London was the first city I traveled to when I set out on my never-ending journey from the USA. Within six months, I had visited four times and seen many of the landmarks. Unfortunately, London is one of the biggest cities I’ve been to in my travels. After those four visits, I’d hardly scratched the surface. This week I returned for the fifth time to check some more places off my bucket list, notably Greenwich.
Greenwich and the Prime Meridian have been on my bucket list since I was a small child. I’d always imagined it as a simple line on the ground. Well, it kinda is. but the rest of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich Village and surrounding area were nice to tour through as well.
Walking around the Royal Observatory museum, I found some really interesting facts. One is that the Prime Meridian wasn’t always in its current location. In 1816, the prime meridian was unofficially located a few feet to the west where the Troughton Transit was located. It was in 1884 when the Airy Transit was voted for the official Prime Meridian. However, even that wasn’t true 0°. In 2015, based on sat-nav equipment and by official decree, the Prime Meridian was moved 335 feet to the east. Visit the museum to find out all the details behind that.
The rest of the museum contains a full exhibit on navigation throughout the ages, the history of the marine chronometer and other interesting maritime facts. One such fact has to do with the large meter-wide red ball on the roof, which has been lowered each day at 1 PM so that ships can set their clocks accurately. Currently, the ball looks heavily dented. That’s because it was once used as a football. Seriously! When the Royal Observatory was being renovated a few years ago, the construction workers who didn’t know any better were literally using it as a football around the courtyard! Umm…
I also really liked the laser shining along the meridian. In the day you can see it along the ceiling of the Meridian building, but then at night it shines out the window and is visible up to 40 miles away! I recalled having seen the green line on previous visits to London but had no idea what the purpose was.
Then there was Cutty Sark. I felt a little awkward when I arrived at the museum to see it announced as the most famous ship in the world, yet I’d never heard of it. The museum reminded me of the Vasa in Stockholm, but the story of this ship is considerably different than the fateful Swedish one.
The Cutty Sark was originally built 1869 as one of the fastest sailing ships on the seven seas. Originally used to bring tea from China, it was almost immediately replaced by steamships which were able to navigate the Suez Canal (which opened a week before the Cutty Sark was launched). Instead of retiring the ship, it was commissioned to transport wool from Australia. I was impressed by the size of the cargo hold. It might be small compared to modern standards, but 150 years ago it was massive, able to hold 10,000 tea chests (enough to make 200 million cups of tea)!
Although the facts are fascinating, my favorite part of the ship was the sheer beauty of it. Not the extravagant beauty of the Vasa, but just the natural marvel of seeing the sailing ship against the London backdrop at night.
I did a little exploring of Greenwich Village, but it was evening and most places were closing up. What I didn’t do were the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House. Those are still on the bucket list, exactly per the Law of the Traveler, along with many more places in London.
One other place I did get to see that day was Harrods. Buying anything there was definitely out of my budget, but it was nice to explore the store. Or rather one floor of the store. The place is absolutely massive. I could probably have spent a couple full days there without seeing everything.
I will be sure to get back to London next year when I return to the UK and get some more things checked off the bucket list. As to present time, the day after my visit to London, I went to Bath to enjoy the hot springs at the Thermae Bath Spa, and the next day I visited Stonehenge, both stories coming soon. I write this now at Heathrow Airport waiting for my flight to Abu Dhabi, where I will spend the next week soaking up the sun.
Pro Tip: Consider buying the London City Pass if you plan to visit Greenwich Village and the Cutty Sark. Both are included in the pass.
Easirent is the cheapest car company to rent from within the UK (but perhaps not the best).
If you’re traveling with more than one person, I’d recommend using Airbnb. Some locations can be fantastic.
Couchsurfing is my favorite way to stay in a city. London can be extremely difficult to find hosts, depending on the season, but not impossible. I’ve gotten lucky and had some amazing hosts there.
You could also find a hostel or other volunteer job to work at via Workaway.