If you're ever looking for a global experience in London, this Greenwich Boat Tour—highly recommended by Hannah—is it! This tour takes you out on the waters and through London, covering the recognizable and awe-inspiring sights of the city. You'll leave this experience with a new perspective of the city and a zest for your life abroad!
When CAPA released the sign-up sheet for the Greenwich Boat Tour, I was one of the first few people to write my name. I didn’t know much about the area apart from it being the location of the international standard of time, Greenwich Mean Time, but I was excited to learn more about this new part of the city.
The first warm Sunday in June, our CAPA group boarded the river boat at Westminster Pier, right in front of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. I headed to the upper deck (with rather wobbly sea legs), hoping for some direct sunlight, a gentle breeze, and an excellent view. Shortly thereafter, we embarked on our winding journey through the heart of the city. At first, I was surprised by the swift current of the Thames and how loudly and forcefully the waves crashed against the hull of the ferry. I don’t often ride boats, especially not through urban environments, so I found this a really neat way to experience the city from a different perspective.
On the top deck of the ferry with the London Eye visible in the background.
On the Thames, you can also feel the history of London. The river itself has carried millions of people across the centuries, and you can see the remnants of the past along either side. On our way to Greenwich, we passed many famous landmarks, including the Tower of London, Cleopatra’s Needle, and Shakespeare’s Globe (of which I took countless pictures). Although I had studied a map, I didn’t realize just how close some of these sites were to the water.
We waved to lots of pedestrians overhead as we passed under Tower Bridge.
Looking out over St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge from the ferry.
Once we regrouped in Greenwich, our CAPA tour guides led us to Cutty Sark, the last remaining extreme clipper in the entire world. Built in 1869, its primary function was trade, most notably of tea and wool. It also encountered fierce gales as well as deadly mutiny. It was later put out of commission by steam-powered watercraft.
Cutty Sark, the three-mast extreme clipper was built for speed and used for trade. It is the last extreme clipper in the world.
We then made a pit stop outside the impressive Old Royal Naval College before trekking through the lush, spacious Greenwich Park on our way to the Royal Observatory. The six-minute climb up the steep hill to the Observatory was definitely a workout, but the view of the London skyline from the top was absolutely stunning.
Our CAPA tour concluded a block away from the Greenwich Market, where vendors sell clothing, fine arts and crafts, and cuisine from a variety of countries, including Italy, Cuba, and Thailand.
Greenwich Market can get quite busy. If you ever visit, be sure to bring a few pounds since you might be tempted to buy something.
There is also an excellent and affordable restaurant just outside the market called Goddards at Greenwich, which was established in 1890. When I ate lunch there, I tried a traditional English chicken and mushroom pie with a tender, gooey filling and a buttery, flakey crust. As The Great British Bake Off’s Mary Berry would say, it was “a good bake.”
Inside of Goddards, where I had a chicken and mushroom pie.
After lunch, I wove my way through the different shops and booths, where I dropped more pound notes than I’d care to admit on a pair of shoes and watched the sweetest vanilla coconut fudge being tempered.
After strolling through the markets, I visited the Queen’s House, a former royal residence originally commissioned by Queen consort Anne of Denmark. It is home to the awe-inspiring Tulip Stairs, the first staircase in England to be centrally unsupported. I also ventured through the galleries, where we came across ornate décor as well as compelling narratives, including that of Olaudah Equiano, an African slave, author, and abolitionist from the late 1700s. Furthermore, ‘The Armada Portrait’ of Elizabeth I is on display in the Queen’s House. This famous oil painting from 1588 has been immaculately restored. I was astounded by the fine detail in the vanes of the feathers, intricacy of the lace pattern, and luminous reflection on the pearls.
The tulip stairs are styled after a Venetian style. It is also possible that the design in the baluster are meant to be lilies rather than tulips.
‘The Armada Portrait’ featuring Queen Elizabeth I is incredibly detailed.
The CAPA My Global City Greenwich Boat Tour gave me an entirely new perspective on London and introduced me to parts of the city I might not have discovered on my own. Our CAPA tour guides were helpful in giving directions, providing background information, and suggesting sites to explore in further depth.
Here I am standing on the Prime Meridian, standing so that I am on both the western and eastern hemispheres.
There’s so much to do in Greenwich that I wasn’t able to get through it all in one afternoon, so I later returned to see the National Maritime Museum, the Peter Harrison Planetarium, and the exhibits inside of the Royal Observatory, through which runs the Prime Meridian. As I planted a foot in both the eastern and western hemispheres of planet Earth, I looked down at the reflective gold lettering which indicated how far east or west cities like Cape Town and Buenos Aires were from the 0° longitude line. I thought of how many people from these places have walked this same line, exclaiming when they’ve found the distance to their homes marked. In short, if you’re ever looking for a global experience in London, Greenwich is well worth the visit.
Hannah Woodruff is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. With a double major in English Literature and English Writing at University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in London this semester.
Hannah's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.