Sunday, July 13, 2008

The long and winding road

Here's where we ended up today - the prime meridian, where you can stand with one foot in the eastern hemisphere and one foot in the western hemisphere. This plaque is on the side of a building at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

The red ball on top of this building drops at exactly 1 p.m. every day. It's used by ships on the Thames to set their chronometers.

How we got to Greenwich is the real story for the day. A few days ago, I mentioned that some locals consider the London Underground to be overcrowded, inconvenient, and unreliable? Well, today it was all of those. There are frequently "planned engineering works" on the weekends causing various lines to be partially or completely shut down. This weekend was a very bad one for such shutdowns. We live in Uxbridge, which is on the northwest side of London. Greenwich is on the southeast side of London. Since Darrell had to go in to work for a bit this morning, we didn't get started until about 12:30. It normally would have been about an hour and a half to get there. Today, it took over three hours! There were partial outages on three different lines which affect our travel, and long delays on some of the others, meaning that for about a half dozen stops, we spent more time sitting in a stopped train in the tunnel between stations than we did moving.

Upon arriving in Greenwich (by "replacement bus" service, since there were no trains running to Greenwich at all from the direction of our approach), we set out to find the Greenwich Union, a pub that Darrell had on his "to try" list. The beer was great, we were no longer starving after a snack there, and could finally get on our way toward the observatory, which we knew closes at 5. We hiked up the hill - the observatory is of course on the highest hill in the area - and arrived at the entrance at 4:30. We didn't have much time, but there is no charge for admission, so we made the best of it. We followed the signs to the meridian, where hundreds of people were lined up to take photos of their friends in front of a sculpture straddling the line. I opted to photograph the sign on the wall instead, as we had views to take in of London from the top of the hill, and even more importantly, a gift shop to visit. The girls have enjoyed gift shops almost as much as anything else on our trip. Almost all of the shops have a small pin or badge for less than a pound that makes a good souvenir.

After leaving the gift shop, the girls opted to get back down the hill by rolling down the grassy slope, joining many other kids doing the same. Darrell and I chose to walk, wimps that we are.

After our whirlwind visit to the observatory, we walked back into town and had dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant called Cafe Sol that we had seen on the way in. We didn't have high expectations. All I wanted was better food than we had at the Texas Embassy Cantina last week. Much to our surprise, the food was pretty good, definitely better than the cantina.

The ride home was much less eventful than the ride out. Other than the replacement bus service from Greenwich to the North Greenwich Tube station, everything else was running just fine. I think that we should try again for the observatory on a weekday!

1 comment:

Cassie said...

How cool is that?!?! As a geography teacher, that would be one thing I would definitely want to do!!