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.

Throwing Some Shapes..

Ten sleeps to go until Christmas Day…

…and today I was off for a bit of festive lunching at The Chop House at Butlers Wharf. The Chop House is nestled just under the south eastern ramparts of Tower Bridge and an easy 15 minute stroll from London Bridge tube station. Needless to say I left home in plenty of time for a little pre-lunch strolling – and you just never know when travel plans may go awry.

My ‘extra’ time quickly disappeared as I admired this relatively unknown – to me anyway – part of London. And I couldn’t help but whip out the smartphone and record its moody shape-shifting for posterity this post.

It all looked a bit un-auspicious when I first got there…

…but lovely little shops and cafes lined the cobbled laneways and taking a smart left turn led me to The Galleria…

…whose exit on to the river brought the City’s growing mix of modern shapes above the old sharply into focus.

Looking right, the White Tower of the Tower of London (left) and Tower Bridge beckoned despite the damp and dreary skies…

…while at my back, this strange tree-like shape took my fancy amidst the stark winter branches that surrounded it.

Sometimes a new position brings a whole new perspective and standing outside the More Riverside complex with The Shard looming in the background was an opportunity to see London’s urban face, washed shiny by the rain…

..while the controversial City Hall beckoned further along the river bank.

And no Thames-side meandering would be complete without the magnificent Tower Bridge. It didn’t seem to matter how many times I have seen it or how many photographs I’ve taken before, my hand moved automatically to my pocket to take just a few more… 

So it would seem that I’m not the only one throwing some shapes this festive season.

Only ten sleeps to go…

you should be dancin’…yeah.