Monday, 7 May 2012

Greenwich - May Bank Holiday

It's a long way to go - from Ealing in the West all the way by Central Line and DLR to the South Eastern side of London, but that's what we decided to do today, to reach the heart of Royal Greenwich. In fact it didn't take *that* long, was a very easy journey and was well worth it. Overcast skies and spitting rain featured from time to time: a typical May Bank Holiday. And (equally typical) throng upon throng of fellow visitors - British, overseas, young and old.

Greenwich itself - away from the fine Maritime buildings - featured multiple chip shops and souvenir tat shops, a fundraising pearly king (with similarly decorated black cab), young sailors in traditional garb, traffic jams, patriotic bunting, a tattoo and piercing studio and a palpable seaside atmosphere (despite not being on the coast!) A fine Hawksmoor church (St Alfege) proved photogenic - ostensibly at the heart of modern urban life, when taken from one side, but deceptively rural-looking from the other. The revamped and uplifted Cutty Sark also looked very fine. Like children at a sweet shop window, we peered through the smoked glass to see the shiney hull hidden within that glazed 'payment zone'.

The chance to walk under the Thames itself, via the 1902 tunnel, and to 'drive' the driver-less DLR train were simple pleasures we could not resist. ('How old are we?' Bob asked rhetorically, before realising - to his horror - that our combined ages already take us well over the 100 mark - eek!)

On arrival at the National Maritime Museum, our first port of call was....the loos, then a long queue for our tickets, and (cunningly) a simultaneous queue for the cafe. We both then rapidly chomped our way through posh wholegrain baguettes with brie, cranberry and rocket and quickly (with barely a minute to spare until our 1pm booked time-slot) headed - at last - for the special exhibition in the National Maritime Museum - "Royal River: Power, Pageantry and the Thames"

I had pre-booked our tickets online the day before (£11 each plus booking fee!) It was okay....but not brilliant. I felt vaguely disappointed - perhaps having built it up into something it could never be. There were a few highlights, and I learnt a few fairly interesting things I hadn't known before - but to be honest, there is a lot to enjoy in Greenwich (and - according to Bob - at the nearby Museum of London in Docklands) which is free, so paying for that exhibition felt a bit silly. Bob is refusing ever to go inside the Cutty Sark, due to the entrance fee, and ditto the Royal Observatory (which I would, in contrast, LOVE to go into, despite the charge). On this occasion, we didn't look around the rest of the National Maritime Museum - which is free. Perhaps we'll go back when it's a bit less busy!

After the exhibition we had a good look around the shop, but (with no thimbles to be had) resisted all but one impulse purchase (a book about Inigo Jones for Bob). Another visit to the posh cafe followed - for a drink and a small but exquisitely expensive sweet treat (in my case possibly the nicest chocolate eclair I have ever had). We sat outside sheltering from the light drizzle under the big parasols.

I'm so glad we decided to go and have a look at the Queen's House next (which had been designed by Inigo Jones). The entry was free and I quickly googled a bit of info before we headed over, which gave us an idea of what to look out for. It was lovely - not many original features (no furnishings etc), but those that did remain were elegant and very pleasing to the eye - namely the very striking marble floor in the great hall and the delightful tulip spiral staircase.

The extensive art collection (from Elizabethan to modern) housed in the property was too much to take in - instead we skipped through, focussing on just a few works here and there. And, to be honest, that was a pretty good way of doing it! Surprisingly, although there were *some* people around, the Queen's House far less busy than the rest of Greenwich - including the outdoor areas, even in such iffy weather!

The numbers streaming up and down the hill to the Observatory (and prime meridian) were quite a surprise. There were a lot of temporary barriers up everywhere, and what looked like scaffolding or some kind of temporary seating structure - was it something to do with the Olympics? Or the Jubilee? Or some other event? Frustrating not to know. Pretty ugly whatever it was.

(Post script: Spotted a sign outside for a Titanic 'garden of remembrance' - it turned out to be a pathetically small area of border. I couldn't help feeling it was worse than nothing, being so insultingly tiny!)

No comments:

Post a Comment