Greenwich Mean Time

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Saturday, September 18, 2010

Today I decided I would hit up the main business district of London, the Canary Wharf, in the Borough of Tower Hamlets, and then work my way down to the famous Borough of Greenwich.

Canary Wharf is literally the newest part of town.  Almost all the buildings in the area were built in the last 20 or 30 years as part of London's decision to redevelop the area as a financial center.  Previously, the area that is the Canary Wharf today was formerly a series of three massive docks known as the West India Docks or Dockland.  After a huge decline of use of the docks as technology changed between 60’s and 80’s, the docks closed in 1980 and London took over.  London decided to revamp everything in this part of town.  They built new buildings and offices directly over the water in the docks to reduce the size of the docks and provide more building space.  One of the new buildings is the one featured at One Canada Square, the tallest in London and the UK.  It tops out at 50 "storeys" (British English).  They used to provide tours of the building and allow visitors to go to the top, but this has ceased for obvious security measures.  Underneath One Canada Square is a modern shopping mall that connects to the various other skyscrapers in the area. The entire area is not like the rest of London.  It’s very organized, gridded, and well planned.  London also extended the Jubilee Underground Line to serve the area.  These new Underground stations are cavernous, huge spaces rather than the tiny little tubes that run under downtown London.  Transport for London also developed a new line service for the neighboring areas, the DLR, Docklands Light Railway.  Today, the Canary Wharf is developing quickly with some of the most modern offices and apartments.

Just south of Canary Wharf, you run into the Isle of Dogs.  The Isle of Dogs is a former island in the Thames River, but was urbanized into a type of peninsula.  The etymology behind “Isle of Dogs” is quite the enigma.  There are dozens of explanations for the name, none of which seem to be more valid than the others.  Most of the explanations involve something to do with dogs once inhabiting the island marshlands in the past.  For whatever reason, it remains the Isle of Dogs today, though I never saw any dogs.

This area seemed to be very suburban with a lot of really nice apartments overlooking the Thames.  There were a lot of schools too, one with grass growing on the sides of it.  If anything looks familiar to you in the pictures of the Isle of Dogs, it may be because it is frequently used in movies.  Just to name a few: The World is Not Enough, Batman Begins, Love Actually, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and 28 Days Later (and 28 Weeks Later).

Eventually, I made it down to the riverside.  Across from the Isle of Dogs is the former Royal Naval College.  Originally, the building served as the Greenwich Hospital when completed in 1712.  After the hospital closed, it became the Royal Naval College from 1873 until 1998.  Formerly, the grounds were the home of the Palace of Placentia which was built in 1447.  It served as the primary royal residence for two centuries before falling into disrepair during the English Civil War, then being demolished to make way for the current structure.  The left building is referred to as the Queen Mary Court, and the right is known as the King William Court.  Today, Queen Mary is leased for 150 years by the University of Greenwich (since you can’t buy land from the Queen in England) and King William is leased by the Trinity College of Music.

Queen Mary Court features a beautiful chapel inside, and King William Court contains a baroque Painted Hall.  Between the two Courts lies the Queen’s House, though it was only used for a few years.  The building existed prior to the building of the Greenwich Hospital, and the initial plans for the Greenwich Hospital called for one large building.  The reason why there are two separate courts (King William and Queen Mary Courts) is due to the fact that Queen Mary demanded the view to the River Thames not be obstructed, and who was going to challenge the Queen? No one.  Thus, there are two separate buildings.  The buildings are also frequently used in movies: The Mummy Returns, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Golden Compass, and The Avengers.

Greenwich Village lies just on the south bank of the Thames and is a charming part of London.  The Greenwich Market was in full swing when I arrived.

Passed the Queen’s House is the National Maritime Museum at the bottom of Greenwich Park.  I hiked to the top of Greenwich Park which offers a spectacular view of the city.  At the top of the hill lies the Royal Observatory.  By international convention, the Prime Meridian runs directly through the Royal Observatory.  At night, a laser is shown directly where the Prime Meridians is, though I wasn’t there in the nighttime to see it.  The Royal Observatory also established the solar time at that very location known as Greenwich Mean Time.  The sun isn’t always directly above the Observatory at noon though because of the Earth’s axis.  It’s the “average” or “mean” time that the sun is directly above, so it can be off sometimes up to 15 minutes.

At the top of the hill in Greenwich Park, aside from the Royal Observatory, is a statue of James Wolfe, a gift from the gorgeous commonwealth nation of Canada.  James Wolfe left behind a very substantial legacy for the British Crown when he lead troops to the French infested territory of Quebec.  He led a siege upon Quebec City and quickly defeated the French troops, though he was expected to lose.  However, during the siege he was shot several times and died on the battlefield, but he was able to witness his victory as the French fled.  His victory paved the road for the successful British takeover of Montréal and, therefore, New France (prior to the existence of Canada).  This signaled the end of French presence in North America, though we all know that French very much persists in Quebec.  James Wolfe became famous after his death and was posthumously dubbed as “The Conqueror of Quebec.”

Greenwich Park is large and wonderful place to relax.  The map said that there were Roman ruins in the park, but, when I arrived at the location, it appeared to simply be a rock in the ground.  Apparently, not much is left of the original structure.  After all that walking, I took a short bus ride home and enjoyed the sights along the way.
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