More Museums

1 Nov

Dennis and I have invested in a couple of bicycles!  It has been years since I have ridden a bike but I’m really enjoying it.  I tend to spend the majority of the time riding on the footpaths as the roads are so busy and the lanes so narrow.  Big double-decker buses whizzing past every few minutes is a little unnerving.

Notice the smog over London CBD

With the weather being so beautiful, 27-30 degrees over the last week, we decided to use our bikes again.  This time we cycled to Greenwich and visited The Maritime Museum.  This is set in the Greenwich Park, which is huge, around 300 acres from memory, has 30 or so deer that share the park facilities with the public.  Once more this park has enormous trees!  I read a sign that said that 30% of the land area in London is devoted to parks and “the Green Chain”.  This is commonly known as “London’s Lungs”, the trees help reduce the pollution levels.  The trees must be so old because the majority of them are huge and most are deciduous.  When they change to their autumn hues it will be even more spectacular.  Coming into the park there is a sign to say that you may collect the chestnuts off the ground but not pick them off the trees.  We saw many Asian people gleaning them into bags and wonder what they might taste like.  I guess they roast them.

Tall,tall trees

The Maritime Museum was well done, and quite enjoyable.  Lots and lots about Captain Cook and his travels, which pleased Dennis no end.  

A Frigate's Prop

Next door to this Museum was the Queen’s House, where a display of portraits and scenic paintings were shown.  This was Queen Isabella not the current one, and Henry 8th was born there.  I’m not really one for appreciating the arts but this also proved to be enjoyable and I learnt a bit more about the history of this building.  It had been used by past members of the Royal Family and then gifted to the city.

Internal Staircase at The Queen's House

By the time we had meandered around these two sites we had run out of time to view the Greenwich Observatory and Planetarium, which is in the Park as well.  It closed at a silly time of 4.30p.m.  So we biked down the way a bit to see The Cutty Sark, an old sailing boat, instead.  Alas, this had had a fire some time back and was in the middle of a rebuild before the Olympic tourists arrived in town.  So it was covered in scaffolding and big barriers.  Dennis was disappointed but had a cheery conversation with an English Bobby instead. Biking home we went through a University which obviously specialised in Music because every second room had people practising their instruments.  And as the day was so warm they had opened their big sash windows, which let out the melodious sound all the more.  One minute you heard a trumpet playing some classical piece, the next was a saxophone belting out a modern jazz number, then a piano piece, a flute and on and on.  Really neat!
Rob’s house is on the very top of one of the few hills in London.  The ride down to the Museums,  the Thames, etc is great.  Wind whistling in your hair, and all that.  But it is a long slow journey back, with a walk near the end, pushing the bikes in front.  I notice that we are just about the only ones to wear helmets, other than the really serious bikers that are all dolled up in their lycra!  

The following day we got back on our bikes and cycled down to the Thames and followed the Thames bike path for quite a few miles.  We came to the Thames Barrier and noticed a group of German secondary school students being given a guided tour at the observation point alongside The Barrier.  We discreetly joined the back of this group and just resting on the grass listened in!  And very informative it was…. why and when the Barrier was built, what it is made of, etc.  It was obvious that we were the most interested of the group!  Each section of the Barrier actually lies flat on the bed of the river and is raised in position in sequence to prevent flooding upstream. 

One section is raised to the closed position






The Thames was flowing at high tide in these photos.  The river has a 8 metre difference between high and low tides.

This bike ride took us hours!  About 4 hours from memory, generally sight-seeing around the banks of the Thames, turning off into interesting streets and lanes along the way.  By the time we made our way back towards home we were in the thick of the rush hour.  Dennis was adamant that before he used the bike again he would need to do something about the seat!!!



We worshipped at Grove Hill Evangelical Church one Sunday morning.  The assistant Pastor there is the brother of our own Pastor in Karori!   Andre and his wife, Elizabeth invited us over to their place for a yummy lunch as well.  Driving home we came across a statue of Winston Churchill.  Why it was there in that area was not explained.  One of the men in this congregation asked for people to join him on a guided tour in and around St Paul’s’ Cathedral in London on Wednesday.  He was attending a university studying history and guiding in London and part of his practical was to take walking tours and have us fill out an evaluation sheet.   So we happily joined the group of about 10 others.  It was very interesting and took us a couple of hours.  St Paul’s is spectacular, both inside and out.  It is so tall with beautiful painted ceilings and carvings, etc.  We also were shown inside two other churches in the area, and many historical buildings.  We saw where William Wallace of Braveheart fame was hung, drawn and quartered and heard many other grizzly stories.  

Around the side of St Paul's

On top of the Ol' Bailey

Our tour guide

Part way along the tour Dennis and I noticed The London Museum built on a triangular piece of land in the middle of the roads, with a section of the old London Wall down one side of it.  After the tour had ended we went back and took a slow tour through this establishment.  It was so interesting, my novel never made it out of our backpack!  It was solely about the history of London City, from pre-Roman times, through the Second World War to the present.  We both found this museum to be more compelling than The British Museum that was trying to cover so much of world history.

Part of the original London Wall, there's grass now where the moat used to be

Next we made our way to The Old Bailey, the High Court.  Unfortunately we were too late, no one was allowed in after 4.30p.m. and anyway you were not allowed to bring in bags or cellphones and there was nowhere to leave them, so we will need to remember that for next time.  Actually, down the road a bit I read a hand written sign on a diary shop window that you could leave your bags and cellphones with them!  No thanks.
After walking around the St Paul’s area, through the museum and just stopping to eat lunch and have a coffee for about 1/2 hour, we went back to St. Paul’s for Evensong at 5p.m.  It turned out that it was the occasion of celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible and they had a special service for this, with Her Royal Highness,the Duchess of Gloucester in attendance!  Dennis felt a little shy and sat us down near the back, (it is a long way from where the choir sat).  No sooner had he sat down but he fell fast asleep.  Walking around for the previous seven hours probably didn’t help.  The front section was cordoned off for Anglicans and was packed.  From that section back to where we sat was open for the public, basically as a tourist attraction!  It was most disconcerting to have obvious tourists come and go throughout the service, when the choir sung, when the sermon was in full swing, when prayers were said, at all stages people were coming and going, picking up their shopping bags and belongings!  Unbelievable!  So disrespectful of what was in progress.  I was appalled.  Next time we’ll get closer to the roped off section.  The singing was great, a highlight for me.  From time to time Dennis would wake up and comment that “they didn’t sing for very long….”!
And after all that, taking the train and bus home takes another 90-110 minutes in the rush hour traffic.  We may be swanning around but we are quite tired by the end of the day.


One Response to “More Museums”

  1. James November 1, 2011 at 3:05 am #

    What happened to visiting Rachel and I before you went back? Or are you still in NZ?

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