London Part 2 - the real Greenwich village

Posted by The Wizzle | Posted on Monday, January 17, 2011 at 10:21 PM


I began this day the way I began, well, pretty much every day. The small market just a couple of doors down from our flat had a very limited grocery selection, but they were well stocked where it counts! Good thing we walked about a thousand miles every day:

After the Jack the Ripper tour, we all came home and decided that guided walking tours were completely awesome and we needed to do lots more of them. My mom wanted to see some Jane Austen sights, but sadly there was very little of significance in London and since we were only there for 7 days we didn't get very far out of the city.

She decided her next choice would be to go to Greenwich, only a few minutes downriver from London, and see the Prime Meridian. I had been there when I studied in the UK for a summer 10 years ago (I use the word "study" very loosely, but we'll come back to that later. Or not. Actually, let's not.) I remembered it being very charming, so we met again at the Tower Hill tube stop to find our guide and cross the Thames.

You know that song, "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"? Well, here they are! Honestly, the song is a lot nicer than the actual chestnuts. They don't taste that great and they make a whole lot of stinky smoke. Behind the Chestnut Man is a remaining section of the Roman wall, built around the city in the 2nd century. Yes, that's almost TWO THOUSAND years ago:

Each Tube line has a color associated with it - Circle is yellow, District is green, Central is red, etc - and the train handhold bars are color coded accordingly. Except when they're not. We literally had a train, while we were riding it, begin as a Circle train and end as Hammersmith & City, without so much as a by your leave. We're lucky we didn't end up in Amsterdam.

When we did get there, we found Hilary to be, like Simon, very charming, and an absolute fountain of knowledge. This woman had so many historical facts and dates stored in her head I'm amazed she could remember her own name. (Yes, that is the Tower of London behind her. Just no big deal, you know, just in the background. This city is insane. You just walk by this stuff all the time and it doesn't even get a mention. They have castles like we have Walgreen's.)

This building is the old London Port Authority, now being renovated into a 6 star hotel. (Sounds like hotel stars are going the way of razor blades - 3! No, 4! Wait, but look, we have 5!!!)

This boat, in addition to transporting us all to Greenwich, also provided us with the hottest hot chocolate I've ever drunk. Three of us couldn't taste anything for days:

The first thing you see when you arrive in Greenwich is the site of the Cutty Sark, a rad old tea clipper that everyone in England is absolutely crazy about, and that I inexplicably did not photograph. She's being restored for the 2012 Olympics, which London is hosting. (The 2012 Olympics are like a much bigger version of my house party - everything that they've been putting off for years/decades/centuries suddenly needs to be done in time for everyone in the whole world to come scrutinize their fair city. I'm getting a doormat, they're getting their boat restored to the tune of 73 million dollars. It'll all work out.)

One of the main architectural attractions in Greenwich is the Queen's House, which was built, as you might have guessed, for Queen Anne in the early 17th century. It looks directly out onto the Thames, and when Christopher Wren was commissioned to build a Naval hospital in front of it, the Queen insisted he construct two buildings instead, one of either side of her river view, so it could remain unobstructed!

One of those Wren buildings is now a University of Greenwich campus, and the other is the Trinity College of Music. They stand very near the site of Greenwich Palace, which was the favorite residence of Henry VIII, birthplace of the queens Elizabeth I and Mary I, and the site of the arrest of Anne Boelyn, whose ghost can now presumably be found knocking on the blue doors of the Tower of London where she was beheaded.

Sir Christopher also, very presciently I think, included these niches in his design so that my fabulous rule-breaking brother-in-law Jacob could climb inside one and be a superhero for a few moments:

(He's also the one who took all the pictures in my posts that are framed in white. When in doubt: if it's a good picture, it's his).

We ate lunch at the Trafalgar Tavern. Two brave souls of our party, including myself, ordered the "whitebait dinner", which was recommended by Hilary (and sadly, the only area in which her guidance fell short of the mark). I'll just say that I cannot in good conscience recommend eating fish whole, including the bones and head, no matter what they are fried in or how many delicious pieces of brown bread and butter they might be served with.

The view was lovely though!

(We decided, for a number of reasons, not to dine at this illustrious establishment - although I hear the crabs are first rate.)

The highlight of the visit was the Royal Observatory and the attendant National Maritime Museum, at which we could have spent days and days all on their own. The ball at the top of the Observatory tower drops each day at precisely 1 pm (sorry Brits, 1300) and that used to be where everyone got their time. Greenwich Mean Time folks, thar she blows.

And yes, that hill is every bit as high and steep as it looks. I may have been the only one, but I found the walk very exhilarating! I loved the brisk air and all the exercise on this trip.

At the observatory at the top of the hill, lies the (entirely arbitrary) Prime Meridian of the World, at which, if you want, you can stand in line for a very long to time for the opportunity to have your picture taken with one foot in either hemisphere (and if you're my mom, you definitely want to do this).

Greenwich was one of our coldest days, for which I donned my Little Russian Immigrant Wife look. David mocks it mercilessly. I do not care. I like to be able to feel my ears.

We cut our Greenwich visit shorter than we would have liked because we had the singular delight of a visit with one of our former exchange students, Christiane, who is Brazilian but currently lives in London with her darling husband Daniel. She hooked us up with what she assures us is the best Indian food in the city at Punjab Restaurant. Here she is with my parents at dinner:

I have now officially run down my ENTIRE BATTERY putting this post together. Madness, I tell you, utter madness. If I hadn't been so productive the rest of the day I would feel bad about it.

As it is, if you're very nice I will allow you to join me tomorrow for Windsor Castle and New Year's Eve, London style!

Comments (3)

this is such an awesome trip you were able to go on! My husband lived there when he was about 6 and still remembers gettting to see some of those things, so lucky are you! :)

Very cool indeed.

Rach, you are almost inspiring me to create my own blog... Loved your post. So good to travel, right? I am always reassured it's the best investment for our money. Kiss, Chris