LONDON – He has given tours to world-class athletes, gotten a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth and met Princess Diana. For Sean Kelleher, however, the best part of his job as a registered Blue Badge tourist guide is leading visitors and locals on a discovery through London’s best places to see.
“There are big chunks of London you’ll never go to. There are always new places to see,” Kelleher said.
Like Olympic Park.
Since London’s successful bid for the Olympics in 2005, there have been additions to the city tour, including an extensive one around Olympic Park.
Kelleher was skeptical at first about including Olympic Park on the Essential London list.
“It was a building site. How do you make a building site interesting?” he said.
The tours proved to be so popular, however, that Kelleher is often asked to make the trip to east London on his tours.
“I was doing a tour this morning for the company who fitted all the gymnasium equipment into the Olympic Village,” he said.
A Blue Badge tour around the Olympic facilities includes a walk by the velodrome, aquatic center, international broadcast center, handball arena and other essential sights that can lead to a sighting of an Olympian or two.
The tours are also helpful for U.K. residents who have not had a chance to see the transformation from a rundown part of east London to a sparkling collection of Olympic-sized buildings and arenas.
“Tours of the Olympic Park have alerted not just overseas visitors but the British public to the fact that they can discover parts about their own city that they’ve never discovered before,” Kelleher said.
Kelleher and his fellow Blue Badge tourist guides have given daily walking tours around London since 1950. Essential London tours are available every day starting in Piccadilly Circus at 10 a.m. The tours cost about $14 for adults and $9 for seniors, students and children.
Hot spots have included must-see tourist destinations such as Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the Tower of London. Kelleher also recommends visiting places such as the British Museum and the Museum of London. Neither charges for admission.
“Spend as long or short as you want,” he said.
Even though Kelleher has guided tours every day for years and advised many high-profile guests, he still gets star-struck.
“Victoria Beckham was visiting the Tower of London with the Beckham boys yesterday. They came racing past us in the Crown Jewels!” Kelleher said.