Shipshape and frugalish in Greenwich

Today was a river adventure day. We meant to leave early but, hay ho, it just didn’t happen and anyway, we’re on holidays. 

We caught the Thames River Clipper from Westminster pier. 

£12 each for a one way trip. There are ways of getting cheaper tickets but I didn’t have access to a printer to print tickets ordered online. The guide book said it takes an hour to get to Greenwich. No way did it take that long. Don’t ask me how long. We’re on holidays, remember!

Great way to view the sites along the river:

And interesting architecture:

The trip in itself was a great activity. At first the weather looked ominous – it rained while we were on the ferry. Luckily the rain held off in Greenwich. We had mist – which added to the dreamlike bucolic feel and we had sun. Yes, four seasons in a day. (OK, that was NZ but true here too.)

It’s easy to follow the crowds and hand over money to “see the sights”. But it is just as easy to do things a little differently. We walked around the Cutty Sark, the 19th century clipper in dry dock, and then went in the gift shop for a look. From the gift shop you can clearly see the hull. OK, if you have kids they may want to go up on deck but really why pay £12+? We saw enough. And with all the things to see, you have to ration time and mental energy – there’s simply too much to take in!

Next stop on our day out was St Alfege’s church. The interior was magnificent. When it was built in the early 1700s, its centre space was the largest unsupported ceiling in Europe. St Alfege’s story is quite exciting. Worth Goggling but in short he was an Archbishop of Canterbury captured by the Danes who tortured and killed him. The church was built on the site of his martyrdom. (No photos – it’s a church.)

We then made our way up the hill, past Georgian houses. Photos can’t, well my photos can’t, capture the grandeur of the street scape. (I’m playing with the black and white schemes on my iPhone. Sorry!)

Through the park with a few joggers, couples walking their dogs, squirrels scampering, dogs chasing squirrels up trees, little children on scooters. Up to the Ranger’s House – an impressive pile for a ranger! Through the rose garden that would be simply gorgeous in flower. Across to the Pavillion where we had a pot of tea. (Don’t bother with the cakes. Strangely enough, I haven’t had a decent slice of cake since I’ve been here. But that’s beside the point and for another post.)

A quick dash around the park to take in the beauty of the trees and see Queen Elizabeth I’s oak tree. (Mmm! It’s not standing so does it count?) and the Roman ruins. (Mmm! They’re underground but a sign tells you the TV show with Baldrick, or whatever his real name is, dug there.) Still, the park is gorgeous; as are the trees. 

Then across to the Royal Observatory. The view down to the river is majestic. We stood next to Wolfe, commemorating his victory against the French in Quebec. (Might mean something to you, Dar?) He certainly has a prime view. He died in the battle but it wasn’t the only shells he faced. His statue bears the scars from shrapnel from WWII. (He was a local and is buried in St Alfege’s church.) Here’s his view. Love the mist over the Docklands development. And all that open grass! It is wonderful that they have not let any development on it. 

We didn’t go in the Royal Observatory. And parted with no cash. If you want to take a photo of yourself standing across the zero meridian, which let’s face it is what most people want to do, go through the black gates on the side and there’s a brass line marking the meridian. Here’s me straddling the line:

And Mr S looking due north. (With the nappy bag you may remember I bought by mistake as a travelling bag?)

Down the hill to the Queen’s House. It’s free but we didn’t go in – not really being in the mood for art work. 

Across to the Maritime Museum. Free again. Go in! We did and spent an hour or so. You cannot miss the Trafalgar display. (This is where our frugality went. Mr S bought a heap of mementos – clobber with science-y things on them. It is Greenwich Mean Time after all.)

But wait. There’s more!

You HAVE to go across to the Royal Naval College (now a uni) and see the Painted Hall. More than impressive. Great art as propaganda. The “English” King William the Orange (English in inverted commas because he came from Holland) stamping on the head of French king.  

Have we finished? No way. I told you there is so much to take in. 

A memorial to the Maori Wars. Now there’s a conflict that doesn’t get much type space outside of NZ. Here’s a close up. 

Then we went down the Victorian tunnel that goes under the Thames. Ow, quite thrilling and creepy. 

The river’s leaking in on us:

And coming up to the other side, the walls need reinforcement. Mr S surmised that it might be because the ground was too sandy to support the structure or some such science-y explanation. Still, even more creepy. A quick Wikipeadia search says it is repairs from WWII bomb damage. (Mr S says he is happy to be wrong.) 

Up the stairs, or take the lift if you’re exhausted from all this walking. Not me! Well, not yet. The Victorian domed entrance on the northern side:

A walk through a park, filled with “normal” people, not tourists. Passed streets full of normal homes, with quite un-normal names – Thermopylae, anyone? 

Do we want to walk further to see the new Docklands development? Actually, now we have had enough and it is time to go home for a decent cup of tea. 

So we hop on the Docklands Light Rail. Up the front to see the driverless train moving. I know I am a whimp but it was rather thrilling; in parts like being on a roller coaster and in others, when it decends the Underground, like a ghost train. Hurtling forward in the dark with no lights. Doesn’t need one, innit! No driver! (Do you like how I slipped in a local tag question, innit, after mixing with the locals?)

Anyway, do it. Hop on the DLR. As a tourist it was fun. Touring passed the a Docklands development. Better than doing the river ferry both ways. 

All in all, a great adventure with so much to take in. And quite a cheap day out. 



10 thoughts on “Shipshape and frugalish in Greenwich

  1. Great day out. Will be in London in September, so following along and making notes. London can be expensive, but there are still lots of things to do for free.

  2. We really wanted to do the Maritime Museum and Observatory but missed out on our last trip – there was only so much we could fit in during the 3 days we had. So loving reading your trip notes and living it vicariously! Taking notes for “next time…”

    We did so much walking in London but I do love the theme of viewing / travelling around a city on water.

    The history at every turn is just gorgeous. I need to go back and do a proper ‘France vs England’ tour of London, by the sound of your notes. I can’t wait to look up those events in more detail.

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!!!!

    • Three weeks in London is not enough. Running out of time! And there’s so much more I want to do and see. But you can’t do museums back to back. Just can’t take it in. And becomes a blur. So we will have to return too.

  3. Loved vicariously enjoying your frugalish day. Am concerned about the unacceptable cake standard. Surely Britain is the baking bastion of the Good Plain Cake? It seems wrong..

    • I will post on cake. Suffice to say I haven’t been as impressed as I hoped. And I watch The Great British Bake Off. Maybe I am spoilt with a German mother and aunt? I didn’t like the phase in Australia of mud cakes nor tthe popularity of those Michele type cakes with too much cream. I like cakey cake. Fresh, soft, moist.

  4. I get sensory overload from too many museums too! Our last trip, we went to Greenwich as well, and loved the view from the Observatory, but the museum itself was disappointing. You didn’t miss anything there. I loved the Docklands Light Rail and walking around that area and the Museum of London/Docklands. Have to admit we passed on the Cutty Sark too. Lots of ships in port in Halifax all the time, including visiting tall ships. You’ve given me lots of ideas for next time, but I’ll be sure to have high tea at the Fan Museum (Greenwich park area).

    • We walked passed the fan museum but didn’t go in. It did look closed being off season but still it wasn’t on my to do list. Parts of the Maritime Museum were disappointing. The way they glossed over the Opium Wars. I find the current fashion of museums a bit simplistic. Design over artefacts. And simplifying the info for the audience. If time was of the essence I would say see the Painted Hall and the Trafalgar display in the Maritime Museum. And tea in the fan museum.

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