Thames River cruise, London

Thames river cruise

Slow boat to Westminster

The Greenwich area is nice to visit, not just because of the museums but also in regards to the mode of transport one can use to travel to and from Greenwich. I caught the DLR train to Greenwich and decided to take one of the Thames boats away from Greenwich to Westminster pier. It’s a really lovely way to cruise along the river, seeing the landmarks in a relaxed fashion. The day was overcast and cool by the late afternoon but the trip was still enjoyable.

The Isle of Dogs, it used to be the large dock area, now redeveloped with apartments and the Canary Wharf skyscraper area. It's not actually an island, just a large bend in the river so there is water on 3 sides.

There are various boats that leave from Greenwich, including one that is free if you have a London Pass. A quick aside in regards to the London Pass, I used one a few years back and would agree they are good value, provided you take some things into consideration. First to get the best value from the pass, you need to plan your sightseeing with military precision! Work out what attractions that the pass covers are close by and plan in which order to visit. Be realistic, the pass gives you entry into Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace. Sounds great but Windsor Castle is a 45 minute train ride from central London, it’s really a day trip, Hampton Court is not quite as far out but also not in central London. Travel times between attractions have to be factored in as well as how many palaces do you really want to see? The Tower is interesting as well,  but it’s not a quick hour visit and then move onto the next attraction. Price what you want to see individually and then look at the London Pass options, as in 1 day Pass, 3 day Pass to see what is the better value. Don’t exhaust yourself visiting everything, you won’t enjoy it. Select a few places that you really want to see and spend a leisurely amount of time there rather than trying to fit as many attractions in a day as possible. Keep in mind too that museums and art galleries in London are free so visiting some free attractions is a good way to make your sightseeing budget stretch further.

Now back to the river cruise, I didn’t have a London pass so paid the regular fare, it’s quite a slow trip up The Thames and we arrived an hour later at Westminster.

The boat made a stop at Tower, the pier next to the Tower of London. That's the White Tower in the centre, the oldest part of the Tower and where the crown jewels are kept. (The tide was out so the banks of the river are clearly seen)

The Globe Theatre, it is a recreation as the original one burnt down in the 17th century. Well worth visiting and even seeing a performance of a Shakespearean play. It's open air with a standing area in front of the stage, performances don't get cancelled if it rains, and no umbrellas allowed! There are seated sections under the roof, just further from the stage.
Another stop, St Katherine's docks with one of my favourite modern buildings in the background. The 'gerhkin'!

Another favoured modern building, The Shard.

Nineteenth century architecture, alongside twenty-first century architecture. The Shard and Tower Bridge.

Cleopatra's Needle

I have a nostalgic soft spot for Cleopatra's Needle. It was the first tourist attraction I ever saw on my first trip to London. It's just near Embankment station, which was where the trains from Gravesend would (still?) arrive into London. For my first trip to the UK I had gone to stay with a friend of mine who was working in the UK for a year. I stayed in Gravesend, whose claim to fame as I discovered was that it was the burial place of Pocahontas. I came across her statue down by a river park, she died on a boat that was moored at the docks there and was buried in the town.

So back to Cleopatra's Needle, first trip to London, walked out of the train station with my friend who was playing tour guide and as we walked along the river we immediately came across Cleopatra's Needle. I had my first "I'm in London" photo taken alongside one of the lions.

Three 'needles' were removed from Egypt, the most well known to me at least is the one in Place de la Concorde in Paris. Researching Cleopatra's Needle the other day I discovered that it has a 'twin' which is in Central Park in New York. The Paris needle's 'twin' is still in Egypt, these needles were placed at temple entrances.

Heading into Westminster pier, the Palace at Westminster (British parliament building) and 'Big Ben' really the tower that houses Big Ben the bell. A good view, once you get very close, the area around, including the bridge, is full of people taking photos of themselves with Big Ben!