Exciting England – Greenwich and the Notting Hill Markets
I haven’t done a post about London for a while, so here is one! Back before I moved to the Netherlands I spent my last couple of months frantically trying to see all the things in London I HAD to see before I left. Luckily London was having a lovely Spring so that I got quite a few lovely sunny days to get out and visit Notting Hill and Greenwich.
The markets in Notting Hill are on Portobello Road (the Portobello Road markets) and are famous for the plethora of stalls and shops selling antiques and fresh fruit and vegetables. Of course they’re also famously featured in the 1999 film starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts called “Notting Hill” (original)!
The antiques part of the market is only open on Saturdays so that is the day I went, along with half of the population of London apparently. It’s a very popular destination, and so it was VERY busy! But I still had fun doing some gift shopping in the stores and at the stalls, people watching and taking photos.
I was especially excited to visit the original Hummingbird Bakery cafe (which does amazing cupcakes) but the line was out onto the street so I decided not to bother. I had visited the less busy one in Soho anyway!
I was very intrigued by this shop full of old sewing machines, it was a pity my Gran couldn’t have had a look in there, I’m sure she would have loved it!
After a couple of hours I got a bit sick of moving at a snail’s pace and getting jostled by the crowds so that was the end of my visit to the markets in Notting Hill! I did also get to see some stunning Spring blossoms as well:
A few weekends later I had a ‘day out’ with another Australian girl I’d met while teaching, and we visited Greenwich to have a look at the Royal Observatory, park and maritime museums. It was another gorgeous day, almost warm enough to be Summer rather than Spring! We had an awesome burger lunch (I got an Aussie burger that did not disappoint – pineapple, egg and beetroot!) before having a look at the Cutty Sark, a tea clipper built in 1869 which is now open to the public as part of the Royal Museums Greenwich.
As you can see it is huge, and it was pretty impressive to be able to see underneath it and then look up through the glass to the top as well. We took a few photos but didn’t bother spending the money to get onto the ship itself as the sun and the park was calling to us! We wandered amongst the beautiful buildings of the National Maritime Museum and Old Royal Naval College before having a peek inside Pepys House at the information centre which has some information on the history of Maritime Greenwich.
The twin domes of the Old Royal Naval College (Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece) are absolutely stunning as is the view looking out onto the Thames or up towards Queen’s House.
The Queen’s House is a Royal Palace that was built for Charles I’s Queen Henrietta Maria, which is now open to the public to marvel at the architecture and the world class collection of paintings by such artists as Gainsborough, Reynolds, Hogarth and Turner.
But it was too nice a day to be spent indoors, so we continued past the buildings and up the hill towards the Royal Observatory and views from the park.
Luckily London has a lot of big parks, because when the sun is out the Londoners flock to the green outdoor spaces for the day! We visited Queen Elizabeth’s Oak – an oak tree that dates back to the 12th Century and where Queen Elizabeth I often took refreshment in its shade. Legend has it that King Henry VIII once danced around this tree with Anne Boleyn! Apparently it died in the 19th century but the ivy that grew around it held it upright for another 150 years until it was finally knocked down in 1991 by a heavy rain storm. You can still visit it, it’s just rather more horizontal than before. Next to it is a baby oak that was planted by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1992 in memory of this ancient tree!
We finally reached the top of the hill, where the Royal Observatory and the prime meridian are located, as well as a stunning view across the Thames to Canary Wharf and the O2 arena.
The Royal Observatory is home to the Prime Meridian line, where you can stand on the line on the ground at Longitude 0.
The Royal Observatory is also home to the Shepherd Gate 24-hour clock and the Great Equatorial Telescope (which is the largest telescope in the UK).
While it costs money to go in and see the museum and stand on the Meridian line, there were still some pretty gardens surrounding the Observatory, as well as interesting items such as the old telescope below.
I really liked the giant ship in a bottle outside the maritime museum on our way home!
I also figured I might as well get some photos of the skyscrapers in the banking district of Canary Wharf while I was going through there:
For more information about Maritime Greenwich, the Cutty Sark, Queen’s House and Old Naval College go to the website here which has lots of information about the different museums and sights as well as opening times and prices.
I'm a freelance writer and ex English teacher from Australia currently living in the Netherlands with my Dutch fiancé and our four weird cats. After living in Tasmania and Western Australia I spent a year in London where this blog began. I try to travel around Europe (and the world!) as often as I can, while blogging about the things I do, the sights I see and what it's like to live and work as an expat Aussie in the Netherlands.