We’re cold. We’re wet. We’re jet-lagged. And we weren’t prepared for a 4-hour walk in the rain. Warned by our mothers, most of us knew better and we brought umbrellas and rain jackets along with us. London is notorious for their “unpredictable” weather. It was one of those days. Sun shining on your face one minute and the next, pouring rain for hours.

By 8 am, we headed out for our 4-hour walking tour around the City of London and Southwark. Sarah, our Blue Badge tour guide, started by introducing the monument that stands to represent the Great Fire of London that occurred in 1666. We headed to Pudding Lane, which is notoriously known for the street that started the Great Fire. The story explains that a baker left his oven on overnight and the horrific event flourished from there. Our walk through Pudding Lane was the first time we could’ve imagined how the streets may have looked before the Great Fire. The fire in 1666 destroyed nearly 13,000 houses and almost 90 churches. This fire was the end of Medieval London.

We walked towards Leadenhall market. Finally, we had reached shelter! The rain was starting to slow and you could hear the faint trickle of raindrops on the top of the ceiling. It almost seemed as though whenever we reached shelter, the rain would give up. I think I speak for all of us when I say; we were all missing Minnesota weather on this rainy cold day in London. Four out of the thirteen people in our group had forgotten umbrellas… So, of course, it rained ALL DAY LONG.

Luckily, our tour guide made up for the dreary weather. She was interesting and was able to relate things to our individual projects. The oldest buildings that we saw on our tour were built after the “great” fire of London. The fire nearly destroyed most of historic London. It took years and years of rebuilding to create a new life for the city. The rebuilding that took place influenced a more modern lifestyle.

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We passed by a site that had previously been the landmark for London’s first Coffee House in 1652. Pasqua Rosee’s Head Coffee House attracted businessmen from all over the city. The daily newspaper was the reason for the flourishing coffee houses in the 16 and 1700s. Many people would pay anywhere from 1 to 20 pence a day to read the daily news and drink a cup of coffee. The step beneath the door of the first coffee house was worn away by nearly 2 or 3 inches. Coffee houses attracted people who were interested in trade, business, and education. English coffee houses were often times considered penny universities. The English would pay 1 penny for the daily admission to read the news, drink a steaming cup of coffee, and start conversations regarding politics and other social topics. Coffee houses were more than just a place to pick up a shot of caffeine. Our tour guide explained, “Penny Universities filled the gap with education”.

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The tour made you realize how early London was able to influence our modern day life. The Great Fire also had a huge effect on the push for a more social lifestyle, which led to the creation of Coffeehouses. It was the perfect way to start our journey to this beautiful city.

–Kelly Dolan