Sometimes a name says it all.
In online chatter about fun London tours, an irreverent walking tour kept showing up with the apt name, Bullshit London. I chuckled when I heard about it, and mentally added it to my list of things to someday do. As those lists tend to go, time flew by and I never made it to the walking tour that wields curse words and claims to offer an experience of London where the ‘landmarks are real but the facts are not.’
I also avoided sending unsuspecting visitors in the direction of Bullshit London, not knowing just how much would be fictionalized, and if such a walking tour would be worth it on a short holiday. Can you imagine coming home after your vacation having only incorrect historical stories flooding your mind?
The tour lingered on my mental list of things to check out, and I cheekily added it to my London Summer Bucket List. With a friend coming to town, I thought a lovely way to spend a Thursday evening would be on the Southbank ‘Tourist Trap’ tour.
The Bullshit London website makes it clear – arrive at St. Paul’s Cathedral at the dedicated time, and we promise, you will know the tour guide the minute you see him. Reuben sparkled in the evening sun, and our group of ten set off for a lively walk along the Thames.
Red sequins, for the win.
Reuben was hilarious, and quickly established camaraderie among the group, assigning one person as the designated cross walk watcher and another participant as the one to ‘shush’ anyone who was talking too much.
The major features of the evening were frequent ridiculous stories, peppered with group participation in the form of miming a joust, holding hands in a circle, and making up a blues song on the fly, one person at a time.
I particularly enjoyed wandering down lesser known streets, those not covered by other fun London tours. Gabriel’s Wharf, in Southbank, is adorable, and I had no idea it was there, tucked behind the Thames path. I am excited to go back to see it again properly, next time without the guy in the sequins nearby.
Additionally, while we began and ended the tour at major tourist attractions, most of Southbank is relatively local in flavour. We stopped for bits of made-up stories in front of Blackfriars train station, a boat shell now home to a bunch of seagulls and a bridge under construction. It’s definitely not the side of London that most visitors see.
On the other hand, given the fact that most of the stories are completely fabricated by Reuben himself, I’m not sure why a visitor would take this tour versus the many other completely factual and fun London tours available. Many of the jokes are in-jokes, like when we walked by the headquarters of BT and Reuben commented on the terrible customer service, which is only funny if you’ve suffered for ages on hold with BT.
Reuben did mention that parts of his stories are true, so I spent way too much time wondering which parts were true and false and in between. He would begin a tale innocently enough, and it would sound true, and then he would spin off into some incredibly wild riff and I would be left both lost and confused.
Eventually, I found that the entire walk was more enjoyable if I just let it all wash over me. It was a beautiful evening, and the Thursday night drinking crowds were out in full force. I laughed along with the stories, did my best to hold hands and not feel self-conscious, and just played along and enjoyed the show.
Better to think of it not as a walking tour of a city, but rather as a mobile, interactive, comedy show.
If you are someone who is particularly uncomfortable with this type of singling out, be warned. Reuben doesn’t shield anyone from his play, approaching strangers in parks for a hug or on a bridge for a photo. And people seemed to love that sequined coat. Seriously, he got so many smiles and comments as we walked by, the guy was a one-man party for everyone in his path. At the end of our tour, a few people randomly joined our circle, asking Reuben to start over, now in Spanish. It made for a fun few minutes as he said every Spanish word he knows.
Bullshit London is a fun night out and a good value. £10 gets you a unique view of the city with a fun group of people and the company of Reuben who is worth the price of admission.