We decided to continue our “exploring London” adventure over the weekend and discovered a whole new part of London that we’d never seen before. And we had to walk under water to get there.
With the Pope in London over the weekend, and central London being crammed with people, police and Pope-mobiles, we decided to head in the opposite direction. We started at one of my favourite places in London – Greenwich – about ten minutes from where we live. From there, we took the foot tunnel that goes UNDER the Thames, and walked across to the Isle of Dogs. I had heard about the foot tunnel, but didn’t know where it was or where it went. It was built in 1902, which completely blows my mind. How did they do that?
At the entrance to the foot tunnel, there’s a lift (elevator) that takes you down to the tunnel. It’s a fairly big lift that can hold 90 people – it felt pretty crowded with about eight of us, I’d hate to imagine how claustrophobic it would feel with almost a hundred of us. Unusually, the lift has a human operator, who presses the buttons and, I guess, keeps an eye on what’s happening down there along the tunnel.
We couldn’t take any flash photographs in the tunnel, so I’ll have to rely on the picture in my mind to describe it: shiny, white-tiled and roundish. It felt very old fashioned, but completely solid and safe. Although my husband had a field day of “imagine ifs”, like imagine if all the lights went out, or imagine if it sprung a leak (how scary would that be?), and imagine being followed by a stalker through this tunnel? At which point I asked him to shut his imagination up (or words to that effect) and let us enjoy the walk without the worry! I did wonder where on earth some of the puddles came from, but apart from that it was a fascinating fifteen minute walk.
We took the lift back up to river level on the far side of the Thames, and I did one of my favourite things – eavesdrop. I heard some lovely cockney banter between the lift operator and his mate, discussing what he was going to eat over the weekend. His mate said,
“You wan’ four poys?”
He said, “Yeah.”
“Fir me lunch and dinner.Tha’’s wha’ fowa.”
“Wha’? Just poys?”
“Four poys and a large liquor. Tha’’s me sor’ed.”
We emerged land-side at the Isle of Dogs. I took the photo that is my new header pic, where we emerged: a lovely park, a path along the river, and a view – which I hadn’t seen before – of Greenwich on the other side of the river.
I only realised how curvy the Thames was the first time we went to Greenwich and stood on the lookout spot in front of the Royal Observatory. From that vantage point, not only are you where time begins, but you can see the curves of the Thames, as it takes a serious loop to the left and to the right. The bit of land in between is known as the Isle of Dogs, and you can find out some more about its history here. Quite fascinating.
We walked all along the edge of the river until we were just about in line with the O2 (a huge, tent-like, state-of-the-art concert venue, previously known as the Millennium Dome) in North Greenwich on the far side of the river. We stopped for a picnic lunch next to a small pebbly “beach” and watched the seagulls and swans bobbing together on the busy water, as the waves lapped on the brown stones.
We then cut “inland” towards Canary Wharf, a modern business district and home to a large number of glass-fronted skyscrapers housing banks and finance companies. We took the conventional route home, travelling by tube, after a refreshingly special sunny autumn day in this city of surprises.
My weekend began, as usual, with my Friday evening dance class. It was not Latin aerobics this time, as our instructor had gone away; we had a class of Bollywood aerobics! Our instructor was Eastern European and she looked like a dark-haired Barbara Eden in “I Dream of Jeannie”, complete with pony-tail on top of her head! Only in London.
We shimmied and sassied, did all the Bollywood moves you could imagine: flat hands, fishy hands, we moved our heads from side to side, we peeped our faces through “windows” that we made with our hands! We flicked our heads back, we were arrogant, we flirted with our audience (the mirror) and we focused on style over substance. We took a bow, we made chapattis, we jumped and we stamped and, for a time, in the sweat and the swirl, I let go and danced as if no-one was watching. Try it, there’s nothing quite as liberating.
Sunshine signing off for today!