Wednesday, 7 May 2014


A great, cheap day out from London is Greenwich.  Technically, it's part of London still, but it feels much more villagey and royal and splendid than its urban counterpart.  There's a host of free museums: the Maritime, the Old Royal Navy, the Queen's House.  It's just a really nice place to wander on a sunny day, getting great views of the city proper from the hill top and listening to the moans and groans of tourist who just didn't wear sensible footwear.  When will they learn?

There's a fantastic covered market on the weekends right near the Cutty Sark.  Lots of ethnic food vendors, some clothing and crafty things.  The town itself is cozy and cute, with neat little houses and shops and pubs lining the main road.

I had a fantastic falafel wrap at one stand, with the chick peas being mashed and mixed and scooped and fried pretty much to order.

The last time I had visited Greenwich was before the Cutty Sark had burned to the ground.  It was the fasted tea clipper on the sea back when sail power was the only option to quench the British thirst for tea.  It's dry-docked on the Greenwich waterfront still, but they rebuilt it completely after the fire, encased the bottom half in glass and they charge a dreadfully high admission to walk around the base of the ship now.

Now, instead of it looking like an impressive and sleek historic ship, it looks like it is being swallowed by a great kraken of a museum.

The Royal Navy College is a sprawling, splendid building in which you can explore at your leisure.  Darting in and out of its many courtyards and chapels makes for a nice way to get out of the unbearable and unforgiving English sunshine.

 All the rain you get here pays off as you get unearthly green lawns.  Sometimes they are even dry enough to plop yourself down and take a nap without getting soaked through.

The gorgeous renaissance-style Queen's House draws you in.  Haven't I seen that staircase before?

They seems to have ripped this off from Fontainebleau.

It's a free museum inside with mostly stuffy portraits of royalty and naval officers and tall ships.  The Tulip Staircase was lovely though, and worth a quick peek inside:

Up the hill is the Royal Observatory, where the Greenwich Meridian originates.  You can see a line of hundreds of people schlepping up the hill and lining up to get their picture taken straddling the GMT line.

Aside from that bit of madness, it's an excellent park to wander around.  There's lovely views, ancient planted oaks and a landscape created by Andre Le Notre.

Judgmental parrot judges ye:

The park is big enough so you can lose the tourist and relax and picnic, but for whatever reason, all day long, I kept running into a group of four American women in Birkenstocks who were unironically wearing wolf shirts and at least one of them was wearing a joker's hat.  I kept referring to them in my head as the wolf pack, and I bounded around the park like a frightened deer as the pack overtook me time and time again at various lookouts and hidden gardens.  It somewhat made my day.  It reminded me of the time I was taking the ferry to Dublin and got hit on by a guy who had been puking his brains out the whole ferry ride, and then continued to awkwardly run into him at various spots around Dublin.

The Thames twists and turns and loops its way through downtown London, which gives you a unique perspective of the layout, and the city appears to be much more compressed from this view.

At the rate the sun beats down so mercilessly here, I might go through a half a bottle of sunblock this summer.

Another freebie on the lawn: The Maritime Museum.  Great Britain ruled the seas for centuries, and they were pioneers in Arctic and Antarctic exploration as well.  It's a big, modern, shiny museum with lots of interesting artifacts and exhibits.

While there are plenty of rail services getting you to Greenwich, much more exciting and scenic is taking the ferry back to downtown London.  It's one of those high-speed Catamaran affairs that is so smooth, you hardly can tell that you are on the water.  I pretended I was a salty sea wench anyway, just to keep in the spirit of Greenwich on board.

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