Will it be an exaggeration if I said Thames is the lifeline of London ? No, I guess not ! Thames is to London what Ganges is to India.
“TWENTY bridges from Tower to Kew –
Wanted to know what the River knew,
Twenty Bridges or twenty-two,
For they were young, and the Thames was old
And this is the tale that River told:”
― Rudyard Kipling
The multiple bridges are the first thing that you probably notice but it is amazing just how many landmarks and attractions are sitting on the banks of the Thames. A river cruise along the beautiful Thames gives you a peek into all there is to see and is definitely on my list of ‘Must Do’s’ when in London.
The river cruises run from Greenwich Pier to Westminster Pier and back. With weather proof lower decks and ‘feel the wind in your hair’ upper decks with hot coffee and cupcakes, the river cruise was one of my favourite things in London.
Though the Thames snakes its way across the counties of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and The Chilterns, I am concentrating on the London leg of the Thames which can be seen on one of the cruises running through out the year !
Starting at Greenwich Pier with Cutty Sark the British clipper ship, with it’s amusing story of the ship’s figurehead. Cutty Sark is the nickname of the witch Nannie Dee who chased Tam o’ Shanter, snatching his horse’s tail before he escaped by crossing water and is proudly perched on the masthead of the ship with the horse’s tail firmly in her hands !
Most of the well known sights are located between the stretch of The Tower Pier and The Westminster Pier.
The most striking sight for me was The Tower Bridge, reminding me of the nursery rhyme, ‘London Bridge is falling down…..’. Though Tower Bridge is not The London Bridge of the poem, but it is the first visual that comes to mind as soon as I hear it 🙂 .
As soon as you reach The Tower Tier, you can not help but be drawn to the historic castle located on the north bank, The Tower of London. Did you know the famous Indian diamond Kohinoor resides here safely cocooned in the crown !
As you cruise along the river, the many many bridges fascinate you and if you happen to have live commentary instead of the pre-recorded one on the cruise, it is just the cherry on the cake. You get to know fascinating details of the history behind the constantly falling London Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Golden Jubilee Foot Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge ……………..phew, did I miss any bridge !!
Spot the mighty HMS Belfast battle-cruiser moored on the south bank with the Union Jack flying. There seems to be a controversy on the exclusive Naval usage of the Union Jack, if it’s on main masthead of a Naval ship, it’s Union Jack else it is Union Flag ! Interesting, eh ?!?!
As you continue along the river you can see the many cultural landmarks on the Southbank, which you can safely assume is every Londoner’s favourite place. Revel in soaking up the iconic buildings of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, British Film Institute, National Gallery Theatre. You cannot not notice the famous o2 arena and the OXO Tower.
I must confess that I knew nothing about the Cleopatra’s Needle till my 12 year old son told me to click a pic for him on my UK trip. I had to google to find out what it was and on the boat ride, lo and behold, there it was !!
Modern architecture marvels like the Shard, Gherkin, Walkie Talkie and The London Eye sit rubbing shoulders with the ancient historical buildings like Southwark Cathedral and the Lambeth Palace !
As you near the Westminster Pier and see the epic Big Ben, The Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, the essence of London truly hits you.
It’s fun to disembark at any pier, explore the river bank, have a little fish n chips, hop back on and enjoy this journey ! I did it thrice 🙂 .
I fully agree with Ernie Pyle when he said ‘Someday when peace has returned to this odd world I want to come to London again and stand on a certain balcony on a moonlit night and look down upon the peaceful silver curve of the Thames with its dark bridges’.
God willing, I shall be doing this soon.
- The cruises run from Greenwich Pier to Westminster Pier with stops at Tower Pier and London Eye Pier.
- You can hop on and off at any of the four piers.
- Tickets can be bought at the piers or online.
- It is better to buy tickets online clubbed with entrance to The Tower of L0ndon / The London Eye or some other attraction, it comes out cheaper than buying on the spot.
- The boat trips run throughout the year though the timings vary depending on the season.
- The round trip takes around 3 hours, or you can get off at any of the piers to explore the river bank and the attractions on foot.
- Tours depart every 30 minutes from each pier.
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