Richmond has changed a lot since I grew up there but I still enjoy going back to catch up with family and friends. I always saw it as a pretty regular kind of place, where normal families went about their business and took it’s pleasures for granted.
These days it’s the kind of place that you can only afford to live if you have a well paid job in the city and is a favourite with business people moving from overseas with their families to spend a few years working in London.
As teenagers, my sister had a friend who lived on a houseboat, which seemed rather adventurous and exotic. Now it’s the kind of place where people buy a house and then send in the builders for 6 months to refurbish it to their own taste.
However, when I was back visiting last week, I went down to the river and found something of the old Richmond I used to know. The sun was reflecting off the water, on one of those perfect autumn mornings. The locals were going about their business, cycling along the tow-path, walking dogs or just relaxing in the sunshine. The boatbuilder’s door was ajar and inviting business, just in case you should need a new rowing boat to take you up the Thames.
If you walk down the steps by Richmond Bridge you can get a coffee from a great little cafe called Tide Tables which is housed in one of the arches, then sit on the terrace and watch the boats go by.
You can see my photos of Richmond on Flickr here.
Other posts on Richmond
Although we were reluctant to leave the artistic delights of the V & A museum in London, my friend and I had decided to continue our day out in London with a trip down the river to Greenwich.
We emerged from the tube at Embankment tube station to find the pier for the river boat just across the road. The service from here is designed for commuters as well as tourists and leaves every 20 minutes to take you up and down the river, making may stops along the way. The trip to Greenwich cost around £8 return which was not unreasonable considering that the boat was very comfortable and we got an excellent view of some key sites from the river.
In past centuries the Thames was the main thoroughfare through London with grand buildings being designed to be seen from the river rather than the shore side. The thing that struck me was the wide variety of old and modern styles of architecture, epitomised by the dome of St Paul’s cathedral in the same view as the modern day landmark of the Gherkin tower by Sir Norman Foster.
You get great views of the London Eye on the South Bank art complex and pass the Traitor’s gate of the Tower of London, just as prisoners would have seen it as they were brought here by river.
As you move up river you come to the Docklands area, once the shipbuilding centre of London but now redeveloped into a modern financial centre at Canary Wharf. The building continues unabated and one of the features of the skyline is the constant presence of building cranes, putting up more buildings to become the architectural landmarks of the future. In under 40 minutes we arrived at Greenwich with a fine view of the Royal Naval College designed in the 18th century by Sir Christopher Wren as a symbol of England’s maritime power.
The river trip would have been a sightseeing trip in itself, but our adventures continued as we sampled the free delights of Greenwich – more of that in a future post.
You can see all my photos from Greenwich on my Flickr site here.
If you’re visiting London and want a haven to pause from sightseeing or shopping for coffee or a light lunch, there’s a cafe I’d like to recommend to you.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington is a stone’s throw from Knightsbridge where every tourist visits Harrods to buy a tin of Earl Grey tea to take home for their mother and self respecting fashionistas check out the designers at Harvey Nichols. I was there to meet a friend for coffee before a spot of sightseeing in Greenwich (more of that later).
As you enter through the front entrance, don’t forget to look up at the two enormous chandeliers that hang above the front lobby. The first is a sculpture by architect Zaha Hadid, made of black crystals individually suspended on wires to make a shape which looks like a swarm of bees, hence it’s name of Swarm.
The second, above the information desk is of blue and yellow Venetian glass baubles by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly – it’s Murano with a modern twist.
If you can resist temptation, move on through the gift shop and you find the internal courtyard where you can take a coffee when the weather is fine. The shallow oval pool throws up jets of water and you can sit on the steps in the sunshine, or even paddle of you’re feeling hot.
On the other side of the courtyard you find the cafe which has recently been moved back to it’s original location when it opened in the 1860s as the first museum restaurant in the world. We sat in the Gamble room which is covered on all surfaces with decorative tiles and mottos below the ceiling such as Hunger is the best sauce.
On either side are two smaller rooms, decorated in similar arts and crafts style, one in Greens and Gold by William Morris, the other with blue and white Dutch tiles by Edward Poynter.
The decoration was dark and rich as a fruit cake, but if you find it too overpowering you can take your refreshment in the stark white modern corridors on either side of the cafe, with a classical marble sculpture for company.
Oh, by the way, in case you thought I was only feasting my eyes on all the decoration, the food was first class too. You can have anything from a slice of cake, to a salad lunch or a hot meal and I thought it was reasonably priced for central London.
After coffee and cake with my friend for around £4, I returned the next day for a substantial salad lunch which set me back £6.95. I’d much rather relax here in beautiful surroundings than some of the overpriced pavement cafes that I saw in Knightsbridge. And if you have time, the museum is wonderful too, especially if you love fashion, textiles and beautiful objects generally. And it’s free entry – what could be better?
If you’d like to combine your artistic lunch and cultural activities with an evening show, take a look at London Theatre Breaks to round off your perfect day out in London.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
Nearest Tube: South Kensington