Friday, 11 July 2008

Tourist Walk In London 4

Having visited the Guards Museum I continued along Birdcage Walk which runs parallel to St James’s Park. Walking close by the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, past Parliament Square, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and made my way towards the Westminster Pier. I bought a sandwich and a drink and joined the short queue for tickets at the City Cruises kiosk. Although I have previously done the Westminster to Tower Bridge leg of the River Thames tour, I had decided after a lot of walking and sightseeing it would be fun to go all the way down to Greenwich and back again.

On City Cruise boats, the live commentary is done by a crew member. These are not trained tour guides and they do not have a set script but on this particular day, the guy whose name I forget, was excellent. His commentary was informative and funny but, sadly, some of his jokes went over the head of the largely non-English speaking tourists. Although I am now pretty familiar with this stretch of the river I found out some new and interesting facts along the way. For instance, I didn’t know that Waterloo Bridge is also known as “Ladies Bridge” as it was built primarily by women during the Second World War; the rise and fall of the Thames can be as great as 25 feet; the stunning blue glass building on the north side of the river is home to the Shanghai Bank (above right); Somerset House, once the records office (Hatch ‘em, match ‘em, despatch ‘em!), is now home to the Courtauld Art Gallery and an ice rink in winter; the original Billingsgate Fish Market building (above left) has wonderfully quirky weather veins shaped like fish!

I love these little snippets of information about places and sights we often take for granted in London. The River Thames remains a hive of activity and each building on the banks, be it old or new, has a tale to tell or a unique point of interest. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised quite how long it would take to Greenwich and back to Westminster (the full round trip takes approximately 3 hours) and, knowing I was meeting a friend in St James’s Park at 6pm, I hopped off at the Tower of London in a slight panic. Greenwich would have to wait for another day. I joined another boat, with a different crew member commentating in a completely different style but equally entertaining and enlightening.

On arrival at Westminster Pier I walked back towards St James’s Park for my rendezvous at “Inn The Park”. This wonderful restaurant in the heart of the park is a beautiful place to enjoy a drink on a summers evening in London. Surrounded by flora and fauna and overlooking the lake, it is a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of London. This would have been the perfect way to end my day of walking and sightseeing in London but I had just one more walk to complete my typical tourist trail before going home.

City Cruises run between Westminster Pier and Greenwich Pier seven days a week. The first boat from Westminster to Tower Pier and Greenwich is at 9.40am. The last boat departs Waterloo for Tower Pier at 9pm.
River Red Rover ticket enables you to hop on and hop off at any stop throughout the day
Adult: £10.50

London Pass holders are entitled to a free River Red Rover Ticket without further payment.

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