You won’t be in London for long, before you figure out that the River Thames (the pronunciation falls somewhere between Tehms and Tims) is the city’s centerpiece. Of course, it was critical in allowing London to become a center for commerce, centuries ago. Nowadays, there are far fewer commercial ships plying the waters, and the cargo hauled by most of them, is people.
I would have loved to have taken more than one ride on the river, or perhaps make a longer journey (there are several options available, and I’ll talk about those in a moment). But, given the time I had, I only got to set sail once, on my final full day in the city. I grabbed a spot at the front of the boat, where I could mount my Drivelapse camera (which normally records my road trips from the dashboard of a car). Then, I sat back and enjoyed the short cruise.
The first sight to see was one of London’s most recognizable landmarks, the Tower Bridge. The boat departs from a dock on the west side of the bridge, then promptly makes a u-turn, so unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to sail underneath the 115+ year-old drawbridge.
I did, however, get a great look at the Tower of London, and the entry known as Traitor’s Gate, where prisoners would arrive, and spend their final moments outdoors, before being locked away in the Tower.
Because I couldn’t roam far from the video camera that was rolling in the front window, I didn’t get to take as many pictures as I would have liked, during the boat ride. I did, however, get an excellent look at several of London’s bridges, including London Bridge (a fairly new and architecturally boring structure), and the Millennium Footbridge (which was shut down two days after it opened in 2000, because it wobbled so much — then was re-engineered, and reopened in 2002).
I also got to sail past the London Eye, another project that celebrated the millennium. The boat dock at Westminster is just across the River Thames from the giant Ferris wheel. The trip took a little less than 30 minutes.
I traveled aboard a boat operated by City Cruises. Because I had a London Pass, I could have spent the entire day sailing up and down the river, for free (using the card’s one-day “Red Rover” pass). But as I mentioned, I only had time for one ride.
My route was one of the shorter rides offered by City Cruises. The company (and others) offers cruises that sail all the way to Greenwich, and some special tours that go all the way out to the Thames Barrier — a giant structure that can close the river, protecting London from severe storm surges.