[From high over the Atlantic on Saturday, October 20]
I was determined on this trip to the UK to do some things, in the midst of the research and business part of my journey, that I had not done previously. As it turned out, I chose not to revisit a single previous destination save for the churches at Evensong and Eucharist. In fact, aside from seeing Buckingham Palace as I was in a taxi, and aside from a walk through Trafalgar Square because of the direct route to my next destination, I pretty much avoided the usual folderol that tourists include in the Top Ten.
One of my must-do stops this trip was Royal Greenwich, site of the Cutty Sark tea clipper, the Royal Observatory and Prime Meridian, and the Royal Naval College designed by Christopher Wren. As I’ve already related, I took the Thames Clipper service down the river from London Eye Pier, where not too many minutes later the few of us on the boat were delivered safely to the pier at Greenwich.
The Cutty Sark is a fascinating place to visit. One steps into the hull at the lowest deck, where the tea would have been stored in transit, and then works up to the deck where the crew lived in small cabins right up on top. I spent a long time just looking at the rigging, trying to figure it all out. At one point I heard Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis,” and I rushed over to find vintage movies, from the 20s and 30s, of sailor in action on such a ship, all being screened on big bales of wool (from the days when the ship was a wool ship running from Australia). And of course I teared up at the beauty of that music coupled with indelible, never-again images from the sea. Even on deck a few minutes later, I heard that music wafting up through the hold, and I was entranced, transfixed, moved.
From the Cutty Sark I made my way up the hill, past the workmen dismantling Olympic equestrian sites, to the old Royal Observatory. Now I have an itch to read more about the history of time and its measurement, since that’s something I really don’t know much about. I enjoyed stepping over the Prime Meridian; video will follow. And I marveled at the chronometers, clocks, telescopes, quadrants, and other apparati that filled the museum.
Then to lunch, a walk ‘round the old Royal Naval College (a Wren masterpiece), a quick visit to the Queen’s House (Stuart era), and I was ready to head back to central London, overloaded with history, and delighted to be on the water, even if for a brief transit.