A leisurely ferry cruise along the mighty Thames

31 May 2013

Today, Paula and Morton, their son Roy and I went for a leisurely ferry cruise along the Thames. The Thames, as I now know, is the big river that winds its way through the bustling centre of London, all the way down to the ocean in the east. It was a very exciting trip, and there was much to see on either side of the river. My friends kindly took a lot of photos too, so that I could include them in a gallery for you.

“You can also walk along the river bank,” Paula told me, showing me her map of the city. “In fact, there’s a long-distance national walking trail, about 300km long, which runs the entire length of the Thames. It begins at the river’s source near Cirencester in the Cotswolds, traversing several rural counties and the City of London. You’ll be walking past peaceful water meadows, historic towns and quaint villages, before finishing at the Thames Flood Barrier at Woolwich near Greenwich.”

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster

I nodded. “Well, it sounds delightful, but I’m not much of a walker myself, Paula,” I admitted. “But if you felt like walking back from Greenwich, perhaps you could put me in your rucksack?”

Paula laughed, “We’re not going to walk back, Flat Kathy, it’s too far!”

I was relieved to hear that. I rather liked the feeling of being on the ferry, with a gentle breeze coming from the front, and the beams of sunlight warming my face. When the sun disappeared behind the clouds, where it was hiding most of the time, it became rather chilly though, so I was glad to be snuggled into my protective raincoat.

Look - there's the London Eye behind me!
Look – there’s the London Eye behind me!

As we puttered along, my friends pointed out the various sights along the way: the bell tower known as Big Ben, which one hears on the radio; the nearby Houses of Parliament, which are located in the Palace of Westminster; and the London Eye, which at 135 metres is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe, with fantastic views from the top.

Morton and Roy, who are both fascinated by buildings, showed me some of the very unusual buildings in London: the O2 Arena, a multi-purpose arena that is used for musical performances and sporting events – it also hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics; Shakespeare’s Globe, which is a replica of the Globe theatre used by famous playwright William Shakespeare; a strange-looking skyscraper that is shaped like a bullet, which is nicknamed ‘The Gherkin’; a peculiar looking skyscraper known as ‘The Shard’, which at 310 metres tall is Europe’s tallest building; and another building nicknamed ‘The Walkie-Talkie’ (and yes, that is what it looks like).

The Thames Flood Barrier near Greenwich
The Thames Flood Barrier near Greenwich

I also recognised the forbidding Tower of London with its four turrets, where I had met a friendly Yeoman Warder a few days ago; here, our ferry cruised underneath the iconic Tower Bridge, whose central section opens up to allow tall ships to pass through.

We passed the museum ship, the HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy light cruiser that has been moored here for several decades, and we caught a glimpse of the famous tea clipper, the Cutty Sark, which we had visited about two weeks ago.

As we approached Greenwich, we passed the National Maritime Museum and eventually reached the Thames Barrier – this is a movable flood barrier that was constructed to prevent storm surges and flood tides moving up the Thames and causing widespread damage to the eastern parts of the city. And Greenwich, I now learned, is the site of the Greenwich Meridian, which is the point from which all time zones are defined!

After all this sight-seeing, we were very hungry, so we had a delicious lunch at a Spur steak and grill.

Click on any of the images below to access the slideshow.

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