Anglotopia Day 21 – A boat cruise to Greenwich
One reason for my choosing the Big Bus 48-hour ticket was not only access to the bus lines for two days, night tour, and walking tour – but also a boat ride down the tidal Thames River to Greenwich.
To be fair, most people might skip Greenwich if they’re on a week holiday in the city, but I don’t think it should be missed. Greenwich was absolutely brilliant. Not only were the parks beautiful and made for a great walk, but the Royal Observatory, the maritime history, and the markets all combined to make me love it.
First off, the boat ride was fun – and super-informative. I scored a seat on the upper deck, and since it was the nice sort of half-sunny, half-cloudy day, it was perfect to see all the buildings, bridges, and famous architecture along the arterial river. It reminded me of reading Rutherford’s London tome, as massive as it was.
It took roughly forty-five minutes to travel downriver on a low tide to Greenwich, but everything was accessible by walking within about twenty-five minutes, the Royal Observatory being as far as I planned on walking. Signs directed me along, through the gorgeous green park, thick with bursting trees, onto the unmistakable sight of the red ball atop the observatory. It normally would drop at 1 PM, a signal to the incoming ships what time it was.
So, I am a humanities teacher (new IB speak: Individuals & Societies), and one of my units is geography. You might see where I’m going with this and why I’d be particularly interested in Greenwich, besides learning to say “gren-itch” and not the very unwieldy, novice spellcasting “green-witch”. Yes, I wanted to stand on the Prime Meridian line and take pictures of myself doing this for my students. In fact, I was pretty excited to be able to show them pictures of it when we started classes this year. At last, as grade 6s, they seemed to share my enthusiasm – a bit.
I explored how the idea of the Prime Meridian came about – a very complicated procedure that involved instruments like sextants and other rude sounding things – and all the many ticking clocks in the exhibits. The telescopes – some of which have discovered great and wonderful things in our universe – were on display, and they were absolutely massive.
Perhaps one of the best views of London was from the parkland right in front of the observatory toward the Old Royal Naval College and River Thames. If the weather is clear, the main skyscrapers and London Eye are easily seen. I loved the quiet park with sun-loungers and picnickers and sporting folks. The day was blue, the grass green – it was the epitome of summer.
I walked back through Greenwich Park toward the main centre of Greenwich, but first, I stopped by the fragrant rose gardens to marvel at the perfect blooms on display. It was the best time to visit England to see how gorgeous the roses could be.
In Greenwich, there is the awesome Cutty Sark, a super-fast (well, at the time, anyway) tea clipper ship that traveled up, down, and all over the world. Also, the Royal Maritime Museum is meant to be quite interesting as well, though I missed the opening times because I was hankering for dinner. I ended up eating at an old meat pie shop before visiting the Greenwich Market as it was beginning to close up for the day.
The boat now puttered along the Thames back to Westminster on a high tide – and the difference in proximity to the main bridges was astounding. Before, on low tide, we were quite far below the Tower Bridge – and now, it seemed like we would barely make it under the bridge. The Waterloo Bridge – built by women during WWII whilst they were bombarded by enemy fire – just scooted by overhead.
Just around the River Thames …
A quiet, chilly walk along the Thames, spying the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey nearby, was in order before heading back to Pimlico. The massive WWII memorial along the river was enough to make me stop and look at it in great detail, and I admired the work and history it told – sometimes a not-so-glorious one of gas masks, death, and worry with a large splash of victory thrown in.
Soft lights framed the water’s fences, and, from the grass, fireflies began to emerge and shine.
Perfect, I thought. Absolutely.