When I first moved to London I asked a friend where to take a day trip. “Greenwich,” she replied. “As in Greenwich Mean Time?” I asked. “Yep.” “Where is that?” I asked her. “East,” she said. “Like in Kent?” I asked. “Haha, no, like in London,” she laughed. In all my years of learning about longitude and prime meridians, I had never realized that Greenwich was an actual place and that said place was right in London.
But it is, and as I discovered, it is well worth a visit. In fact, I have been to Greenwich a few times since starting the A Lady in London blog. The most recent time was on Monday. Taking advantage of the bank holiday weekend and the sunny weather, I decided to take a day trip out east.
Remembering that one of the best ways to get to Greenwich was by boat, I hopped on the Thames Clipper at Embankment Pier and settled in for a sunny cruise down the river. 45 minutes and some great sightseeing later, I got off at Greenwich Pier and found myself face-to-keel with the Cutty Sark.
The historic merchant ship suffered from a fire the year I moved to London, and this was the first time I had seen it since it reopened last year. Its tall masts rose high into the sky and its hull was suspended in a glass sea.
I toured the Cutty Sark thanks to a ticket the National Maritime Museum gave me. I learned all about the ship’s involvement in the tea and wool trades, and got a peek into the world of the sailors that lived on board.
From the Cutty Sark I walked over to the Old Royal Naval College, a beautiful double-domed masterpiece by Sir Christopher Wren (of St Paul’s Cathedral fame). Inside the Painted Hall were sumptuous interiors replete with color and gilding on every imaginable surface.
Across the street and over the lawn sat the Queen’s House, a stunning example of Palladian architecture by Inigo Jones. Inside were the famous Tulip Stairs, a snail shell-shaped spiral all done in black and white. The house was home to several collections of maritime art, one of which included J.M.W. Turner’s largest oil painting, The Battle of Trafalgar.
Down a colonnaded walkway was the National Maritime Museum, a grand space with a variety of galleries showcasing everything from historic figureheads to maritime history in different regions of the world. It even had one of Nelson’s original military jackets on display.
Up the hill from the museum was the Greenwich Royal Observatory, home of the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time. With thanks again to a ticket provided by the museum, I explored several galleries full of telescopes, clocks, and historical gadgets designed to measure longitude at sea.
I also got to stand with one foot on either side of the Prime Meridian, which was even more exciting than the time I stood with one foot on either side of the California-Nevada border (seriously!).
After a full day of sightseeing in Greenwich, I was exhausted. But a reward came in the form of the best view in London, a panoramic scene of the beautiful park and museums below.
It was the perfect way to end a day trip to Greenwich, and made me thankful once again that my friend had enlightened me as to its location when I moved to London all those years ago.