London and Greenwich
14.03.2020 - 15.03.2020 10 °C
After a rather late start on a dreary morning we ventured across the river to visit the HMAS Belfast that is moored on the River Thames. This was a working battleship of the Royal Navy, now a museum and we spent a couple of hours working our way through the ship, its holds and decks. The audio commentary that accompanies and explains the ship is from the perspective of the sailors who worked on the ship. It was interesting to see the living and working conditions along with the re-enactment of what it would have been like in the gun turret when firing on enemy ships - very cramped, noisy and lots of movement as the guns fired. We also visited the boiler and engine rooms which are four metres underneath the water line, using the ladders to traverse up and down the tight spaces, only one of us could be the sailor in the family.
On the way back to our apartment, we explored the area near St Katharine Docks, an area that was originally a site of a hospital and slums along with a dock. Today, it is a mix of housing and commercial buildings along with a yachting marina. Near the St Katharine Docks Pier, there is a small eat street foodies market on the weekend.
While we have avoided rail and bus public transport, we have used the Thames Clippers, similar to the Citycats but with an onboard cafe, including the sale of alcohol, and longer distances between stops. The Clippers run regularly and provide a great view of London by the river.
On the Clipper we headed East on the river to Greenwich with the view to explore the Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark is a historic sailing clipper ship and was one of the fastest ships of its time that carried tea from China and wool from Australia. We explored the ships decks that are mostly original with some restoration. The hull of the boat is on the lowest level and the Long John Silver display has numerous ship’s figureheads. Nannie, a Scottish witch, is the Cutty Sark’s figurehead. The Cutty Sark is one of three clippers with the original composition - wood hull over iron frame - left in the world. We were fortunate to see another one of these, the City of Adelaide at Port Adelaide, Australia though its condition is very, very poor in comparison to the Cutty Sark.
From the Cutty Sark we headed through the buildings and parks adjoining the Royal Naval Museums. Across the road there is The Queens House with free entry and art exhibitions within the various rooms. There is very little original remnants in the building given it has been used by Queens, members of the royal family, as a school and home for orphans and a museum. The building is the first classical one in England and its construction commenced in the 17th century. The Tulip stairs are a magnificent circular staircase and there is a lovely gilded greeting hall that shimmers in the light. The royal rooms now showcase fine art and we were fortunate to be able to see The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I. The program outlined this was the first time in history that the three portraits have been together on public display. There was also royal portraits on display including that of King Henry VIII. As we left the building and walked across its lawns we reflected on its history including that Anne Boleyn gave birth to Elizabeth 1 at this place.
Greenwich Park, is a lovely green space behind the Queens House. Even though it was drizzling and cold many people were out in the park exercising their dogs and having family time. It is through the Park that you walk up the hill to a look out over London, the Royal Observatory including the prime meridian, Greenwich mean time and the planetarium. We were late in the day so made do with peering through the gates at the meridian line and the mean time equipment within the gates. There is however, some lovely clocks and measures on the main wall outside of the observatory.
Walking through the streets of Greenwich, we passed some old pubs, buildings and traditional English houses. We found the Greenwich markets full of artisans and bought some local leather products and sweets before heading back to the river stop and back to Tower pier for the walk back to the apartment.