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England Day 7: Where East Meets West

Today we had pre-booked a 9:15a tour of Parliament and then planned to take the ferry out to Greenwich for the afternoon. Mike still wasn't feeling well so we decided he would stay home and rest in the morning and I would go on the Parliament tour by myself. There was no way to reschedule it. I took the tube to Westminster station and when I walked up the stairs to street level, getting my first view of Parliament Square and Big Ben, I felt like I was really in London for the first time. It actually took my breath away.





The tour of Parliament was very interesting. We started in Westminster Hall and visited the Queen's Robing Room, Commons Chamber, Lords Chamber, Central Lobby, and several other rooms. The guide was informative and I learned a lot about the way the British government works. My only complaint was that the group was a little large so sometimes it was difficult to hear the guide. After the tour, I bought some House of Lords vodka and a Big Ben rubber duck in the gift shop. The duck was a gift for our apartment hosts as they collected the ducks and displayed them in the bathroom. They had several English-themed rubber ducks such as the Queen, palace guards, etc. I then headed back to the apartment to meet Mike.

I picked up Mike and we rode the tube back to Westminster station and walked to the pier. We caught the City Cruise ferry going to Greenwich. This ferry was more of a tourist ferry and provided some commentary on the sites along the Thames River. It also had a nice snack bar so I had a delicious ham and cheese panini while we cruised. We crossed under several bridges but Tower Bridge is my favorite and by the end of the trip came to symbolize London for me.


As we crossed under the Waterloo bridge, the narrator told an interesting story of how the bridge was built during WWII by women. It's the only bridge in London that was built on time and under budget. No surprise there, women get things done!

We arrived at Greenwich around 2p and walked around a little bit, getting a plan together of the places we wanted to visit before closing time.

The obligatory red telephone booth.


We decided to head to the Royal Observatory first since Mike really wanted to see the Prime Meridian. To get there, we had to first walk through the National Maritime Museum.


This skater chick was hanging out in the museum with her board. :)

After walking through the museum, there was a long path that wound up to the top of the hill where the prime meridian is located along with Flamsteed House, the original Observatory building, designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1675.

The red ball on top drops every day at 1p.

Of course we took the obligatory, stand on the line pictures.


There were other telescopic instruments to see as well.

The view from the top was beautiful. There was a lovely contrast of the green fields with the fall-colored trees against the gray city. Lots of families were there and many dogs, running and playing.


We then made our way down to see the Cutty Sark, a wooden clipper ship, built in 1869.

In the beginning, the Cutty Sark was sailed back and forth to China in the tea trade. But the opening of the Suez Canal and the popularity of steamships made sailing vessels in the tea trade virtually obsolete. She was then used in the wool trade with Australia for a number of years until that trade also became dominated by steamships. By 1922, she was used only as a cadet training ship until being dry docked in Greenwich in 1954. She is open to the public for full tours as a memorial to the Merchant Navy and those who lost their lives in both world wars.

The berths





The copper hull

Our last visit was to the Old Royal Naval College.


In 1692, the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich was built here. It closed in 1869 and four years later, the Royal Navy took over using it as a training facility. They Royal Navy left the premises in 1998 and it became a tourist attraction. The two main buildings to visit here are the Painted Hall and the Chapel. The Painted Hall was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was used primarily as a dining hall for veterans staying at the hospital. It's the fanciest cafeteria I've ever seen!


The nearby Chapel was used for worship by the seaman and for many years had no pews. It was destroyed by fire in 1779 but redesigned and rebuilt with a heavy Greek influence.



By now it was getting dark and we were getting tired and hungry so we decided to grab some food at The Old Brewery at the Royal Naval College. We split a gigantic plate of fish and chips and Mike tried the local beer, Meantime. We took the faster, Thames Clipper ferry back to Westminster then the tube home. London at night is even more beautiful than London during the day.


We watched a little BBC then called it a night.

Posted by zihuatcat 14:39 Archived in England Tagged london england

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