A September 2000 trip
to London by Hal1026
Quote: Stretching from east of Tower Bridge to beyond the Isle of Dogs, the area long known as the Docklands to Londoners is a great window on the city's past, present and future.
Walk along the streets and Thames embankment and observe the change that has come to this part of the British capital. Formerly (as the name suggests) a port for arriving and departing ships, the Docklands was where much of the Britain's colonial seafaring took place. Here ships would unload produce from all four corners of the empire. Nowadays, the Docklands has become the second financial center to the more ancient City of London, along with multimillion dollar commercial and residential development. But the area's connection to the river and the waters continues, with sailing and watersports clubs that visitors are also welcome to take advantage of.
Hotel | "Four Seasons Hotel Canary Wharf"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 25, 2001
Four Seasons Canary Wharf
46 WESTFERRY CIRCUS CANARY WHARF
London, England E14 8RS
+44 207 510-1999
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 25, 2001
within Four Seasons Hotel Canary Wharf 46
London, England E14 8RS
Attraction | "Watersports on the Thames"
The watersports here has the advantage of direct access to both the Millwall Dock and the River Thames. The Dock is 25 acres of sheltered water that creates an ideal environment for beginners to safely learn a new watersport. The slipway allows the Centre direct access out onto the Thames so activities can be extended out onto a more challenging surface of water. The Centre is open year-round for sailing, dragon boat racing, traditional rowing and canoeing. Summertime is when they offer individual or group tuition though. The Thames and its docks are London's historic arteries that gave it life over the centuries; being out on the water here puts you in touch with the city's present but also its amazing past.
Docklands Sailing & Watersports Centre, 235a Westferry Rd., Isle of Dogs, London E14; Tel: 020 7537 2626
Others in the area:
Facilities and lessons for jet ski riders at every level:
Docklands Watersports Club, Gate 14, King George V Dock, Woolwich Manor Way, London E16; Tel: 0171 511 7000
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 27, 2001
Cruise on the River Thames
Nowadays, actually visiting the area for the first-time in person is a startling experience, not only in contrast to my early imagination of it but also because the reality even exceeds the descriptions of the changes of recent years I'm aware of. Simply put, the Docklands has taken over as London's powerhouse financial center for the new millenium (no coincidence that the Dome is within view from here). Or at least, it's certainly giving the traditional financial heartland of the City of London a rivalry unseen before. Some people dislike the changes, while others go in the other extreme in praising it as a showpiece of Thatcherite reinvention. I suspect the truth is somewhere in between, and that time will define where the truth lies. The Docklands saw the ships of Britain's empire landing at the wharves with all the produce and wealth, but once that empire vanished, the Docklands' role as a maritime transport hub also ended. The Eighties saw its reinvention into a different kind of hub driven by international finance. The new buildings and development since that decade reflect those changes, for better or worse.
How to get a taste of the Docklands, old and new? Walk to a few places, whether to a business meeting, a pub, a boat club or a restaurant. On a sunny but windy day, I found plenty of people doing the same along the walkways that line the Thames. Walking on around the indoors areas of the larger business complexes gives you a feel for the new financial energy of Britain, but give it a try on the more uneven and still winding streets that intersect the Isle of Dogs and you get a feel of the more enduring side of this still little known part of London. Soaring apartment blocks with sales signs sit side-by-side with small shops and pubs, and perhaps that diversity speaks best for what the Docklands' mix of past and future will continue to be.
After hours and between going into other parts of London, you can find a social, active or relaxed side to Docklands. Ask your concierge or hotel reception about ethnic restaurants nearby. I found an amazing little Bengali restaurant I walked to near the Four Seasons, and had the most sumptuous dinner costing only around 15 pounds. And as far as surviving history, some of the pubs in the area actually do date back some centuries. You can get in your healthy activity indoors as well with a visit to Holmes Place, a brand new health club across from the Four Seasons which features an olympic sized pool where you can get in your laps with a view of the Thames outside the huge windows. And interesting side trips to just about any part of London are always possible thanks to the new Docklands Light Railway. You can get a pass that takes you on the DLR, the London tube system and the DLR's ferry service and get into many parts of London quite rapidly. And even if you don't want to go in a boat yourself, go take a look at one nearby--the Cutty Sark is berthed at nearby Greenwich, a tall-masted ship that stands on as a real emblem of this area's seafaring past.
Pub: The Grapes - established in 1583 and rebuilt in 1720, this quiet but atmospheric pub is a great place to share a lager or a bitter with the locals by the riverside. 76 Narrow St., London E14 (West Ferry on the DLR)
Health Club: Holmes Place - 20 metre swimming pool with awesome Thames view; spa area and services; exercise studio with a variety of classes; juice bar and cafe. Westferry Circus, Canary Wharf, London E14 Tel: 020 7511 2999