My sister made one of her seasonal London day trips today. We had a great time together with a topical cruise down the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich narrated in traditional style by one of the crew. I grew up and worked here for quite a while when I was young, but I was surprised to learn quite a bit from it . We then looked over the Maritime Museum and had lunch in the little cafe there before getting the boat back . It amazes me how you can think you know a place yet have missed a very obvious facet of it.
I’d not really thought much about London’s history from the point of view of the river, but really the river began it all in the first place!
Some fun Thames facts for foreigners.
- I know its spelled Thames but it’s said Tems (how we cringe when we hear its name mispronounced).
- Though originally a beautiful pure river teeming with wildlife it became so smelly (due to its use as general sewer and dumping ground) that Parliament was unable to function for the stink (that’s when the London sewers were created). Happily it’s now once more one of the freshest rivers in the world.
- From the river you can see “Traitors Gate” the notorious river entrance to the Tower of London (few ever made it back out).
- With London’s old muddy clogged roads, the river was once the fastest way to get around and abounded with small craft ferrying folks here and there.
- The previous London bridge (there have been five!) was found to be sinking in Thames mud so was sold and transported to the USA.
- A river cruise is a great way to see London passing lots of famous landmarks, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, London Eye, Shard, St. Pauls, and Big Ben, to name but a few.
- The Thames is a tidal river rising several meters, so the current changes in different directions throughout the day (making it tricky to navigate).
- Pirates were once executed by being chained to a post against a wall of the river for three tides.
- The Thames police were the first British police force (even before the Bow Street Runners).
- On the celebratory opening day of Tower Bridge the bridge failed to open and the first ship crashed into it.
- These are just a few items to wet your appetite. So if you are ever in London take a cruise. You can go anywhere between Henry VIII’s Hampton Court in the west to the Thames barrier in the east on anything between a speed boat and a leisurely wine and dine dinner cruise. It’s all great fun!