South of the River

First off I need to apologise for the lack of posts over the last week or so…to be honest I’ve been pretty busy with work and *shock horror* a social life (sort of). But I’m hoping that I will be able to maintain the interest of any readers I’ve amassed and attract some new ones in the process by talking abit more about my life and experiences (to a point at least).

Being a Londoner is something I often feel very conflicted about; although I technically live in the city, the borough that I live in (Enfield) is very much suburban in size and layout and borders the  Hertfordshire and Essex countryside. Complicating matters is the fact that I rarely venture into central London itself and work outside of the M25 in Hertfordshire, living closer to central does not appeal to me at all and I am far too attached to my car to even consider it. But as anti-London I might appear to somebody who lives and works in the city centre, I am also very thankful for the amazing sights, opportunities and transportation links that living close to the big smoke affords me.

Last weekend I seized the chance to see the city from a more unconventional way…quite literally in actual fact. The Emirates Air Line cable car system is a relatively new addition to the Docklands area of London, and enables passengers to cross the Thames from the Royal Docks DLR station (near the Excel exhibition centre)  to the station at Greenwich North (basically the O2 arena). Although said to have been built for the benefit of commuters, the £60million project finds a high level of popularity amongst tourists who are far more prepared to pay the £4.30 fare (or £3.20 for Oyster) for a single fare 10min crossing. The biggest hurdle for us was finding the Royal Docks station, as I have little experience of the DLR and it’s multiple lines and platforms make it necessary to pay strict attention to the map and timetables. Once at the station it is a short walk over to the cable car station, where you are greeted with Emirates logo adorned air-hostesses and signposts. It is possible to buy a special ticket as I’ve said, but we just used our Oyster cards on the turnstile and carried on through to the ‘departure gate’. If you go at a quiet enough time it is possible to get a car to yourself, indeed we saw several solo passengers in other cars, but we were lumbered with a group of French tourists who got there just in time to join us.

Once en-route the crossing is over quite quickly, but you are afforded spectacular views of the Docklands banking district and the city beyond. Even the fact that it was quite a cloudy day did not spoil the views, and it was interesting to get some perspective on an area of London which people can sometimes forget (especially people like me). Yes you can see some grotty scrapyards and vandalism, but this is a living, breathing city and it makes it more realistic in my opinion.

Landing at the O2 you are greeted with a world-class music venue, housed in one of the world’s most distinctive structures and surrounded by chain restaurants. I have never been to a concert at the O2 (or a concert full stop to be honest), but I imagine that the atmosphere of the place changes significantly; on a cloudy Sunday afternoon it seemed more akin to a suburban shopping centre filled with families and tourists. Apart from eating there is not a whole amount to do at the venue in the daytimes, but I really do want to try the skywalking-type trek on the roof of the building…something a little bit different and a good draw it seems judging by the queue to do it.

Typical Sunday transport works meant unless we went back via the cable car there was little option to get to our next destination apart from bus. Luckily the vast amount of bus lines that start at North Greenwich meant that with little effort we were able to get to Greenwich Park with minimal difficulty. Greenwich Park is another massive tourist draw; basically a massive expanse of greenery surrounded by Georgian architecture housing the National Maritime Museum and University of Greenwich campus. On the steep hill in the centre of the park is the Royal Observatory and the official Greenwich Meridian line. Views from the top of the hill are almost as good as from the cable car and just outside the park lies the historic clipper the ‘Cutty Sark’ in all it’s restored glory, complete with a barrage of restaurants and a small market. It’s definitely worth a trip here too, and as the DLR goes straight from Greenwich North to the station at Cutty Sark it means that it’s easily for accessible for those not willing to brave the bus.

I really enjoy days out like last weekend and it always makes me glad that I live so close to one of the world’s most important cities. Would I want to live there? Not a chance in hell. On the DLR into the Docklands I saw loads of new-ish flats, some with balconies piled up with kids bikes and toys. As one of the more affordable areas of London and relatively close to central, the Docklands are popular amongst people my age who are striving to live out on their own. Personally I’d rather get more for my money further out, or better yet live somewhere more rural and buy a season ticket for the train, but for those a little more urban-inclined they at least have sights like this on their doorstep:

 

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