After a late night, we were back at it early for Day 2 of our London Experience. We had decided to trek across town and under the Thames to visit the famous Borough Market for lunch.
On the way, Nick suggested we hop off the Tube early to take a peek at Westminster Abbey. It was an offhand serendipitous suggestion. 30 minutes later, we were drinking mimosas as the Queen drove past. It was the first of an amazing day of “Zen Tour” moments.
When we got off the Tube Station at Westminster, the Abbey’s bells were ringing incessantly. Mary Lynn asked a local policeman what the fuss was. His response: “I am not sure, but I’ve been here for about 20 minutes and I wish it would stop.”
As we got closer to Parliament, the streets were closed and we learned that the Queen was swearing in Boris Johnson as Prime Minister (again). She’d be heading back to Buckingham Palace soon…
With champagne in hand, we went to the curb to watch Queen Elizabeth II ride by in her purple Rolls Royce.
We were completely thrilled. It was 11am on Day 2, we’d seen the Queen, how could we top that? We would give it our best shot…
Guarding the entrance of the Borough Market, is Southwark Cathedral near London Bridge.
Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London, with a market on the site dating back to at least the 12th century. With over 100 stalls, treats are everywhere. From the best cup of coffee you may ever drink to gooey Raclette, and it’s nearly impossible to make a decision. Click on images below to expand.
Stuffed, we continued the Christie Zen Tour with a cutter ride up the Thames to Greenwich to explore the town and to see the Cutty Sark. At 28 knots, the Thames Clipper catamarans fly across the water.
The Cutty Sark is a British clipper ship, built in 1869. She was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, coming at the end of a long period of design development, which halted as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion.
After a devastating fire, funds from the British National Lottery were used for a massive renovation. Now she floats over a museum made of glass in Greenwich Village.
Greenwich is also home to the British National Maritime Museum, the Old Royal Naval College and the Royal Observatory, where the Prime Meridian was created and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) begins.
The Ship in the Bottle outside of the British National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. It’s difficult to see the scale but that bottle is about 20 feet long.
After trekking up the highest hill in the area in the search for the Prime Meridian, we spent a bit of time learning about the history of Greenwich Mean Time – here a summary from Wikipedia:
As the United Kingdom developed into an advanced maritime nation, British mariners kept at least one chronometer on GMT to calculate their longitude from the Greenwich meridian, which was considered to have longitude zero degrees, by a convention adopted in the International Meridian Conference of 1884.
Synchronisation of the chronometer on GMT did not affect shipboard time, which was still solar time. But this practice, combined with mariners from other nations drawing from Nevil Maskelyne’s method of lunar distances based on observations at Greenwich, led to GMT being used worldwide as a standard time independent of location. Most time zones were based upon GMT, as an offset of a number of hours (and possibly half or quarter hours) “ahead of GMT” or “behind GMT”.
From 1852 to 1893, the Shepherd master clock was the heart of Britain’s time system. Its time was sent by telegraph wires to London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, Belfast and many other cities. By 1866, time signals were sent from the clock to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts via the new transatlantic submarine cable. In terms of the distribution of accurate time into everyday life, it is one of the most important clocks ever made.
We finally found it! In the dark, the actual Prime Meridian was actually remarkably difficult to locate, but thanks to Tim’s phone we zeroed in on it. We were also treated to a great view of the city from the top of the Observatory hill.
After a full day, we retired to the historic Gypsy Moth Pub for a well-earned pint.
After exploring Greenwich, we got back on the Thames Cutter to return home. In the spirit of the Christie Zen Tours, we decided to ride the Cutter to the very end before she turns around to go back to London. This took us past the London Palladium, and through the Thames Barrier and back under all the lit bridges – all part of the Illuminated River Project the world’s longest piece of artwork. See the nighttime views below:
The Thames Barrier is a moveable flood defense located on the River Thames, downstream of central London. Spanning a cross-section of the river 520 meters wide, the barrier is the second longest movable flood barrier in the world. It was built to protect the densely populated floodplains to the west from floods associated with exceptionally high tides and storm surges.