Greenwich and the O2

Trip Start Dec 01, 2008
Trip End May 21, 2009

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Before I talk about Greenwich, I just thought I'd share this picture.  This is the view, more or less, from my pub in Richmond. As I said, not really in the middle of London.

Anyways, London is pretty much a big city made of smaller cities or towns.  Each town has it's own thing going on and it's own town center.  Richmond is that way as is Greenwich.  In order to get to Greenwich from central London, you have to take the Docklands Light Railway which was built to service new developments in East London.  East London has a bad reputation.  It looks kind of like Cleveland with dead industry and housing estates (estates is the nice british word for the ghetto).  As if the people of East London weren't generally disadvantaged enough, the city basically overlooked the area when building public transportation systems even though poor people probably need them more than anyone.  So, the Docklands Light Railway rectifies some of this problem and also links to Canary Wharf.  The Railway is above ground so it's really cool to take through Canary Wharf as it feels very space age-y to leave central London and enter Canary Wharf.

Canary Wharf has skyscrapers.  Not to American standards but it's still pretty impressive to see this whole cluster of tall shiny completely modern buildings in streets that resemble New York or Chicago.  It also just doesn't fit in with the city at all.  Greenwich is on the other side of the Thames from that development in a quiet and much more well to do area.

Anyways, the reason to visit Greenwich has to do with Greenwich Mean Time.  Greenwich Mean Time was named after this place because this is where the Prime Meridian was established.  And since no one seems to know what that is, I guess I'll explain it.  It was easy enough to measure the Earth from the equator, horizontally, but there was no easy way to measure the Earth vertically.  So, one astronomer (cause that's who measured this stuff with telescopes and other technicaly things) divided the Earth into lines vertically and since he was based in Greenwich, the starting point, as there is no obvious one like the equator) became Greenwich.  So, the Prime Meridian is not nearly as cool as the equator.  It's just a man made line.  Regardless, hey look, I got to stand on it!

Also, Greenwich is a really nice area and the Prime Meridian is located in a large park where you can see the old observatory and visit a new one.  It's located up a really steep hill so you also get a decent view of Canary Wharf and the O2.

The O2 is the Millennium Dome, notorious for costing about a zillion times more than it was supposed to and being pretty useless and unneccessary.  Basically, it's a really freaking big dome located in North Greenwich.  My guidebook said to take the Thames path (a path that follows the river all through London) over to North Greenwich for a nice  half an hour walk.  While most of the Thames path is very nice, do NOT take this section of the path.  Wow, it was sketchy.  And barely a path.  It weaved in and out of construction sites and went on to creepy abandoned docks and through weird industrial areas.  I was completely sketched out by the end.  There's tons of new construction going on in this area.  I figured since it was all Greenwich it must be sort of nice.  Maybe it's being "revitalised" or something but it was very weird.

Anyways, I ended up at the O2 without dying or being kidnapped.  What a ridiculous building.  It has at least 2 Starbucks.  A huge multi screen theater.  A fake walking street with restaurants and stores with trees growing.  A carnival. A Body Worlds exhibit (that guy who plastinates people), a huge entrance hall.  Oh and that's leaving out the massive arena that now holds concerts for the biggest groups in the world.  All under one pretty ugly dome in the ugliest most destitute part of London that no one would ever think of going to if they didn't have to get there to catch the 30 Michael Jackson concerts to be played there.

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