Seventh Despatch - Greenwich

We have had requests for pictures of the infamous "Wellies". These boots which weigh almost 2kg, have already seen service. So far the only comment I can get from him is that they're easy to get on and off and are waterproof. And apparently comfortable, also. :)

A beautiful spring Sunday on a bank holiday weekend. Perhaps not the best day to go to beautiful Greenwich. Especially if you don't like crowds and waiting. Our visit to Greenwich started with our arrival at Embankment underground station, a walk to the river at Westminster and a long wait in line to buy tickets to the ferry. There followed a long wait for the ferry itself, while watching other ferries come and go and take off their lucky passengers.

The Greenwich ferry left from St Catherine's, not from Westminster we were told, so when the ferry finally came we were told to alight at St Catherine's and wait for the Greenwich ferry. So another wait in line, but at least Greenwich was that bit closer and we were at last on our way!

As we cruised along the Thames our ferry captain began his commentary. We're sure that his strong cockney accent must work a treat on the American tourists, but for us he sounded like a villain from The Bill. And his commentary included lots of well rehearsed and frankly slightly tired jokes. See what you think: "Here we see the Tate Modern Art Gallery, now if you want to see unmade beds and piles of rubbish, save yourself the entrance fee and come to my place". While we're on the topic of the Tate Modern, here is the disused power station in which it is housed.

As we passed the old School of London building, which features statues of four former pupils between the arched windows, our captain identified them as Milton, Bacon, Newton and Beckham. Beckham being the statue holding the "football".

And he continued with the joke, "but of course we all know that it's not Beckham, Beckham didn't go to school".

The statue is of course of Shakespeare holding a globe, representing the Globe Theatre.

On arrival at St Catherine's we all disembark, only to be told that there is only space for 25 passengers on the Greenwich ferry which is waiting there and there were at least 55 of us. In view of the wait we had already had, it was suggested that we return to our ferry and return to Westminster and join the next ferry to Greenwich there. So back we go to our starting point, we figured that it's not such a hardship to be cruising up and down the Thames on a lovely spring day.

On board the new ferry now and to our horror, we hear the PA crackling to life ... NOooooo we think, please no more corny commentary, as the captain begins his cockney guide to the buildings lining the river. Here are some of the sights we saw including some old original pubs, the City of London building, HMS Belfast, now a museum, and the building with the bulge:

And finally some three hours later we arrive at Greenwich. There is a flea market being held near the river and it's so crowded that, you may be surprised, we choose to follow the signs to the National Maritime Museum instead. Through the grounds of the old Royal Naval College, still following the signs to the Museum, we come to the end of the park-like grounds and see people eating and drinking outside a pub. This reminds us that we hadn't had lunch yet. So we walked a little further and ate at an old pub, the Yacht, with windows opening onto the river. It was lovely to eat by the riverside watching the various boats slipping by. As we leave we ask our waitress how to get to the Maritime Museum, only to be told walk back this way ... you can't miss it ... To which we replied in unison: Oh yes we can!! Apparently we had walked past it.

As we retraced our steps we notice again the many barriers up at various places, lots of security people, cranes, old carriages etc. Apparently they were filming the next Harry Potter film there. Luckily for us they were only filming overnight, so we were free to wander around the area. Perhaps you will see this wall when you see the new Harry Potter film:

Or some of these buildings:

We passed again the Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor designed Hospital. Originally a home for old navy seaman, in 1869 it became the Royal Naval College and today is part of the University of Greenwich. This area of Greenwich is World heritage listed because of its collection of intact Baroque buildings.

Still heading back towards the Maritime Museum we detoured to see the Chapel and dining room of the Naval College. As you can see the Chapel is highly decorated.

But the dining room is magnificent. The painting on the ceiling is an allegory that proclaims the virtues of Britain's Constitutional monarchy and how Britain's sea power provides riches which flow through to the people and the King is on his throne, Blessed by God. The painting is by James Thornhill, took 11 years to complete, and he was paid the enormous sum of 6,685 pounds and awarded a knighthood for his efforts. When finished in 1725, it became an instant tourist attraction, with visitors paying a small fee to enter.

In the photos below you can see the dining room, and below two photos of several mirrors, designed to assist appreciation of the beautiful ceiling. The mirrors are set into the top of trolleys which can be moved around. They are also slightly magnified, therefore one can see details of the ceiling painting in greater detail in the mirrors. And all without straining one's neck. How very civilised :)

At last we made it to the National Maritime Museum. Unfortunately, the Museum was on bank hours, and closed at 5.00 pm, regardless of the sunny skies outside and the many, many visitors still wandering the galleries. That left us with barely an hour and so much to see. We did see the uniform Nelson was wearing when he died at Trafalgar, his blood still evident. A bit gruesome. We had time only to visit a couple of galleries, very quickly. They started announcing the closure of the museum from 4.20 and at 10 minute intervals; that really puts a skip into your step to see as much as you can, but only fleetingly. Apparently the museum's collection features over two million items; I think we'll have to return another time to see the rest.

We made our way slowly back towards the river. It was a beautiful, balmy afternoon, and although many people slept on the return journey, we once again enjoyed London by the river.


Comment from: karen [Member] Email
karenWe're a contrary bunch aren't we - lovely lovely photos of all the things you saw, and all we want to see is the Wellies!

Thanks for posting these reports Fiona - they are fantastic.
22/06/09 @ 09:56
Comment from: Fiona [Member] Email
FionaYes you are a contrary bunch! Still only a couple of despatches and we'll be back home again. So to speak.

22/06/09 @ 15:20

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