The eagle-eyed and interested may have noticed a lack of update last night about my third day in London.
There was a very good reason for this – I’d spent the afternoon in Battersea catching up with an old friend and there may have been a couple of bottles of wine involved. I still managed to make it to the Ambassadors Theatre for a performance of “The Shark is Broken” – the true story of the making of “Jaws”. The title may have been the strongest element of the play but it was OK.
Yesterday’s top discovery was the River Roamer ticket at £20.40 which allowed me to cruise up and down the Thames to a variety of appointments. At this point of the Pandemic, with case rates still climbing (though vaccination is clearly making a difference) I am reluctant to use the Underground (even though I think it is fantastic).
I embarked at Tower Wharf after taking a couple of shots of the sun rising about Tower Bridge and headed West down the Thames to Greenwich. I hadn’t been there since the Millennium so a visit seemed overdue.
On arrival, it feels almost as if you have left London. There’s been a settlement here since the 900s and Royalty have had an eye on the place since the Crown seized the lands from Bishop Odo of Bayeux in 1082. A royal palace or lodge has been in Greenwich since before 1300.
It became the principal residence of Henry VII and both of his sons, Arthur and Henry VIII were born here. Henry married two of his wives here, Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves; his daughters Mary and Elizabeth were born here; while his son Edward VI died here when he was 16.
During the Stuart period and the English Civil War, the palace’s fortunes were more mixed with the building serving as a biscuit factory and a prisoner of war camp. Charles II redesigned and replanted Greenwich Park; and also founded and built the Royal Observatory. James II proposed the creation of a naval hospital and it was his daughter Mary II who commissioned Christopher Wren to design the Royal Hospital for Seamen. The naval elements continued to be developed throughout the Hanoverian era.
Queen Victoria mostly ignored it and it was only during the 20th century that Greenwich’s naval legacy continued to be developed.
But the other thing that the town is famous for is its contribution to navigation and various signs tout it as being the Home of World Time – a lofty claim… except the Meridian Line (which there had been some wrangling over in 1884 because Paris also laid claim) is out, by about 100m. Considering it was calculated without the aid of satellites, that doesn’t seem too bad as long as accuracy for global navigation and oh, WORLD TIME isn’t a big deal. The actual Meridian is a little to the West running through the trees.
It’s a beautiful spot to visit and has some of the best views across London.
From here, it was back on the boat with a quick detour down river to see the O2 Arena (formerly known as the Millennium Dome) before sailing up river to Vauxhall to visit my friend. On sunny days, I can’t think of a better way to travel through the city.
And today? A restorative breakfast was called for so I headed to the DarwinBrasserie in the
Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie-Talkie Building. If ever there was a need for a picture to provide the definition of “Breakfast with a View” this was it. At 36 floors up, the views (even on a murky day) are astonishing.
The maitre’d showed me to my table explaining that this was the first time, in fourteen months that the Brasserie had been open for breakfast. In the post-Lockdown reopening, they had focused on lunch and dinner and she was feeling excited about this return to more usual service.
After breakfast I wandered about the Sky Garden. You don’t have to go to the Brasserie to visit the garden but, as life returns to normality, it’s the quickest way to avoid queuing to get in. For now, access to the Sky Garden is free of charge on weekdays 10am-6pm and weekends 11am-9pm but you need to book a timed entry ticket to enable them to manage the numbers of visitors for social distancing. You can book up to three weeks in advance (though just having a look today, there doesn’t appear to be be much availability and I only reserved breakfast for today four days ago).
Back at ground level, the rain was definitely settling in and I had a train to catch.