Today I’m going to tell you about a fantastic day out I had last week, spent exploring London by boat (City Cruises) with my lady love.
It started off in February, with a present for Natasha. A combo London package with a shard experience and sightseeing River Thames cruise. The shard trip was excellent, but we got diverted by a free walking tour, lunch and more. Time ran away from us so we postponed the boat trip for another day. Flash forward to November 24th.
Cold, grey but blessedly dry, Saturday dawned on us. We had the usual rush to escape the house at a decent hour, but finally we were London-bound on a C2C train. I browsed the Internet for sightseeing ideas that would match up with stops on the cruise – Tower, Greenwich, London Eye, Westminster. In the end it was a combination of last-minute research and luck that pulled it all together into a top day out.
A short walk from Fenchurch Street (French Urchin Street according to some autocorrect functions) brought us to the “Tower” pier, aptly named as it sits beside the Tower of London. City Cruises boats depart every 40 minutes, and the hop-on, hop-off 24, hour river pass lets you cruise up and down the Thames all day. We collected our tickets and boarded the next boat (the “Millenium of Peace”) heading down-river, destination Greenwich. We watched the banks and buildings flow by from the open-topped upper deck. What made this boat ride particularly memorable was the live comic commentary from a crewmember – although not a professional tour guide, he was an excellent and amusing accompaniment to our cruise along the Thames. Topics ranged from pirates to Cher to drinking spots along the river.
Docking by the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, we briefly browsed the Old Royal Naval College museum but found ourselves famished. We headed out in search of victuals and found our food at the Buffalo restaurant. On to the nearby Greenwich Market, “London’s only historic market set within a World Heritage site” (greenwichmarket.london) and a quaint and quirky collection of stalls. The market was feeling festive, decked out with lights and a number of Christmas-themed wares for purchase.
We bought a few small, unique, hand-made Christmas presents and finished off with an Amaretto-flavoured coffee to keep warm. We had a bit more time before the next boat heading to Westminster, so we checked out the Greenwich Foot Tunnel – 100 steps down and then back up to satisfy my curiosity about this tunnel beneath the Thames, thanks Natasha! We explored the Old Royal Naval College a bit further too, cue photo of the Lion statue. Then we boarded a boat heading upriver.
This time we sat pretty for the cruise. This boat had a spacious indoor area on the lower deck with many large glass windows, allowing us to shelter from the cold with great views of the capital: darkening with dusk and gradually glimmering with lights. We travelled beneath the Tower Bridge, cruised past the London Eye and alighted at Westminster pier. A stroll along the night-time river brought us to the Tattershall Castle, a pub boat on the river, where we mulled over our day with a warming mulled wine each. Finally, we caught one of the last boats returning East to Tower pier, braving the chilly November evening to enjoy our final ride up top on the open deck. The lights of London night slid by and we talked about our grand day in the big city as tourists. All that remained was to catch our train from French Urchin street eastward, back to Essex!
Top tip: if you plan to make full use of the 24-hour river pass ticket, you could plan to visit in the warmer months. The boats operate for longer in high summer (July-Sept) with the last cruise running as late as 19:30 giving you much more sight-seeing boat time on the Thames! Make sure to check the timetables as times vary depending on time of year and which pier you are travelling from/to.