An amazing friend at SGS (Matt) suggested I get on the Virgin train mailing list. I initially resisted thinking I’d get all sorts of rubbish in my in-box.
Although that’s partially true, he pointed out that each year when they have a “sale” I’d get to know about it first.
London is an expensive city to visit, but with a 2.15 hour journey from Chester, you can travel direct at 7:15am, come home at 18:15pm and have an amazing day, with the transport only costing £11 each way.
Best of all, if you organise yourself over multiple one day “hits” you can save the cost of accommodation and evening meal (the latter can be substituted for a nice sandwich and a bottle of wine on the way home).
Above, some flags on Regent Street.
Greenwhich (pronounced Greenwhich) was a place I’d heard great things about.
One of the best things to see there, was the famous Cutty Sark.
In it’s day, one of the fastest trading ships in the world. With a minimal crew, it could transport Tea and other delicacies (we now take for granted) from one side of the world to the other.
Bellow decks, we watched this video about the ship in its heyday.
The man in this yellow coat, kept getting in the way of my pictures.
Here he is again.
Looking down the ship, from the high place at the back (which I’m sure has a Nautical name, that I don’t know).
Anyway, this is what the captain would have seen looking forward from the ship as it was sailing.
The ships name, carved in original oak.
The ship itself is mounted on struts, and they have a nice cafe there where we have coffee and cake (It’s London, so costs a fortune).
From here, we head up the hill to Grenwhich observatory.
From there we can see this amazing view of London and the Millennium Dome (now called the 02 arena).
Outside the Royal Observatory.
At one time, people would travel from all over London to set their clocks by the one in the picture.
The site was chosen by Christopher Wren, and King Charles II created the position of Astronomer Royal.
There is also a very visible “time ball” that can be seen from a distance by Mariners. At 1pm each day, it dropped, and they could set their clocks from this.
The prime meridian, longitude 0′.
Every place on earth was measured east or west of this line, and this is where Greenwhich Meantime takes its name.
The building itself is called Flamesteed house, after its first occupant.
On of the telescopes used at the observatory. Very difficult to photograph.
4 of John Harrison’s Sea watches, H1 to H4.
A joiner by trade, he designed a clock that could keep its time one a moving ship (something that even Sir Isaac Newton said was impossible).
Once out of sight of the shore, a clock was essential to work out the exact location of a ship and at a time of growing international trade, it saved many lives due to the avoidance of shipwrecks.
Each ship had a special clock, normally stowed bellow decks. officers and men on the ship would set their own clocks and watches from it for practical purposes.
As technology progressed, the ships clock was no longer needed and in this room they had hundreds of the returned clocks.
A selection in the museum about the 4 people who voice the speaking clock.
You could hear each voice by picking up the phone and they selected relevant handsets from the time period of the speaker.
Hewlett Packard is a name familiar to anyone who who works in Information Technology (I have a HP Elitebook on my desk at work).
Here, a nuclear clock, actually made by HP.
In another part of the museum, were shown “the oldest thing you’ll ever touch”.
A 4.5 billion year old meteorite. Formed at the same time as the Sun and the Earth.
Lots of cool AV stuff, including this simulation for planning to put a satellite into space.
You get to make various decisions and video’s of people in your team, brief you on various things.
At the end, a BBC news thing tells you if your mission was successful.
In a small garden outside, we end our trip with some coffee next to this statue of Uri Gagarin.
Another museum, called the Queens house (picture taken in the great hall).
Basically, a very nice old building where there are loads of interesting old paintings (it took me 2 hrs to get Nikki out of here !).
The one I was interested in.
The Armada portrait of Queen Elisabeth I, which her hand on a globe, and ships visible out of the window.
But it’s a day out after all, and we have a few drinks in the Iconic Gipsy Moth where I learned a few more words of cockney.
We head to the “Battle Cruiser” for some “Britney Spears” – to the “Boozer” for some “Beers”.
We look across the Thames, and I can see Canary wharf (the outside of the building was used in one of my favourite Dr Who episodes).
In the background, you can see the entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel.
Inside the tunnel.
It was originally built to get workmen from one side of the Thames to the other, so they could start work.
And with that, my tour of Greenwich is over.
Train advise wasn’t the only thing got while working at SGS.
A fab woman called Catherine (who ran the legal department) told me about a TV series called W1A.
It’s basically a fly on the wall documentary about the BBC. Some of the parodies are so extreme, that I wonder how senior management allowed them to make the series.
Anyway, each episode begins with the “head of values” arriving on his folding bicycle outside New Broadcasting House, W1A (where the series takes its name).
I really wanted to see it first hand (and standing there, it’s a spectacular building).
I’ve spoken before about the British museum, how much I like it, and how on every trip to London, I make a point of popping in, even if only for 10 minutes.
This time, there was a tie-in, to some of the trips I’ve got planned.
In March next year, I’m going on a cruise to Antarctica. We’ll take in various places, but 2 of the highlights for me, and places I NEVER thought I’d get to see are the Falklands and Easter Island.
Interesting then, only about 2 of the Easter Island “heads” have ever left the Island. This one is in the British Museum.
Later this year, were going on a sort of back packing, Greek Island tour and spending some time in Athens.
I’ve been previously, but I’m looking forward to seeing the Acropolis museum now it’s finished and half of the Parthenon sculptures that will be on display there.
The other half of the sculptures (sometimes called the Elgin Marbles) are on display in the British museum and in the picture above, you can see them laid out on display.
The Assyrian Lion hunt.
In Assyria, Lion hunting was considered the sport of Kings.
Shooting down these beautiful animals with arrows from a moving chariot isn’t my idea of sport. Artistically however, they tell the story really well and capture the tension of the event.
A sort of 645 BC face-book post if you will.
The BT Tower.
Until 1980, the tallest building in London and the UK.
I always remember it from the Goodie’s, when a sort of kitten climbed up it.
At one time, it had a rotating restaurant there, and I’d always wanted to go. I didn’t and now its closed for good, the message is clear…
Grab adventure when its present. You don’t know how long it will be around.
Tower Bridge, which many tourists confuse with London Bridge.
On a previous trip, I found out, you can go inside on a tour.
Walking along, inside the main crossbeam.
The view from the crossbeam, showing the Thame’s, the Walkie Talkie and HMS Belfast.
As you walk back across the other crossbeam, it has a glass floor, which can withstand the weight of an elephant.
The view was incredible, but I wasn’t going to walk across it.
Walking down the staircase, its really Victorian looking.
I was amazed to learn that up until 1974 the bridges operation was powered by steam (this is one of the massive steam engine’s, and just goes to show that the Victorian’s could build almost anything and make it work).
Today it’s powered by electro hydraulics.
The bank of the river Thames.
Many of the crime drama’s I watch on tv, begin with a body being found somewhere like this.
On the crime theme, New Scotland Yard, know and respected internationally for its outstanding detection and police work.
I always celebrate remembrance Sunday, even when I’m away from home.
My freedom to travel and seek adventure was bought with the lives of people who fought for freedom and I’m constantly grateful for that.
In much the same way, the relative safety and security I enjoy at home is down to the police force here in the UK. That has a price sometimes too, and here, the eternal flame at NSY, dedicated to officers who have lost their lives in the pursuit of their duties.
There are some things in London, I really like.
Here for example, a guy has laid out a selection of pots and pans and plays them like a drumkit for the entertainment of passers buy (and they in turn, but a few coins in his hat).
And there are others that I don’t like.
Outside the house of commons, people protesting (for those reading this in other countries, freedom of speech and the right to peacefull protest are enshrined in law and sit at the very centre of everything that makes us British).
On this occasion, some native Burmese people highlighting the leader of Burma, San Suu Kyi, and the persecution of the Rohingya people.
No, they aren’t actually complaining about the persecution, they arguing for it to continue.
I remember reading once that freedom of speech, means in practical terms sitting politely while someone else says things that make your blood boil.
That’s what happened to me. Using our freedom of speech to safely campaign for the persecution of others is an outrage, I had to bare in silence.
And to finish, we did an amazing tour of the house of commons.
It was easily one of the most interesting tours I’ve ever done, and incredible to stand in the chamber where Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill have stood and changed the fate of the nation.
Unfortunately, for security reasons, I wan’t allowed to take any pictures. Very disappointing.
So, if you haven’t been to London recently, why not give it a go (its only £22 return after all 🙂