Just about every winter, around February, British Airways offers a great discounted deal that includes 2 free nights in a London hotel. We take advantage of this and buy our tickets early for a June trip and choose the Jury’s Inn in Chelsea for our free nights. We add one more night on our own dime so we can have a little time to enjoy the city.
Today, we are continuing our interrupted trip from last year. We’re going to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. This is where we were headed last July 7th when we were having coffee before boarding the Tube at Fulham Broadway as terrorists set off bombs in the underground. We spent that day of our trip in the hotel bar watching horrible news updates.
From Fulham Broadway, it’s a ride across the city to the Docklands Light Railway, which we exit at the Cutty Sark museum. It’s a short walk from here to the grounds of the observatory which sits on top of a hill overlooking a large park.
At the top of the hill, which is reached via an easy, accessible path, we take a short self-guided tour to see old telescopes used by Sir Isaac Newton and take our picture on the prime meridian. There is a red ball on a mast that is lowered everyday at 1:00pm to alert everybody around so they can set their time pieces to this exact time. It reminds me a lot of the ball dropping at Times Square every New Year’s Eve.
An adjacent museum of time is very fascinating with early examples of clocks that would not have to be reset on the high seas, navigation instruments, and an ever advancing array of timepieces that would get more accurate as the ages went by.
Afterward, we take a few moments to browse in the Nauticalia shop, billed as the first shop in the world (due to its proximity to the prime meridian) and marvel at the telescopes, miniature steam engines, brass models, and more. Great place for souvenirs.
Next door is a pub where we while away some time over pints and snacks.
In the morning, we awake to the sunniest day I’ve ever seen here. It’s time to explore this city while the weather is good. It’s back on the Tube to Westminster, the only accessible station near the sites we want to explore.
A short walk takes us by New Scotland Yard and then from there to St. James Palace, former residence of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. This is one of the spots in London where you can spot the guards that never move but I couldn’t get a shy Letty to stand next to him for a picture.
Across the street, we walk through St. James Park and take in some magnificent views of the nearby palaces and government buildings.
Hoofing it back through the park, past the Queen’s house at Buckingham Palace, we make our way over to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. Nobody taking advantage of the free speech area today but vendors are out in force to rent lawn recliners to the sun-starved Londoners visiting the park today.
We make our way over to the Serpentine (the lake in the middle of the park) and have a light lunch on its banks. Swans swim around and sparrows look for bites they can steal from the diners. A large, circular fountain dedicated to Princess Diana is nearby.
Making our way out of the south of the park, we pass the Prince Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall, the site of many legendary performances. We’d already seen Harrod’s before so we keep going to Marks and Spencer to do some real shopping. Tim and I get a hat to take home for the winter time.
It’s not far from here to walk to the Earl’s Court tube station and catch the next train back to Chelsea. A dinner at The Rose pub ends this short trip to London. Tomorrow, we fly home.
Click on the following link for more London reports from our site.
Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved