Hello, all! I’m doing this 7QT from London – for previous blog posts from this trip go here.
Well, so much for Hampton Court Palace. Greenwich won, and it was a great decision.
Look, in the end, although I had already, in a sense “paid” to go to Hampton Court, via the membership thing, I had to be honest with myself: Do you like Henry VIII? No. Do you like palaces? No. Did you live in Paris for five weeks? Yes. Did you ever go to Versailles during that time? No. Did you have any desire to? No.
So Greenwich it was.
Are you getting weary of hearing that we didn’t get as early a start as I had hoped? Well, this will send you over the edge, because…we didn’t…well..you know.
We took the Tube down to Tower Hill, near the pier, where we were able to then catch the Thames River Bus – you use your Oyster Card for the fare, other oddly enough, it is cheaper for the boys to buy new, separate tickets for the boat than deduct from the Oyster Card. I didn’t understand that at all, but cooperated.
It’s a quick boat ride – maybe twenty minutes? And a great way to see London. We didn’t go down to Westminster, but I’m sure it’s great – a relatively inexpensive and entertaining way to get from one end of the city to the other.
Greenwich is all right there. You get off the boat. There’s the Cutty Sark. The Royal Naval College. Then downtown, including the good little Greenwich Market. About two blocks beyond that is the National Maritime Museum, and the hill that makes up Greenwich Park, on top of which sits the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian, rises behind it. It’s a very easy trip (if you’re okay with hiking up the hill….).
A lot of it is free – all the college buildings (although the dining hall was closed, unfortunately – I would like to have seen that painting) – and the museum. What’s not free is the Cutty Sark and the Observatory, which includes the most photogenic presentation of the Prime Meridian. I didn’t feel like paying for any of that, so….we didn’t. But let me backtrack.
We got off the boat, went to the information center, oriented ourselves, and then found the Market, which immediately presented countless distractions, from food to vintage goods. It wasn’t as large as the Borough Market, and of course not on the same scale as the big London markets like Portobello or Camden, but quite enough for us. The boys both found something, and look. I used to be all, “Don’t buy anything unless it directly relates to the place you’ve traveled to. Why would you do anything else?” But now, I’m all, “If you want to buy a little wire sculpture of a monster made by some Chinese guy and a mini-reproduction of a Jaws poster, be my guest. It’s your money and if that’s your style of souvenir…go ahead.”
Up the hill we went to the site of the Royal Observatory. It’s a very, very nice walk – up a hill that gets steep at the end, but only for a few feet. The park is huge and lovely and filled with people and dogs. It’s a great break from the city. Up top stands a museum about the search for longitude and a planetarium and a very photogenic version of the Prime Meridian. But you have to pay to enter that part, and I wasn’t feeling that, so we searched for and found the free Prime Meridian…and did that instead.
Again, lots of schoolkids. I was reading elsewhere last night, and discovered that this week is end of term in England – their “spring break” begins next week, and so just like in the US, where the end of May/beginning of June, schools and teachers fend off rebellion and boredom with field trips, evidently such is the case here as well. And I will just say that I know find it absolutely believable that the #1 baby boy’s name in England is Mohammad. Not saying that in any foreboding way, just as an observation.
Down the hill and back to the market for lunch. The boys had this pizza-ish thing, which was not a calzone and was supposedly, according to the sign, the work of a shop in Puglia that fought off McDonalds and won. I had Indian, although I was tempted by some good looking galettes.
Then to the Maritime Museum, which was good. We focused on exhibits on the Atlantic trade and then Admiral Nelson – they have, for example, some of the clothing he was wearing when he was brought down at the Battle of Trafalgar.
It’s a good museum, but the maritime museum in Barcelona still stands out as the best of that type I’ve ever been to.
We then headed back into the city. I had been thinking that we would take the boat all the way down to Westminster and go to Parliament, but I was so confused as to how to do that and whether it was even possible that day, I finally decided against it, and we disembarked at Tower Hill instead, did a bit of shopping around the Tower, then hopped on a bus that would go directly to St. Paul’s. We arrived at St. Paul’s a bit after 4, at which they say is their last admission. There were still admitting people though, for Evensong would begin at 5. So you could get in – just without paying. They had part of the nave blocked off for those who would be staying for Evensong and were handing out programs, but really, if you wanted to see that part of it, it didn’t look to me as if there would be anything stopping you from taking a program, poking around, and then leaving. You just couldn’t climb up in the dome. So we stayed for a bit, heard the first five minutes of Evensong, and left.
Visiting St. Paul’s is expensive, and it strikes me it might be worth it – to get up into the dome and see their exhibit on the Fire, but oh, I am finding myself so put off by Church of England things here in England for reasons both historic, contemporary and spiritual. The churches just feel like buildings to me, and nothing more. There is nothing new about this for me, but it’s a feeling that intensifies being in the thick of it. #unecumenical.
We crammed ourselves on the Tube all the other commuters – one line was experiencing slow down, but thanks to the ingenuity of my I-hope-he-becomes-a-civil-engineer-or-something son, we got another, quicker route back.
On the final connection to our stop, we gave our seats to two religious sisters: one elderly British, one young African. They asked if we were on holiday, and I mentioned that the younger one attended a Dominican school, and the elderly sister said, “Oh don’t get us confused with them! We both where black and white, but we’re Cistercians.” And I said, “But I thought Cistercians were – ” and she, anticipating the rest, said, ” – enclosed?” I nodded. She continued, “We are, but Sister needed her visa, so we came to take care of that, and do some shopping.” Their convent is in Gloustershire.
We ate at Nando’s again – it’s quick, healthy and they like it – and then once in the apartment, I got a bit restless and decided to take the Tube down and check out Harrod’s – just to see. If you know me at all, you know I am not a shopper – I am just curious about things and people. What makes something popular and well-known? What are
these popular and well-known things like and who is involved in them and sustains them?
Um….the women of the Middle East?
I guess, considering the Harrod’s has been owned by Middle Eastern interests for thirty years – the Fayeds, first and then Qatar Holdings since 2010 – I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. Actually, what I was expecting was what I experienced at the famed Paris department store, Galerie Lafayette – lots of Japanese customers (many signs in the Galeries were in Japanese, there was a dedicated Japanese customer service counter, and many Japanese-tourist centered business around the store) – but no. It was me and a few others in Western dress, and then 95% women in niqab and hijab, loaded down with Harrod’s bags….fascinating! The perfume area was particularly busy. I just took a quick walk through – mostly the children’s section, which is an entire floor of designer kids’ clothes, the books and stationary (“The Great Writing Room”) and the Harrod’s souvenir section…
Well, that’s done. Been there, done that.
Today…..well, come back tonight (for you) and you’ll see!
For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!