Londoners have recently rediscovered their river. And now a pedestrian walkway means you can walk along the south bank of the Thames from the Houses of Parliament to Tower Bridge taking in spectacular views. Most days the walk becomes a favourite promenade for Londoners who enjoy the carnival atmosphere and good river views. The best way to see the city is on foot and this walk will take you past some of the great sights and through legendary Southwark and Bankside - the medieval fleshpots of London. Just strap on your walking boots and put plenty of film in your camera.
Most people start at Westminster and the tube station can be reached on the District/Circle line. The station itself is worth a look with its metallic high-tech design and will deposit you outside the looming clocktower of Big Ben. Westminster Bridge is the start of the walk, giving expansive views up and downstream. This seems to be the new tourist heart of London with crowds making their way between Big Ben and the new London Eye. Hawkers and food stands now line the bridge. The view famous from Monet's paintings of the Houses of Parliament can be seen if you turn right after completing the bridge and step down to Albert Embankment. If you continue west along the embankment you will eventually reach the Tudor gatehouse of Lambeth Palace.
But most visitors head east down the steps to the London Eye. The great Palladian building before the Eye is the famous County Hall where 'Red Ken' faced up to Margaret Thatcher across the river. But the Eye is exceptional and now thronged with tourists and tour guides, buskers and ice-cream vans. If you continue onwards you pass Hungerford railway bridge which is currently being renovated and will feature a light and airy footbridge. Facing the river is the capital's arts and entertainment complex - the South Bank centre. It is one of the biggest and most important in Europe and features the Royal Festival Hall, Hayward Gallery, National Film Theatre, and most importantly, the Royal National Theatre founded by Laurence Olivier. There are always crowds milling around here killing time before and after a show/exhibtion/performance and all the buskers around here seem to be retired Opera singers.
If you are here on a Sunday there is a wonderful book market set up under the arches of Waterloo Bridge (see photo) and the views of the Thames from here are magical. The Thames itself is a very clean river, though it may not look it from its creamy/brownish hue. This is because of the sediment stirred up by two tidal reaches (riverine and maritime)which stretch up as far as Teddington. As of writing a porpoise has been spotted as far as Blackfriars after straying in from the North Sea.
The Oxo Tower with its fashionable restaurant overlooks Gabriels Wharf - a terrific little conglomeration of shops, cafes and restaurants with a garden that hosts performance artists. But the big attraction is along the promenade and under Blackfriars bridge - the Tate Modern (I have covered this in a separate journal)and Shakespeare's Globe. This mock Tudor building stands near Bankside pier and is a recreation of the 16th century playhouse that stood near this site. It was built of the original Tudor materials including a thatched roof and wattle and daub walls. The inside stage is open to the elements, as it was in Shakespeare's time and balaustraded balconies and stage are amazing in their accuracy. I was lucky to see a performance of 'Love's Labours Lost' with Vanessa Redgrave last year and the experience was unforgettable. If you can't see a performance then there are tours every hour costing about £7.50. These I would strongly recommend.
By the time you have reached the Globe your feet may be aching and your thirst may need quenching. The 17th century Anchor Inn overlooks the river (see photo)and my suggestion to you is order up a good pint of ale, take it outside, sit down and enjoy the views of the river.