London, United Kingdom
We’ve seen London from the street, we’ve seen London from the air (or at least the London Eye) – today it was time to see it from its former lifeline – the Thames.
We all caught the tube down to Embankment, walked across to the Westminster Pier, and jumped on a CityCruise boat, which goes up to Greenwich and back – we can hop on / hop off for the next 24 hours.
The commentary was interesting – though he did state up front that he was just a crew member and not any kind of official tour guide. Helpfully though he did seem to know where ever single pub within coo-ee of the Thames could be found.
We saw interesting sights and sites, old and new, such as The Mayflower pub which is (we were told) made up from timbers of the pilgrim ship The Mayflower after it was broken up. We saw the house where Dickens wrote two of his novels. We saw ‘Execution Wharf’ at Wapping, where those condemned to die were tied to it two tides so make sure they were quite dead. The tide rises about 20 feet so it’s pretty safe to say nobody would have survived. Just to be a bit more grisly, the last chap to be executed there had his body dipped in tar, and his body was left there in a cage for a good 20 years as a warning to any other would-be pirates of the times.
Also we were told that the word Wharf actually means ‘Ware House At River Front’ – but I take that with a grain of salt, as plausible as it may seem at first.
We passed under Tower Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, London Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge(s), saw old warehouses converted into flat that are up to and exceeding £5 for the ones that have views of Tower Bridge. I guess real estate here is just as crazy as Sydney if not moreso.
We took a wander around Greenwich, including some good exercise on the very steep walk up to the observatory, where the official ‘0 degree latitude’ marker is. So perhaps for the first occasion in my life I was literally ‘on time’ – Greenwich Mean Time, at least.
We had lunch (including possibly the best chocolate milkshake I have ever had in my life) at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, then caught the boat back to the Tower of London, where to save a little time we caught the tube back to the hotel. One thing about these tube stations – thank goodness they are very clearly signposted because they really a collection of mini underground labyrinths. Its understandable the tube network has been growing and changing for the past 150 years and then some – including consolidation from multiple companies in to the just one. Also many of the tube stations pre-date the invention of the escalator – so when that came along, replacing the station lifts in many cases, it led to lots of station entrances having to be completely moved… so there’s an awful lot of upstairs, downstairs, turn left turn right, go up this escalator, go down that one… to get to the line you’re meant to be on. As I said, thankfully it’s all very clearly signposted, otherwise it’d be close to impossible to figure out. Still, being a nerd, I still find it all pretty interesting – even the way that different lines have different size tunnels, and hence different sized trains – not like Sydney where everything’s the same.
On a whim after breakfast we bought tickets to Bend It Like Beckham – The Musical – which I didn’t think was playing yet when I first checked it out months ago – but, it sure is playing, so off we went. The cast were excellent, all very talented, but they were a bit let down by the songs. At the start I wondered if this was a bit of a high-school production, but it did lift pretty quickly. It was just most of the songs that let it down .. and when you’re presenting a musical, it’s a little bit important to get the songs right. Still, it wasn’t a waste of time by any means, it was worth seeing, it just feels like the music could do with a bit of work.
We caught up with Steve & Michael for a quick drink after they show – they went to see Wicked tonight. On Friday night, Soho is really pumping! IT’s a great atmosphere, and unusual to see everybody spilling out of pubs and drinking in the streets, with no drama, no trouble, no ****** idiots king-hitting people … very, very different from Sydney. It was pretty energising to see everyone actually able to enjoy themselves and having a happy Friday night. A tops way to end the evening!