of the buildings were painted in pastel colours, and many had potted plants and window boxes in front.
Amongst some of the mews we visited is a pub known as 'The Grenadier'. The pub served the Royal Foot Regiment of Foot Guards and senior officials whose barracks were located nearby. The regiment was awarded for its bravery in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The pub is rumoured to be haunted as a young man was caught cheating on cards and thrown out of the window where he died. Visitors attempt to pay off the ghost's debts by attaching money to the ceiling of the pub. The entrance to the pub is actually not on the street; it is via the yard where the barracks were.
We came across some more exclusive mews that were gated, so we could not enter them. We also passed an estate agent's shop window, and we saw the prices of the mews (for both the sale and rental markets). Most of them were selling for about the 3,500,000 mark.
These mews contained their own community shops. In the past, they would have contained a larger variety of shops for the people who lived and worked here. Today, those that exist are speciality shops and get their trade through word-of-mouth. In fact, I did read recently that the restaurants and businesses in this area and other areas of London and really struggling because most of the buildings are empty. The people that bought the places that could afford it do not live there most of the time and do not really contribute back to the community. Some of the areas are like a 'ghost town'. That's London prices pricing everyone out of London except for the mega-rich.
We also came across another pub opposite some mews, with an alleyway leading to more mews. We were shown an older photograph of these buildings here, which used to be shops for the people who lived in the area.
We came across several sports cars, like the one below. We also learned about one of London's lost rivers (the Tyburn) and saw where it is located (underground).
The walk includes a visit to five macaron sellers for a tasting, which is included in the price. The walking helped to walk those calories off, and we headed to grab our first macarons. I will not say which brand or shop we visited, but we were first told of some interesting stories about the impressive building nearby. You may, of course, recognise the macarons. They are my favourite macarons (in taste and consistency). I will tell you that I had the peppermint one, which is a new flavour and a flavour that I have not tried before. It did not disappoint.
Next, we visited Harvy Nichols department store. I had never been inside it before. In the top is a nice cafe and food shop, and our second tasting was here. I have previously had their macarons before as well. I had the peach champagne macaron, and it did taste lovely.
I had a chocolate macaron from the next shop. The shop is famous for its chocolate, so I thought I could not go wrong. I did find this macaron to be too sweet, so it was my least favourite. These macarons are slightly larger in size, and some of the flavours are inspired by the oriental/east.
Next up, I had a coconut and lime macaron. This did taste nice.
Our final macaron shop was located in Harrods, and it is the famous Laduree. I have actually never had their macarons before, even though they are probably the most popular. I ended up buying a box. I had the cherry blossom macaron, and it did taste delicious. The marshmallow one was nice, and vanilla is always a nice flavour. I enjoyed these, and they are just about as good as my favourite macaron brand (Pierre Hermé).
We found more mews and walked a bit further down and certainly walked off at least some of the calories we indulged in.
Overall, we had a perfect day, and the weather was perfect for eating macarons and discovering hidden areas of London.
For more information or to book the walk, visit: http://macaronsmewswalk.eventbrite.co.uk