We arrived in London early Sunday morning on Mother’s Day to beautiful Spring weather. The sky was shining brilliantly with absolutely no sign of rain, and the weather was going to heat up to delightful 80 degrees (26 C). Everyone was out and about enjoying the great outdoors and the parks of London.
Having just arrived from a transatlantic flight, my mom, sister and I were all very tired but we were determined to not let our jet lag make us sleep. Instead, we explored Central London and decided on taking an afternoon cruise along the River Thames on an open-air boat. It ended up being the perfect way to see London and enjoy some of the historical and unusually new, modern architecture of this amazing city.
We walked the short distance to the River Thames from our hotel located a block away from Trafalgar square and purchased our tickets for a round-trip ride with City Cruises. Unfortunately, we were unaware at the time that a river cruise is included in the hop-on-hop-off bus tour package we would take the next day with the Original Tour. However, we timed it right given the bright sunny skies. Our bus tour would be wallowing in the infamous London rain.
We got abroad the City Cruise at the Westminster Pier, right across from Westminster Abbey. You can get onboard at a few different locations however it is best to start at Westminster in order to see the entire tour from start to finish.
Given the beautiful weather, we opted to sit on the top deck of the boat for better viewing and picture-taking. If it is raining or cold, you can sit comfortably below and see the tour through panoramic windows on each side of the boat.
The tour took us along the South Bank and Victoria Embankment where we saw the London Eye, one of London’s premier tourist attractions that looks like a giant ferris wheel slowly spinning around to give visitors a 360 degree view of London. On a beautiful day, you can apparently see for miles off into the distance. (We didn’t try it because my sister and mom are very afraid of heights).
Our next stop was at the Bankside Pier where we viewed the St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern art museum. What amazed me the most is the combination of historical and ultra modern architecture. London’s eclectic mix of steel and glass skyscrapers seemed slightly out of place next to all the old, historical buildings from hundreds of years ago. London has been in a building frenzy for the last decade and many new skyscrapers are in the works (as can be seen by the high number of cranes). It will be fascinating to see what new additions arrive over the next few years.
We also passed lots of bridges of course. I particularly liked the Millennium Footbridge, which is an elaborate steel structure for pedestrians that twists and turns in beautiful curves. I would have loved to walk across it but we never ended up back there.
We next headed towards the oldest part of town near the London and Tower Bridge. Later we would take the bus tour through this area and ride across the Tower Bridge into the old, historical heart of London. I found this area particularly interesting given the fact that its medieval streets named after the professions that worked there are still crazily narrow and do not exactly accommodate modern day London traffic.
I had fun taking photos of the Tower Bridge. Built from built 1886–1894, the bridge is one of the most iconic symbols of London as is the red double-decker bus.
As we headed back to the pier, I took a few more photos of the interesting combination of old versus new architecture in London. It had been twenty years since I had last stepped foot in London and it certainly has changed. I can only imagine what it will look like in another 20 years. Hopefully it doesn’t take me that long to get back to this fantastic city.
If you go:
City Cruises offers fully narrated sightseeing tours every 30 minutes along the Thames from the piers at Westminster, London Eye, Bankside, Tower and Greenwich. Circular cruises go from Tower and Bankside. To check out their schedule and prices, please click here. Remember, if you are doing the Original Tour (double-decker hop-on hop-off, this tour is included for free in the 24-hour bus pass. Check here for more details.