Cruising London: Photo tour

Last Saturday I spent a leisurely three hours on the Museum of London‘s Frost Fairs cruise along the River Thames.

Frost Fairs are a rare occurrence in the pages of London’s history. They were held when a combination of winter-y elements meant that the River Thames froze over and created a lot of excitement for Londoners. Our Museum of London host told us that the earliest Frost Fair was likely to have occurred in 1114-1115 between Westminster and London Bridges when all sorts of activities  – shopping, drinking and eating, and games like skittles and ice-skating – were at the disposal of those who dared to venture out onto the river’s icy surface.

But it was a double-edged sword as while many entrepreneurs and well-to-do celebrated this rarity, a third of Londoners depended on the river for their livelihood and so were left destitute when they could no longer ply their many trades.

The last Frost Fair occurred in 1814-1815: Once the old London Bridge was demolished and the new bridge – constructed by John Rennie and opening in 1831 – was in place, a more free-flowing river was created, giving little opportunity for ice to “dam up”.

London Bridge (640x333)

Cruising under Rennie’s London Bridge

So last weekend I made my way along the embankment to Westminster Pier, boarded the Pride of London and took my place on the upper deck. It was one of those grey London days – not as pretty as a crisp blue-sky day but it did lend something quite atmospheric to the usual view. Here’s a little photo tour of my time on board.

Big Ben vs Boudicca

Boudicca vs Big Ben – looking up from Westminster Pier gives you this great perspective.

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Blackfriars Bridge – trains stopping at Blackfriars Station actually stop on the bridge.

Tower Bridge (360x640)

No Thames cruise photo tour would be complete without a shot of Tower Bridge

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I loved this row of old bankside houses – the two building to the left of the row stand like sentries at the entrance to one of the many channels that branch off the river.

O2 Arena (640x360)

The cruise took us all way downstream to the Isle of Dogs and the Greenwich Peninsula, the latter being home to the Millenium Dome (or as it’s now known, the O2 Arena). It does look like some sort of alien ship has landed.

Greenwich 1

This is the Royal Naval College in Greenwich – you can see the Royal Observatory in the background (which by the way is a great place to visit.)

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And this is the famous Cutty Sark, just a hop step and jump away from the Naval College

Along the route back, the daylight had started to fade and I spent most of the time just watching the bank glide by, the wake from the various river craft creating foamy ripples along the shore. Before long, we were cruising past the modern shapes of London’s City Hall and The Shard…

City Hall etc (640x359)

London’s City Hall is the curved building on the left and look how the tiny white-lit Christmas tree mirrors The Shard that overshadows it.

…and London’s lights glowed in the dusk as we continued to cruise back towards Westminster.

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Southwark Bridge

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The London Eye

Victoria Tower, Westminste Palace (640x360)

Passing under Westminster Bridge gave me this atmospheric view of the Houses of Parliament’s Victoria Tower

Soon it was a quick under and back again with Westminster Bridge, a gentle drift towards Westminster Pier and with my head full of what I’d seen and heard, I disembarked and headed home.

I am a big fan of the events put on by the Museum of London and this was such a great way to spend a few grey and blustery hours on a Saturday afternoon. So I hope you enjoyed this little photo tour a fraction as much as I enjoyed for real.

A skip in my step

So the great Chicky Adventure is done and my sibling partner in crime has arrived back on the other side of the world (and is working through her jet lag by all accounts).

It was such an amazing two weeks – firstly for the unadulterated ‘just us’ time, secondly for the opportunity for me to introduce her to this amazing city I call home, and thirdly for our shared pilgrimage to Amsterdam, Dad’s childhood home, and the delicacies we enjoyed in memory of our Oma and Opa.

I’ve been meaning to pick up the blogging ‘pencil’ again over the last few days but I have felt so full of everything we did that I haven’t known where to start. The anticipation of Lil Chicky’s first trip here. The pride in the sharing of my new hometown and experiencing its fabulous-ness through her ‘new’ eyes. The privilege of helping her celebrate her 40th birthday. The sheer intensity of spending 2 weeks – 24/7 – together for the first time since…well forever.

All underpinned by a lifetime of sisterly memories, the effortless and uncomplicated recall of funny stories, childhood scrapes and sibling rivalry, and squillions of photos…

…including a few selfies.

DAY 2: Fab Finchley – looking for coffee in the pouring rain. 

DAY 3: Can’t go to London without visiting the Queen. 

DAY 4: Hamers do ‘the henge’ (squeezed between visits to Salisbury and Bath). Technically not a selfie thanks to a kind Aussie chap on the tour, but close enough.

There’s a small selfie gap here while we undertook birthday celebrations (part one – The Mousetrap and dinner in Covent Garden – and two – Pret-a-Portea at The Berkeley)…

DAY 5: Fashionista food at the Berkeley

…Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Globe Theatre and a visit to Carnaby Street.

DAY 6: Yes, we bought these. Because we had to get out of the rain. And the Irregular Choice shop was just there. Really.

Then we went to Amsterdam…

DAY 9: Arriving at Amsterdam’s Central Station about 2 minutes before torrential rain…

Waiting for our first poffertjes (teeny tiny pancakes served with butter and icing sugar and eaten with a toothpick) of the pigrimage trip in Dam Square.

(More on Amsterdam in a later post).

After 4 days, we returned to London, hired a car and drove first to Silverstone and then to Donington Circuits to tick a few things off Lil Chicky’s motorsport bucket list. Looks like Day 13 was a lucky one…

The Winners’ Podium at Silverstone – cheesy but had to be done.

We decided to take Day 14 easy with a visit to the Museum of London after the ‘wild storm‘ had abated…and when Day 15 dawned bright and blue-skied (if a little chilly), there was just one thing left to do…

DAY 15: It endeth on The Eye – our last sibling selfie of the trip.

Full of our time together and tired from our two weeks of tourist-ing, we said our emotional good-byes at Heathrow last Tuesday. After I’d waved until she’d disappeared behind the security barrier, I made the long trip home to Gidday HQ. It’s still my warm and cosy haven but a little quieter. And yellow banner of the Money Shop, which became our welcoming ‘nearly home’ beacon as we turned into my street each night, has now taken on a new and poignant significance. Another memory, meaningless to anyone else but enough to inspire a skip in my step…

…one that only Lil Chicky will understand.

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous…

A significant part of squiring said Mother and partner around town is weaving an interesting (and largely unplanned) trail of meals and snacks.  Last Sunday we were off to tackle tourist things again and after another excellent trip on the London Eye (my 4th), we were somewhat stymied in our plans to visit Westminster Abbey and St Pauls Cathedral (apparently they do services, being Sunday and all, and out of respect, rubber-neckers are not welcome…) and decided to console ourselves by lunching at the cafe in the Methodist Central Hall Westminster, just opposite Westminster Abbey (http://www.c-h-w.com/cafe/index.shtml).  So down to the ‘crypt’ we went…to be surprised and thoroughly delighted by nice comfy seats and delicious great value food (my pollock in courgette and mushroom was fantastic and the roast of the day looked excellent too)…with drinks it was all about £7-8 each…what a bargain!

Later in the afternoon, having made our way to that other great London tourist mecca, Harrods, we stopped for a coffee in the Ca’puccino cafe down in the gift shop.  It’s got these really awesome white Alice in Wonderland chairs and an extremely indulgent list of coffees…anyway, we decided to lash out on a Custard Cream coffee (him), a Pannacotta coffee (said Mother) and something that I couldn’t pronounce that had layered liquid dark chocolate, coffee and soya (to replace the milk).  They came in glasses not much bigger than something that you’d swig a large shot of tequila from (which, in deliciously rich hindsight, was about all we could manage anyway) and were so-o-o pretty to look at…the bill, on the other hand, came to about £16.

And like naughty children, we loved every sublime minute…

The Eye in the Sky…

In honour of my friend K departing for Down Under this week (well today actually!), yesterday we embarked on an action-packed day in London town to celebrate her penultimate 24 hours in Ol’ Blighty…and to get the very best overview, we started off with a trip on the London Eye (http://www.londoneye.com/). This large ‘wheel’ began its life on the south bank of the Thames on New Year’s Eve 1999 to celebrate the new millenium…and during the 30min trip, provides the most spectacular views of London. I’ve included some of my pics below for you to have a squiz yourself…
Next we took a River Cruise which started at London Eye and chugged down river just past Tower Bridge and back again – another fascinating way to see and learn about the history of London although the colonial in me did flinch a little on the inside to learn that St Katherine’s Docks was where the convicts were assembled for transportation to Australia. No pics of this to share yet as my camera battery chose this moment to advise that it was awfully tired and needed to rest – timing is everything!

After this we wandered through two of London’s loveliest parks – St James’ Park & Green Park. One of the things I love about Londoners is their absolute celebration of gorgeous sunny weather – lots of people get out into the parks/along the riverbanks to lunch, sleep, play and even have business meetings – yes, I walked past some semi-serious coffee & compendium types sitting in the ‘deck-chairs-for-hire’ in Green Park. There is a real sense of ‘making the most of it’ that I don’t think we have in Australia but maybe that’s a case of ‘too much’ sunny weather and familiarity breeding a bit of contempt.
Anyhow, K is off tonight so it will just be me in my cosy (aka small) flat again so stay tuned to see what other adventures come my way…

View of back of Charing Cross Station

View of London

View of St Paul’s Cathedral dome

View over St James’ Park to Buckingham Palace

View of Houses of Parliament at Westminster & Big Ben