Where Time Began: Greenwich, UK

In addition to our day-excursion to Portsmouth and Isle of Wight, we also spent a day of our London vacation in nearby Greenwich. It seemed natural for us to take time for this visit, not just because of the name and origins of my blog concept, but because, well after all, Greenwich is where time began.

Clocks at Royal Observatory, Greenwich (UK).

Clocks at Royal Observatory, Greenwich (UK).

Our London Holiday, March 31-through-April 9, 2013:

1. British Airways LAX-LHR
2. The Waldorf Hilton, London
3. Covent Garden Neighborhood
4. London Transport Museum
5. Day Out in London – Traditional Landmarks
6. Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground, Kensington Gardens, and Green Park/Buckingham Palace
7. Muggles and Magicians: The Harry Potter Experience
8. Family Remembrance and Celebration: Brookwood Cemetery and The Lion King at The Lyceum Theatre
9. Day-Trip Out of London: Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, UK
10. Where Time Began: Greenwich, UK TODAY’S POST
11. Tower of London
12. London’s Shopping Shrines: Hamleys Toys and Harrods

A view from our DLR train ride from London to Greenwich. There are many Quays ("keys") like this during the train ride, making for a very scenic start to our day out in Greenwich.

A view from our DLR train ride from London to Greenwich. There are many Quays (“keys”) like this during the train ride, making for a very scenic start to our day out in Greenwich.

The Cutty Sark-Greenwich DLR station where we got off for not just Cutty Sark but for Royal Observatory and Greenwich Park. You can get to the National Maritime Museum from this station on foot, too.

The Cutty Sark-Greenwich DLR station where we got off for not just Cutty Sark but for Royal Observatory and Greenwich Park. You can get to the National Maritime Museum from this station on foot, too.

Map of Greenwich, UK.

Map of Greenwich, UK.

Welcome to Greenwich!

Welcome to Greenwich!

To get to Greenwich from London’s Covent Garden, we took Bus 15 from Aldwych and got off at Limehouse, where we could connect to the Docklands Light Rail (DLR). The DLR is part of Transport for London‘s rail system, yet different from the Underground and Overground. We continued to Greenwich from the Limehouse DLR station, and we concluded our commute at the Greenwich-Cutty Sark DLR station and from there walked easily to the sites mentioned in this post.

The three of us in front of the Cutty Sark, an original clipper ship from the mid-1800s. It's now docked in Greenwich (UK) and open to the public as a museum.

The three of us in front of the Cutty Sark, an original clipper ship from the mid-1800s. It’s now docked in Greenwich (UK) and open to the public as a museum.

A portion of the Cutty Sark's original construction highlighted for visitors to help us understand the work that's gone into keeping her history alive for 150+ years.

A portion of Cutty Sark’s original construction highlighted for visitors to help us understand the work that’s gone into keeping her history alive for 140+ years.

Schematic showing how tea and other crates were packed aboard the Cutty Sark.

A schematic showing how tea and other crates were packed for transit aboard the Cutty Sark.

T with the Long John Silver figurehead exhibit aboard the Cutty Sark.

T with the Long John Silver figurehead exhibit at Cutty Sark.

C and T under the hull of Cutty Sark, showcasing the original wood and copper construction of the ship.

C and T under the hull of Cutty Sark, showcasing the original wood and copper construction of the ship. This area is new since the re-restoration after a fire destroyed it in 2007.

While we didn’t get to the tall ships or other boats docked in Portsmouth, we did climb aboard one of the better known of the tall ships in maritime history while in Greenwich: Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark is a beautifully restored clipper ship from the mid-1800s. Yes, the ship docked in Greenwich is the original vessel, copper-and-wood construction hull and all. While she endured a pretty bad fire in 2007, she’s been cleaned up and re-restored, and she recently reopened to the public in April 2012.

The three of us aboard Cutty Sark. It was a great day for a sail, even if just a pretend one.

The three of us aboard Cutty Sark. It was a great day for a sail, even if just a pretend one.

T standing at attention under the masts of Cutty Sark. Just look at that sky!

T standing at attention under the masts of Cutty Sark. Just look at that sky!

T and C steer Cutty Sark into port.

T and C steer Cutty Sark into port.

T loved the ropes aboard Cutty Sark.

T loved the ropes aboard Cutty Sark.

It was a gorgeous day out in Greenwich when we visited. Wait, I don’t need to tell you this, you can see it here for yourselves. There’s really no better place to go take in views over the Thames River than from the top deck of the Cutty Sark. There’s also a lot for the kids to do here also, especially if your kids like ropes (plenty of ropes).

A few of the brochures we got during our day out in Greenwich, including a few kid-centric handouts from Cutty Sark. T was too busy seeing everything for the first time to really focus and participate on them, but they were great free activities included with admission.

A few of the brochures we got during our day out in Greenwich, including a few kid-centric handouts from Cutty Sark. T was too busy seeing everything for the first time to really focus and participate on them, but these and others were fun and free activities included with our admission.

One of the interactive kid activity kiosks aboard Cutty Sark's tween deck.

One of the interactive kid activity kiosks aboard Cutty Sark’s tween deck.

I learned about as much as T did aboard Cutty Sark because of activities like these.

I learned about as much as T did aboard Cutty Sark because of activities like these.

Great job, C and T! You steered Cutty Sark to London's port in a mere 77 days!

Great job, C and T! You steered Cutty Sark to London’s port in a mere 92 days! Unreal that she took closer to 73 days on average back in the mid-1800s around the Cape of Africa to make the same route from China around and up to London.

T took "all hands on deck" seriously with this hands-on deck scrubbing station for kids.

T took “all hands on deck” seriously with this hands-on deck scrubbing station for kids.

T balancing "tea crate tokens" aboard a Cutty Sark puzzle on its tween deck. What great educational and FUN activities they have here!

T balancing “tea crate tokens” aboard a Cutty Sark puzzle on its tween deck. What great educational and FUN activities they have here!

Below deck there’s plenty for kids to do as well, and that’s not because the deck is called the “tween” deck; that’s just the name of the deck “in between” top deck and lower deck. But the tween deck is where we found a lot of activities for T (and all children aged toddler-to-tween) to put all hands on deck. There were trivia games, puzzles, crew member role-playing stations, and even some modern video games pitting junior captains against one another to see who could steer and dock the Cutty Sark into London’s first. While the ship is steeped in history (it did carry mainly tea after all… heh, get it, steeped?! OK, sorry) and is a sight to see and tour for anyone who enjoys maritime history, the Cutty Sark does a fantastic job recruiting kids for its crew, too.

C and T in front of a ship-in-bottle out back of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich Park.

C and T in front of a ship-in-bottle out back of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich Park.

We've got a lot of walking to do... up a hill to the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

We’ve got a lot of walking to do… up a hill to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

The views from Royal Observatory Greenwich make the walk up its hill well worth it.

The views from Royal Observatory, Greenwich make the walk up its hill well worth it.

Royal Observatory Greenwich (UK)

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich (UK)

After leaving the Cutty Sark, we wandered through a part of the University of Greenwich and over into Greenwich Park, part of London’s Royal Parks and home to the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. While we didn’t get inside the Maritime Museum this visit (the largest museum of its genre in the world, by the way), we did get up to the Observatory. And when I say up, I mean up… on a hill. Where else would one find an observatory after all?!

The official Prime Meridian marker atop Royal Observatory Greenwich.

The official Prime Meridian marker atop Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

The Prime Meridian telescope at Royal Observatory Greenwich.

The Prime Meridian telescope at Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

These folks would not pay to go in for their photo opp on the Prime Meridian. But they walked up the hill... why stop now?!

These folks would not pay to go into Royal Observatory, Greenwich for their photo opp on the Prime Meridian. But they walked up the hill… why stop now?!

C and T's feet in queue and across the Prime Meridian. We waited about 15 minutes or so for our real photo opps. Not too bad!

C and T’s feet in queue and across the Prime Meridian. We waited about 15 minutes or so for our real photo opps. Not too bad!

T took this picture of C and I across the Prime Meridian. Aww!

T took this picture of C and me kissing across the Prime Meridian. Aww!

T straddling the Prime Meridian at Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

T straddling the Prime Meridian at Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

The Royal Observatory’s main draw is that it’s the official home of the Prime Meridian. I know, I know, the Prime Meridian runs north-to-south pole-to-pole so it has many homes along the line, but the “discovery” of the Prime Meridian actually happened at the Royal Observatory. That’s in quotes because unlike the Equator, the Prime Meridian is pretty much an arbitrarily chosen line, or a declaration-it-is-so type of discovery. At any rate, because of its storied connection to the Observatory, this is where many come to visit it… and take many pictures. Fair warning: Do be prepared to pay entrance to the Observatory and to queue for a few (several) minutes to get those photos (you can check out information on entrance fees, including a combo ticket to all the Royal Museums Greenwich, here).

07 sun dial 1

07 sun dial 2

07 other obs stuffWe enjoyed our day in Greenwich very much. This was one of C’s choices as far as sightseeing days, and it was a great pick. There was plenty to keep T and the both of us entertained and educated. And it was gorgeous (those views!). I can only imagine how lovely this park and town is in later spring and summer. But never mind imagining… I think we’ll just have to make the time to return to Greenwich and see it again for ourselves.

It's the family of RMT on the Prime Meridian, home of GMT and where time began!

It’s the family of the RMT blog on the Prime Meridian, home of GMT and where time began!

RMT’ers, what type of sight have you made time to see while on vacation that you’d planned to be more educational than entertaining, but wound up being both?

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