I’ve lived in London for ten years now and I really try to never take it for granted. I feel so lucky to live in a city with so much history and culture and so many fun things to do.
I’m always looking for something a bit different and I’d already read about Yannick’s Macarons and Mews tour on Emma, Kelly, Sarah and Kat’s blogs; it looked so much fun and a totally unique way to explore my local area.
I met Yannick and the rest of the group outside the Lanesborough Hotel on Hyde Park Corner, giving me the perfect ‘London’ photo opportunity. Including the Wellington Arch, Apsley House, a big red London bus, a black cab and an underground sign…a busy place where people are always in a rush to get somewhere and rarely appreciate the history surrounding them. Apsley House, actually has one of the city’s most famous addresses ‘No.1 London’ and it was the home of the first Duke of Wellington.
I was the only Brit on the tour today as I was joined by fellow travel bloggers: Sara from New Zealand, Sam from Australia and Canadian, Cara. Actually if you’re interested in finding out a bit more about my favourite London places and special moments, check out Sara’s blog for my recent guest post. Our tour guide Yannick Pucci from London Unravelled, is originally from Luxembourg but he has lived in London for eight years since moving here to study English Literature.
Away from busy Hyde Park corner, Yannick led us down a side street to explain a little more about today’s tour. We would be exploring the hidden mews and passage ways around Belgravia and Knightsbridge plus trying out some of the very best macarons London had to offer.
First of the all important explanation of the difference between the ‘macaron’ and the ‘macaroon.’ The macaroon is a small circular cake usually made from ground almonds and / or coconut. Actually the macaroon makes me think of passover, Italian Jews adopted them to eat at this time of year as they require no flour for leavening (which is forbidden during Passover) and egg white is used instead.
But I digress, we would be focusing on the macaron today, a colourful sugar and almond based confection with a ganache or buttercream filling. But more about the sugary treat later… first we would be working up an appetite for our tastings.
Starting with a walk through Belgrave Square, a very prestigious address known for being the location of many embassies.
Next Yannick led us down Wilton Mews to admire the pretty colourful townhouses with their painted brick work and cute window boxes. Now, if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that not only do I live in London, but I actually live close to Belgravia. Mr S and I have wondered across Belgrave Square many times but we’ve never taken the time to walk down the pretty side streets.
Neither have we ever noticed The Grenadier, one of England’s most haunted pubs. It was built in 1720 and housed the Duke of Wellington’s officers’ mess. The most famous resident of the pub is a young grenadier, affectionately know as Cedric, who was beaten to death after cheating on a game of cards and now haunts the rooms of the public house.
Ok, we did get some funny looks from the people enjoying beer in the sunshine as we stood around like tourists taking photos of a pub! But it is a famous pub…
Yannick led us slowly along the cobbled streets giving us a chance to admire the wisteria, brightly coloured doors and secret passageways around Belgravia.
Finally we emerged from the maze-like back streets and byways onto Motcomb Street. Now, Mr S and I come here all the time to go to Waitrose, the pub and errr…the Louboutin shop…but we’ve never stopped to take a second to really appreciate it.
Yannick pointed out the stunning neo-classical facade of The Pantechnicon, an 1830’s building originally designed as a Bazaar but later the inside was destroyed by a fire. Mr S and I have visited the nearby pub, The Pantechnicon Rooms many times but I literally never noticed the pub’s name sake that stands right next to it.
With all that walking we’d definitely burned enough calories to deserve our first sweet treat and we were led into Pierre Hermes.
Now a little more about the history of that little sweet sandwich that seems to have become synonymous with blogging…Though we all think of the macaron as being French it was actually bought to France in 1533 when Catherine de Medici’s Italian pastry chefs accompanied her there after her marriage to Henry II of France. Back then it was sort like an almond cookie without colour and it wasn’t until the 1830’s that is was served in pairs and in the early 20th century Pierre Desfontaines of the French Patisserie Laduree served it as it is today with the creamy filling.
The offerings at Pierre Hermes were absolutely gorgeous examples of the modern macaron and we were surrounded by unique flavours of the circular treat as well as beautiful chocolates and jellies. I chose a blackberry and vanilla macaron to try and I must say it certainly set the bar high, these were my favourite of the tour.
Now I won’t tell you everywhere we went, as it was such a wonderful tour that I’d like to maintain the element of surprise… but here’s a few teasers.
Of course there was no doubt that we would end up outside the hallowed celadon doors of the most famous macaron purveyors in the world…
Louis- Ernest Laduree founded the original in bakery in 1862, long before his grandson, Desfontaines invented the the double decker macaron. The celadon interior and facade that decorated the Paris boutique, as well as the chubby cherubs have become synonymous with that famous sugar sandwich.
To be honest, I think it’s a little sad that the place is so commercialised now, since it was taken over by the Holder Group there are Laduree stores all over the world but it started with a single bakery…
Yannick led us down another passageway in Knightsbridge so that we could munch on the remaining macarons and once again enjoy a quiet mews that felt miles away from the busy streets of Knightsbridge. We could barely believe we were still in London as quiet descended and I enjoyed my vanilla flavoured Laduree macaron.
It really is incredible the things that you find out when you become a tourist in your own city and I have to give a huge thank you to our guide. Yannick really helped me open my eyes to the little details and spots of beauty around Belgravia; it was a marvellous day and one I’d really recommend, especially if you have a sweet tooth.
Yannick Pucci is an independent London tour guide and the founder of London Unravelled. He offers unique walking tours around unexpected areas of London. The macarons and mews tour offers a chance to explore hidden Knightsbridge and Belgravia with a sampling of 5 macarons. Tickets are priced at £20 and are available on Eventbrite