May 17, 2009 at 11:30 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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What can you do on a trip to London’s World Heritage Site of Greenwich? Try some of the following:

Cutty Sark

  • The Cutty Sark was a (formerly) major tourist attraction was seriously damaged by fire and while the restoration work is underway the most you’ll see of the ship are the ‘sails’ covering the wreck.
  • Greenwich - Cutty Sark

Greenwich Park

  • London’s oldest enclosed Royal Park (free) Greenwich Park is a wonderful place to lie on the rolling grass for a picnic, stroll, play sports or look out over London and there are paths for those with roller blades and bikes. Not to mention the flower gardens, deer and the less spectacular Roman ruins and Queen Elizabeth’s Oak.
  • Greenwich - Park (17) Greenwich - Park (5)

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

  • Running from the southern bank near the Cutty Sark the foot tunnel runs under the Thames to the north bank. It’s a tunnel and it’s free. That’s about it but apparently it’s a thing to walk across but probably not necessary!
  • Greenwich - Shore (6)

National Maritime Museum

  • The National Maritime Museum is pretty much here for all of your maritime needs and is one of the major attractions of the Greenwich area. Inside the free museum (although you’ll still need to get a ticket from the counter – weird!) there are sections detailing international shipping and trade (including slavery), naval warships, marine habitats and exploration. It’s quite a large museum and can take some time to wander through but worth it.
  • Greenwich - National Maritime Museum (7) Greenwich - National Maritime Museum (4)

Royal Observatory and Planetarium

  • The Observatory and Planetarium is split over two distinct precincts on top of Greenwich’s hill. The former is easy to spot with the tower and it’s red ball looming over the area. The red ball drops everyday at 1PM (it’s very anticlimactic), it’s a tourist event but used to perform the function helping ships in port to synchronise timepieces. The rest of the observatory predominantly deals with issues concerning timepieces, longitude and latitude. The observatory area also has a camera obscura and the famous Meridian line where everyone stands at zero degrees. The Planetarium has some very cool interactive displays looking at astronomy and space flight – it also has a number of shows (these are charged).
  • Greenwich - Observatory (6) Greenwich - Observatory (10)

Queen’s House

  • Part of the Observatory/Maritime district the historic Queen’s House was home to Anne of Denmark and queen to King James I. You’ll be given a complimentary audio tour (entry is free) and it will guide you around the architecture and art in the building. The most noted feature of the house is the Tulip stairwell – apparently the first free standing one in England. Reasonably quick to walk around but not particularly interesting or worthwhile.
  • Greenwich - Queens House (3)

Old Royal Naval College

  • The Old Royal Naval College is across the road from the National Maritime Museum and features two historic buildings: The Painted Hall and the Chapel (both free). The architecture and interiors for both of these buildings are well designed and are well worth checking out. The former even has some mirrored tables to reduce neck strain as you look at the painted ceilings!
  • Greenwich - Royal Naval College (2) Greenwich - Royal Naval College (10)

Fan Museum

  • The Fan Museum is funnily enough a museum about fans. Honestly if it weren’t for my obsessive need to see London’s museums I probably would have skipped it but it was actually reasonably interesting. I found the fans made entirely of ivory particularly fascinating. Just make sure you get the information booklet, which has plenty of additional information about each exhibit. It costs £4.
  • Greenwich - Fan Museum Greenwich - Fan Museum (10)

Greenwich Market

  • There used to be 2 markets in Greenwich (3 if you count the small one up on the high street towards Deptford) but with the closure of Greenwich Village Market we’re left with the Greenwich Market. It’s predominantly undercover and has sections for food, knick knacks and all the other usual market fare. It’s centrally located near the historic districts and DLR.
  • Greenwich - Market (4)

All in all a day out in Greenwich is a wonderful experience, particularly on a sunny day when you can sit out in the grass and let the world pass by.

More photos at Flickr!

Royal Courts of Justice Tour

May 17, 2009 at 8:22 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Have about 2 hours free during the week and £6? Why not book a tour of the Royal Courts of Justice.

Royal Courts of Justice (2)

The Royal Courts of Justice on Fleet street are the home of the UK’s civil and criminal appeals courts. Conversely criminal cases are heard at the Old Bailey. The planning and construction took decades and was almost complete at the time of architect George Edmund Street’s death. It was opened in 1882, 16 years after Parliament established an architectural competition for the courts in 1866.

These stories and more are imparted to you over a two hour tour. Generally held twice a month but contact the guide as it can change. I found myself the odd man out as the lone individual amongst an arts trust tour. They were all very nice!

The first part of the tour is held in one of the courtrooms and takes on a traditional class room feel as we’re told about the history and functions of the court. There’s plenty of opportunity for questions too. Of note apparently no one (including lawyers) ever know the name of the current high lord judge. For the record it’s Judge Judge. Cool name.

Most of the rest of the tour is spent walking around with guide pointing out various architectural and design highlights, such as the intentionally unfinished pillar and the ‘grafitti’ on some of the other columns.

Of particular note is that the Royal Courts are an open building (well after you get past security that is) and anyone can come in and sit in the great hall or wander into most court cases.

The tour is quite worthwhile while it took a little while to get going it was nonetheless quite interesting. Perhaps if you have a strong knowledge of the English legal system the introductory parts may be dull but if not or you have an interest in both the architecture and the system then this tour is recommended.

Royal Courts of Justice (3)

Check out the court’s FAQ for details on contacting the tour manager.

Royal Courts of Justice (4)

The day I visited there was a very small protest asking for smoking to be banned in films.

Madame Tussaud’s

May 17, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Honestly, I didn’t expect to like Madame Tussaud’s but I was pleasantly surprised. I’d bought my ticket in conjunction with the London Eye so it was cheaper and gave ‘priority’ access thus I skipped the ‘on-the day’ ticket line. Very easy.

Tussaud’s features multiple galleries each with their own theme such as sports, politics and celebrity. There’s definitely a focus on the latter what with sections on movie, music and other stars.
Madame Tussaud's (4) Madame Tussaud's (29) Madame Tussaud's (63) Madame Tussaud's

Each room is quite well done and the characters are fairly realistic. There’s a display at the end of the tour that provides an overview of the wax works process.

Madame Tussaud's (34) Madame Tussaud's (42)

What made the endless (albeit varied) array of models bearable was the use of a few ‘rides’ to break up the journey. One being a ‘black cab’ trip through the history of London and another is a ‘horror’ walk through a dungeon.

Madame Tussaud's (79) Madame Tussaud's (93)

I rather liked walking around and taking photos of the famous and infamous but given the price and the other attractions in London I wouldn’t call it a priority.

Madame Tussaud's (89)

Not clear in this pic but the girl's parents told her to salute. Apparently as a joke!

More photos over at Flickr!

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