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Published: September 9th 2015
Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square
He can probably see the sea from there!
True to the forecast, the sun was shining. (Yesterday it did rain while we had lunch and while we were in the play, plus a few sprinkles after the play). Our plan was to take the river boat to Greenwich
, stopping off as we wished, and to ride the London Eye
. Although quite a ways, we decided to walk to the London Eye so we could enjoy the sites along the way.
Our first real stop was at Trafalgar Square
. Against the blue sky, Nelson
looked very impressive on his column. Checking our map several times, we found our way to what turned out to be a pedestrian bridge
at the end of North Cumberland Avenue, which led directly to the London Eye – a huge Ferris wheel with transparent pod-like “cabins”. After lining up to get tickets (£15.50 each) and lining up to get on, we stepped briskly onto a moving pod, ushered by attendants. Entry and exit work like a sideways escalator – the wheel never stops moving, about 1 mile per hour. Passengers can either sit on a couple of benches or stand up along the plexiglas (?) walls to see the view. Because the skies were clear and the
London from the Eye
Looking east into the far distance
sun shining, we could see a lot. Oddly though, the view is not as spectacular as from the Empire State Building, because essentially London is a relatively low-rise city. Still we saw Westminster
, Big Ben
, St. Paul’s
, Waterloo Station
(huge spread!) and other well known sites. There is no commentary, so there were probably many sites we did not recognize. In all, it was a wonderful experience, almost as much for the technology and innovation as for the view.
Next was the Thames Cruise
. After at first being rejected in our request for a discount with our coupon, we were finally directed to walk across the Westminster Bridge
to the Official Start. This was five minutes, plus a stop to buy a couple of (expensive!) sandwiches. A boat was just leaving.
On the boat a member of crew gave an unofficial commentary, with good humour and interesting stories. (He collected voluntary tips at the end.) Hearing the history of the several bridges and many buildings improved our understanding of what we saw. New to me was that the Waterloo Bridge
was built almost entirely by women during WWII while the men were at war. It is the longest bridge span in London and the
Tower Bridge Portland stone
Pandemonium on the boat!
facing cleans itself in the rain. Most fascinating was seeing the Traitor’s Gate
at Westminster and then at the Tower of London
. So many very famous people made that unfortunate trip. And in a few places were very old pubs still in operation. Between the Tower and Greenwich, the main point of interest is Canary Wharf
(named after the trade with the West Indies) and Isle of Dogs
(Henry VIII kept his hunting dogs there). This development was instigated by a Canadian who went bust because of his investments there (probably has millions again by now). It is filled with skyscrapers and big condo buildings and cranes in construction sites for more of each. The skyscrapers are relatively ordinary (tall, square, lots of glass), but the condo buildings are almost all really ugly – sharp edges, failed design, little grace – and very expensive.
Greenwich, on the other hand was very graceful in its buildings, although the pier was exceedingly utilitarian. We stopped at the local marketplace to have tea. Around what looked to be a very old square were small shops with a variety of tourist and baby goods. In fact we saw more small children in Greenwich than anywhere – we surmised
They said it would never work!
either it is a good place to raise children or families come to the big park. The park surrounds the Observatory
, a 10-15 minute walk up hill from town, along a wooded avenue.
The view from the top is astounding. Far below is the National Maritime Museum
, flanking the Queen’s House
, summer residence of the wife of Charles I
– all shining white in the afternoon sun. Across the Thames we could see St. Paul’s and Norman Foster
’s building (nicknamed The Gherkin
Inside the Observatory complex are excellent displays of historical clocks, including the winner of the historic £20,000 challenge
to design a clock with high accuracy that could work on a ship, to measure longitudes. (I saw a program on this some months ago.) Actually, we breezed by all these great achievements because our brains were too full already. We found the zero degree meridian, took our pictures standing one foot on east and one on west, and started making our way back to the boat. Given that it was after 4:00 and I estimated it would take 2 hours to return to our hotel, we abandoned the idea of stopping at the Tower of London.
It took 3 hours to return to our
Perfect view in the fading sunlight
hotel – we enjoyed all of it. The trip up river seemed more leisurely while the sun mellowed the views of London. At Westminster Bridge we had the most wonderfully lit views of the Parliament Buildings and Big Ben – warm colour with shining gilded highlights. Walking along the streets was electrifying with so many people on the move after work and before theatre. Whitehall
buildings were magnificent – many recently restored. Even walking steadily, recognizing most of our route, it took a full hour to reach our hotel. After a quick stop, we walked another few blocks to the Mabel Pub
(down the road). They were out of fish and chips, but I had chicken stuffed with leeks and tomatoes, and Deirdre had fish pie. Both delicious! We both had Bishop’s Finger
– a bitter ale.
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