Group adventure this week, as Lady Hughes and myself travelled down to London with our good friends Mark and Heather Hillyard, Andy Morrison and Jacqueline Bateman.
Meeting at Stockport Station, we boarded the 8:04 to Euston and watched as the English countryside raced past, while we drank tea and planned the day’s activities.
Once in London we navigated our way through the card swipe barriers, which seemed to cause Jacquie problems every time, and jumped the tube down to Embankment, and the river.
Mark and Heather had the best knowledge of the city so we let them take the lead, following their suggestion to visit Greenwich, which I’d always wanted to go to, so no complaints there. Mark’s other suggestion was that we take a river taxi as we’d get a much better view of the city from there – lead on!
The large catamaran river taxi was comfortable and frequent and proved to be one of the highlights of the day as it gave us a great perspective on various landmarks, such as the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, Canary Wharf and more.
Once at Greenwich we made our way up the hill to the Royal Observatory. At the top, the views over London were panoramic and the observatory itself looked fascinating, though we skipped the paid bits and stuck to the free stuff so we could cover more ground – I know, cheapskates.
Walking back down the hill we entered the Maritime Museum and asked what was worth seeing in under an hour, it was suggested, in such limited time, that we visit the Nelson exhibition – so that’s what we did.
The most impressive artefact, for me, was the coat Nelson wore when he was killed. It clearly shows the bullet hole above his shoulder and I found it a fascinating connection to the battle and the man – no photography allowed I’m afraid.
A few more pictures, we gathered the troops and made our way to the Old Royal Naval College.
It soon became apparent that we had entered a very large film production as there were trucks, cables and lights everywhere. Someone told Mark that it was ‘Now You See Me 2’ with Daniel Radcliffe, but we didn’t see him. In fact we didn’t even see any actual filming. Just lots of equipment and bored looking security telling you to stay away from it.
Apparently, Greenwich is one of the most used locations in the UK, with parts of ‘Thor 2’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 4’, ‘Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Sherlock Holmes 2’ shot there – it seems it’s especially good for sequels.
The Painted Hall is often described as the most beautiful dining hall in the world and you can see why as the walls and ceiling are covered in 18th Century decorations that are absolutely stunning. It was here that I discovered that my camera battery had died and the spare I’d brought was also dead. Yes, in the most beautiful dining room in the world I had to resort to my phone to try and capture it all, which you can probably tell from the quality of the pictures – bugger!
Popped into the gorgeous Chapel quickly, before leaving the college and starting the search for somewhere to eat.
It’s a weird psychology which compels people to peer into restaurant windows and move on because they’re too busy, but see a restaurant with no-one in and move on again because it’s too empty. Eventually we settled for Pizza Express, which was a lifesaver as we turning into a bunch of toddlers, tired, hungry and cranky.
Refuelled, we wandered into Greenwich Market, where I met a photographer who had photographed the man who had photographed Che Guevara, including the iconic portrait that was on every student’s wall in the seventies – interesting character, but no, I didn’t buy a photo.
Back on the river taxi we agreed to get off early and walk round the Tower of London as a final treat before catching the tube and train home. Halfway round I heard a familiar voice. Walking past us, in his civvies, was Beefeater Billy. Billy is one of the actual beefeater from the Tower of London and we met him last year when we visited. I’d become a bit of a fan after watching some YouTube clips of his tour, which are hysterical. If you’ve never seen them, check out my Tower of London blog from last year.
Billy took a selfie with me and the tower in the background, which he tweeted later – I’m going to expect him every time I visit London now.
In Euston station we found our train was delayed and most people jumped on the next one, but we wanted a specific stop some waited twenty minutes for ours. When we got on, we found the train virtually empty so the Manager let us sit in first class, where we had a carriage to ourselves.
At one point in the journey, I ran up and down the carriage – just because I could.
This was a trip full of sights and sounds, good friends and pleasant surprises – what every adventure should be like surely?