After spending the previous day indoors at the Guild of One-Name Studies Maritime Seminar, I wanted to see the rest of the sights. Luckily the weather had changed – It was cold, but there was a clear blue sky. After checking out, but leaving our luggage at the hotel, we set off up the hill to the Observatory. There were marvelous views across London and we spent some time identifying various landmarks. The only thing that spoilt the view ware the diggers and fences in the foreground – they were repairing the area which had been used during the Olympics for the show jumping etc. The observatory didn’t open until 10, so we carried on walking through Greenwich Park to the Blackheath Gate. There were still leaves on some trees and everyone was out enjoying the crisp autumn day.
Back to the Observatory for a quick look round and then back down the hill to the Queen’s House, one of the oldest buildings on the site, built for Anne of Denmark, wife of James I. It is now part of the Nation Maritime Museum and is used to display the collection of paintings – I was particularly interested in the paintings of William Hodges, artist on Captain Cook’s second voyage to the South Seas (1772-75). Time was getting on, so we cut short this visit and returned to the main National Maritime Museum. Hunger was starting to take over but we took one look at the queue in the NMM cafe and retired to a seat outside and ate our “emergency rations” (biscuits and water).
Soon after we had arrived in Greenwich on Friday we had bought a “Big Ticket” which, as well as the Cutty Sark and the Observatory, included entrance to the Ansel Adams Exhibition, so we went back into the museum and went round that. I had read an unfavourable review of this, but I enjoyed it – he took the kind of photographs I would like to take – perhaps I should try black and white.
The other “must see” sights of the area, I was told, were the Hospital’s Painted Hall and the Chapel. These are the two prominent domed buildings at the centre of the complex. First we visited the Painted Hall. This was originally the Hospital Officers dining room and intended as a display of Britain’s maritime power. The walls and ceiling were painted over nineteen years, from 1708, by James Thornhill – he was paid £1 per square yard for the walls and £3 for the ceiling.
Then, after a diversion past the wrecked cars of the film set, to the Chapel for a welcome sit down. Someone was playing the organ so we listened to that while looking around.
Dragging ourselves to our feet we finished our tour at the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre, in the Pepys Building at the northwestern corner of the site. Perhaps we should have started the visit here, as it gave a good overall history of the area, although in a bit of a muddle and with rather too many “interactive” displays. Here we found the Old Brewery cafe, so we rested our feet again with a coffee and cake.
As we had enjoyed the river trip at the start of the weekend and the weather was still good, we decided to return the same way. We collected our luggage from the hotel and made our way down to Greenwich Pier. By now it was about 4 o’clock and everyone else had the same idea, so we missed one boat and had to wait 20 minutes for the next.
Our timing was perfect as the sun was starting to go down and we had some lovely views of London in the dusk.
When we reached our stop at the Embankment, we realised that the sun was setting right behind the Houses of Parliament, so we dashed up the steps to the Hungerford pedestrian bridge to take some photos – along with several other people, with tripods etc, who had probably planned to be there. For us it was coincidence and a fantastic end to a very special voyage to Greenwich.