On Saturday we went to Greenwich. The ‘reason’ (as if we needed one!) was to visit the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival before it finished (it ended yesterday). So on the train and across to London we went. The festival itself was okay – I seem to set rather high standards for what a ‘festival’ should deliver, so I am probably no judge. But Willem had fun with ‘Fishing for Shadows’ which was like a combination of hands-on puppetry and a playground, with various marionettes, shadow puppets and a small theatre set up in an open air venue. Most things were made from ‘found objects’ like old rope, or driftwood, and it was nice to see something aimed at children that was not all about gaudy colours and flashing lights (that said, judging by the ratio of adults to children, I am not sure it was really aimed at children any way!) We also got to see Osadia with their surreal street performance ‘Whose Hair Dares’ where some exotic looking people take participants out of the crowd, put them on stage and create elaborate hair styles. Something to entertain the crowd while they are eating their lunch in the open air I guess 🙂
As well as the Festival, we also took the time to visit some of Greenwich’s more permanent attractions. First was the new, and rather wonderful, Discover Greenwich. Part of the Old Naval College, Discover Greenwich gives a great overview of Greenwich and its part in London, and England’s, history. There are lots of hands-on activities, and the information is well presented and quite in-depth: the centre manages to make it engaging without falling in to the trap of feeling the need to get too ‘whizz bang’. Willem’s favourite part was getting to try on armour, which rather suited him.
We also walked through the park where people were frying themselves in the summer sun, and up the steep hill to visit the Royal Observatory which is frankly, amazing (and like Discover Greenwich, it’s free). We concentrated on the Astronomy Galleries, which are a mix of interesting hands-on activities and static displays. Even if your children have never shown an interest in anything astronomically-related, they are sure to find something here that interests them. (The gift shop is great if you are looking for unusual gifts for people, not so great if you are trying to save money. Just saying.) The other half of the Royal Observatory concentrates on telling the story of the Meridian Line, and time in general. I have visited that section some time ago, and hope to take Willem back there soon.
There are plenty of other things to do in Greenwich which we had to save for another day – the National Maritime Museum takes in not just the Observatory but also galleries concerned with Maritime exploration, art and history. They ‘village’ of Greenwich itself is very pleasant and well worth a stroll around. The Cutty Sark is still in the process of being restored after a major fire in 2007, but is due to re-open next year. And one of my favourite, if bizarre things to do when in Greenwich is to walk under the Thames to the Isle of Dogs via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. (We used to live on the Isle of Dogs).
Many tourists don’t seem to make it to Greenwich, simply because it is not in the ‘centre’ of London. However, this is a bit crazy as Greenwich is so easy to get to – by the DLR (Docklands Light Railway), by bus or by river boat (a brilliant way to travel in London – the Thames is an important part of London, and a very important character in its history). Whether your family is interested in art, open spaces, pretty things to look at or architecture, include a day trip to Greenwich on your London itinerary. You won’t regret it.