Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Dragon and Flagon - London Pub Tours

London (various locations)

It's an understatement to say that London is too big for one person to know in it's entirety. Even a small corner of the city, one you pass through every single day, can remain mostly undiscovered for years. An entire industry exists to inform the public of various sights, drinks, foods, and entertainment - list after list, review after review, alert after alert - sometimes operating on a micro-level to reveal the hidden gems on your doorstep.

Dragon & Flagon is the name of a series of tours conducted by Vic Norman, a man with an energy for his craft as vibrant as the colour of his hair. This is an in-depth look at a pinpoint of the city and the attractions within - namely a handful of pubs, with a short walk in-between, punctuated with brief historical footnotes regarding the streets, buildings, and people who've inhabited them.

On the surface, it all sounds a little twee and touristy, conjuring images of a deerstalker wearing, pipe smoking, failed RSC actor delivering scripted lines with too much enthusiasm, and pausing every five seconds for photos with Japanese tourists. It's not, far from it. Instead, Dragon and Flagon is an engaging tour from a guide who clearly knows his stuff, yet treats the delivery with the right balance of humility, humour, pace, and respect for his audience.

We visited five pubs in total, spending twenty minutes in each, with the whole tour taking about three hours. Each pub had one or more merits that justified it's inclusion. Architecture, history, beer, location, with even the Wetherspoon's ticking all four boxes. My favourite was probably The Olde Wine Shades, a venue that can legitimately use a Disneyfied word in it's title, and whose location and terrible reviews on TripAdvisor probably see it visited rarely by both tourists and locals.

With a further six tours to take and a forthcoming food tour, this is one initially slightly sceptical London-dweller who will definitely be back again for more.  

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