One of the places that surprised me the most during our recent visit to London was Greenwich. I wondered why it didn’t make it to our itinerary back in April, when we first visited the city. Greenwich has a fascinating history, quaint side streets and beautiful architecture. I know the husband would like it there. Much as I love to bring him there now, I could only do that with this post. So here it is – my adventure in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
To be honest, I had no concrete plan for that day. I did not do any research prior, as this trip was sort of spontaneous, decided upon a whirlwind in the middle of meeting hectic Ramadan deadlines at the office. I only know two things about Greenwich though, the only cable car in London and THE Prime Meridian.
Emirates Air Line: The Only Cable Car in London
From our hotel in Soho, I took the tube towards the southeastern side of London. On the map, there’s a little note below the North Greenwich station that says Emirates Air Line. Not to be confused with Dubai’s flag carrier, the Emirates Air Line is the name of the cable car in London – sponsored by, what else, Emirates Airlines. I hopped off this stop and using my Oyster card (used it for discounted passes!), took a return trip that rewarded me with a different view of London.
While onboard, there’s a short narrative pointing out the important structures nearby, such as The Dome at The O2, Thames Barrier and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
On the Emirates Greenwich Peninsula station is the Emirates Aviation Experience, a small museum of sort with commercial aviation exhibits and a flight simulator.
When I hopped off the cable car, rain started pouring! I had to take refuge in The Dome – a circular arena covered with a huge tensile fabric. The dome is 365m in diameter and has 12 columns sticking out of its tent, a nod to the time standards set by Greenwich. More than a venue for concerts, this entertainment district offers other facilities such as a cinema, bowling alley, restaurants, etc.
While waiting for the rain to stop, I had lunch in one of the numerous dining spots in The Dome. Felt sorry though that I had to break my rule (to not eat in any restaurant available in Dubai) and found myself indulging on my favorite peri-peri chicken. Nando’s in London wasn’t as spicy as the ones we have here in Dubai. I had to get one of those medium spicy bottles to add kick to my grilled chicken.
I was out and about after lunch. Before leaving The O2, I noticed its wonderful open grounds, dotted with these prints on the pavement!
I squealed from the inside (lol) at the thought that I am THIS close to the meridian! The imaginary line crosses The O2 somewhere west but locating it is somewhere beyond my capability to read maps, so yeah, I missed it!
Cutty Sark Tea Clipper
From The O2, I hailed Bus 188 and got off Romney Road. I walked past a couple of cafes, the Greenwich Market and ran across throngs of little kids from school. At the end, I reached a vast open space where a humongous ship sits.
Since I want to keep this day trip as cheap as I possibly can, I skipped the entrance to Cutty Sark and just admired it from the outside. Besides, ships aren’t my cup of tea (excuse the pun)
Just in front of Cutty Sark is the Greenwich Foot Tunnel that crosses the Thames a la Shindaga. It takes people to the Isle of Dogs. I would’ve crossed if I had the time and not alone coz I thought the other side is a nice vantage point for photos.
Old Royal Naval College
Following the promenade, I found myself in front of the gates of a nice building with a big lawn area in front. It turns out to be the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre which holds an interesting exhibit of Greenwich’ landmarks and a few bits and pieces of what’s left of the Greenwich Palace.
Before becoming Old Royal Naval College, it was meant to be the Royal Hospital, a retiring place for seamen. The major landmarks are Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Painted Hall and Chapel of Sts Peter and Paul.
Despite the unwelcoming entrance (that almost put me off from visiting), I decided to climb the steps towards the door, hoping that it’s the correct entry point to the Painted Hall. Before I even begin to prepare asking if I’m in the right place, my mouth involuntarily opened itself in awe. Gaaah, what gorgeous hall!
If not for the long tables, I could’ve mistaken it as a library, but then, there were no bookshelves. The Painted Hall was meant to be the retirees’ dining area. It was called as such because of the mural that envelope the interiors of the hall. I spent a good half an hour admiring this beautiful work of art, before realizing that I still have a coupla stops to check out.
The Chapel, unfortunately, was closed during my visit because of an event happening on that evening.
Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House
When the sun’s at its peak, would you even realize it’s already 4:30? I mean, it looked and felt 2-ish to me, but the longer summer days in the UK made me confused with time. By the time I reached the Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House, located just across the street from the Old Royal Naval College, I have less than half an hour to explore. I would’ve loved to see the Queen’s House, especially for its “impact” on the design of the Chapel and Painted Hall. However, it was closed for renovation at the time of my visit.
Hiking Greenwich Park
Had I known that the ramp going up is steep, I would have reversed my route. I was panting throughout and was drenched in sweat when I reached the top of the vast Greenwich Park. But the views up there – marvelous! The rolling hill stops at the foot of the Queen’s House, while the symmetric Chapel and Painted Hall frames the royal residence. Across the Thames, is a view of Canary Wharf, stretching to the iconic skyscrapers on the left and the O2 dome on my right.
Royal Observatory Greenwich: Prime Meridian Line
If I’d be asked why I wanted to get inside the Royal Observatory, I’d give you two words: Prime Meridian. Yes, to stand on that line that’s literally where ‘east meets west’ thrills me. But to pay 9.50GBP to do so? Nah, there has to be a way.
Sans the shiny stainless steel and the fancy markings, I found the line passing through the observatory’s boundary walls. Though the engraving “Greenwich Meridian Line” is no longer as readable, the thick, bold line is. Yay! Mission accomplished.
I returned to the view deck for a last look of the mesmerizing London skyline. Turned around and followed Blackheath Avenue, from where I took Bus 53 back to Central London.