Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Greenwich, London

Went to Greenwich at the weekend. I haven't been there much over the years – there being such a big North/South divide in London – and to the park here maybe only three times, so it's still a novelty to stand surrounded by greenery and ancient trees, and look across such a 21st-century city. London is expanding like mad right now, mostly toward the east.

I imagine one day, if we could come back in a couple hundred years or so, we'd find it stretching all the way to Southend, overlooking the North Sea toward France. Ye who scoff, imagine what the folks who lived here in 1814 would think if they came back and saw it now!

From here you get a good view of the buildings they call the Walkie-Talkie, the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin (that's a pickle, for those of you from North America). That is not the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, but the roof of the Royal Naval College.

As ever, what I like about exploring London is finding the bits that are little time capsules, so it's pretty cool to be where time begins – that is, the Greenwich meridian: zero hour – and there are plenty of remnants of earlier times still hanging in there. The trees for one. Though this is a heavily visited park and very managed (reminding me a bit of NYC's Central Park), there were some amazing enormous old trees. I believe this park is one of those that's all that's left of some royal's hunting ground, though maybe not... I haven't done the research, but one thing that is here and worth a visit is the Royal Observatory. It has a planetarium, exhibits and such like, but all fairly small scale, as it's very old (unlike, for instance, NY's planetarium and surrounding building, which is vast in comparison).

It all sits up on the top of the hill, looking pleasingly oldie worldie. And, as you come down into Greenwich itself (we'd parked up by Blackheath - another beautiful area, if a little overwhelmed by traffic), you can ooh and ahhh over the little houses built mostly in Victorian times, but with a smattering of even older, like the Plume of Feathers pub, which was built – so its sign told us – in 1691.

We continued on to the Trafalgar, a well-known pub right on the river with fantastic views and a fair amount of outdoor seating, from where you can gaze across at the Dome, which is a leftover from the millennium celebrations (can you believe that's already 14 years ago!) and watch the river buses zoom along.

A recommended outing, so long as you go aware that lots of other people think so too.

The UK has had the most amazing summer weather-wise. The best, I keep telling people, since I arrived here back in the year dot. Even the weatherpeople back me up on this one, and it has got to the point where sunshine and blue skies feel normal. Believe me, this is not how it usually is here – but long may it last.

So this morning I woke to one of those painfully beautiful days: the light so golden and somehow almost poignant with... Hmmm... Maybe the first hint of autumn coming? The tiniest chill in the air, the first time thoughts of September and the darker days of winter have entered my mind for weeks...

As ever, I wish I had a camera or skill that could capture the nuances of light, but here are my best efforts, taken from one of my favourite views: my bedroom window. London, you're looking good just now.

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