Thames River Services (TRS) review
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A boat trip to Greenwich is #17 in my London Bucket List
There's definitely something wrong with the sun today. It's so bright and white it's sucked all the colours from the sky. People are fanning the air with whatever they've got: hats, hands, bags and magazines, but I've decided I'm going on the top deck of a boat for a better breeze. It looks like everybody has had the same idea because the pier is packed out with fifty thousand tourists. Luckily it's not half as bad as it seems because most of them are queuing for the City Cruises kiosk (that's the boat they give away with the London Pass). If you want a more peaceful trip then plump for Thames River Services (TRS).
We're just sitting here waiting for the final few stragglers and then we'll be on our way... hopefully. There's no sign of life in the captain's cabin yet, so we're watching the greenhouse pods on the London Eye. Watching the hot trains clatter over Hungerford Bridge. Watching some baking birds sitting on the prow of the boat -- even they can't be bothered to fly today. They soon move when they hear the jet engine roar of the boat's own motor and off we go... here comes the nice cool breeze at last.
After the Disneyland turrets of the Royal Horseguards hotel you pass Cleopatra's Needle and the Royal Festival Hall. Then comes Somerset House (on the left), the Temple area (through the trees -- hopefully the leaves will have dropped off for your visit), and a great view of St. Paul's up ahead.
After Blackfriars Bridge you pass the tall chimney of the Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe, before sneaking a peek at Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf over the top of Southwark Bridge. Then you pass Francis Drake's Golden Hinde in a dry dock on the right, and see the flaming urn on top of The Monument.
As you come under London Bridge you get the gun barrels of HMS Belfast pointing straight at you, the gothic turrets of Tower Bridge, and the Norman keep of the Tower of London. Then you pull into St. Katharine's Pier and let half an army of tourists off the boat. Everyone disembarks to see the sights around here, so you finally get the top deck to yourself.
It is so incredibly sunny today. We need to chuck some buckets of water on the sun to cool it down a bit, because this is getting mad. The river is glistening with diamond lights on top -- I can hardly look at it because the water is too bright for my eyes.
The river begins to widen out around Rotherhithe and the waves start rolling over each other and growing into giant swells. We burst through them and smack them flat, but then another boat motors past and fires his own white waves at us, bouncing our boat five feet into the sky. If you're lucky you'll get a bit of sea spray spat over the side to cool you down.
The breeze really whips up when he opens the motor past Canary Wharf. Every time I come past here they seem to have put another couple of skyscrapers up. There are two new tower blocks today with the exposed bones of their spines still showing. They're just concrete lift shafts with cranes for crutches, but the next time I come past they'll be fully clothed with windows and a roof.
As you round the final corner you need to look in the distance and try and spy the Observatory on top of the hill. You'll probably see the tall mast of the Cutty Sark first, and then the green onion dome of the Greenwich Tunnel. Then the Old Royal Naval College will slowly get closer until he bumps the boat into the back of the pier and the crew start lassoing the ropes over the pylons.
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Here are some more boat journeys I’ve been on…