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Swept Along on the Tide of a Thames Cruise

Swept Along on the Tide of a Thames Cruise

Today I took a three-hour Thames cruise from Westminster Pier to the Thames River Barrier and back.  I’m glad I waited until I’d been in London for a few weeks before taking the cruise.  Now that I have a better understanding of the city’s layout, I could really appreciate what I was seeing.

We sailed past some of the most iconic sites in London, including the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge.  Then it was on to Canary Wharf and Rotherhithe, where I could almost see my house.  Finally we passed maritime Greenwich and sailed through the Thames Barrier, before swinging around and heading back to Westminster Pier.

The Thames River Barrier is one of the largest moveable flood barriers in the world.  The ten five-story rotating gates sit on the riverbed when they’re not in use.  The barrier has closed more than 175 times since 1984 in order to stop storm surges from flooding the city.  It will be familiar to Doctor Who fans because it played a key role in the 2006 Christmas episode, The Runaway Bride.  If you take a Thames cruise, I highly recommend opting for the one that goes all the way out to this magnificent architectural marvel.

There were only a few passengers on the boat when it left Westminster Pier, but we picked up a large group of French school kids when it stopped at St. Katherine’s Dock.  They were around 13 or 14 years old, and apparently teenage attitude is the same in any language, because they acted just like American teenagers.  If I hadn’t heard them speaking French, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

I took the Tube back to Canada Water after my Thames cruise, then wandered over to the commercial area on the other side of Surrey Quays.  I was delighted to find a fish and chip shop, commonly known as a chippy.  Judging by the steady stream of commuters stopping on their way home from work, the fish must be pretty good.  I opted for a battered sausage — sausage dipped in batter and deep fried.  It was tasty, but I suspect it’s a sure-fire recipe for clogged arteries!

I picked up a fruit flavored soda called Rio to go with my sausage and chips.  Interestingly, there are nowhere near as many soda choices in England as there are in the U.S.  At home, grocery stores have an entire aisle dedicated to soda.  The Surrey Quays Tesco devotes less than half as much shelf space to pop.  Coke, Pepsi, 7 Up, and Fanta are common, but other American favorites such as Mountain Dew and caffeine-free Coke are rare.

Of course there are flavors here that we don’t have at home, including lemon-lime flavored Lilt, “cloudy” lemonades, and a particularly noxious orange soda called Tango.  I don’t drink much soda, but I have had a few cravings for root beer since I’ve been here.  It’s no surprise that American-style root beer is hard to come by in England.  There’s ginger beer, but it’s just not the same.

A nice long cruise on the Thames and my first visit to the chippy — a recipe for a perfect day!




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