Monday, September 12, 2011

A River Runs Through It: Thames Festival

We had hoped to get out of town over the past weekend, as our next free weekend won't be until late October, but by the time we got around to deciding where to go, we couldn't find a place to stay.  So, we stayed in London and spent Saturday at the Thames Festival.  Most of the day's festivities took place along the south bank of the river, between the Westminster and Tower Bridges.
Thames Festival
We took the train to Waterloo and grabbed lunch from some of the many food vendors before heading to the waterfront to watch the boat parade. When the tide is out, the Thames has a bit of a "beach," so we walked along the beach for a bit before it started.  We came across this group of sand sculptors creating a sofa.  It looked comfy, but it was facing the wrong way, so we kept walking and eventually went back up to the riverfront to watch the parade.
Sand sofa
Fire boat
Classic wooden boats
This one had it's own band on board
Sadly, the weather didn't cooperate with this boat's tropical theme
After the parade, we continued walking along the river towards the Tower Bridge.  The waterfront walk was closed between the Blackfriars and London Bridges, and our detour took us past an interesting ruin amidst the tourist attractions and Starbucks.
The remains of Winchester Palace
This one wall is nearly all that remains of Winchester Palace, which dates back to the 12th century, and housed the powerful Bishops of Winchester.
The scoop on Winchester Palace
 Back along the waterfront, we passed by Hay's Wharf, which is now a shopping/restaurant arcade with an interesting kinetic sculpture/fountain in the middle.
Hay's Wharf Arcade
Several areas along the waterfront had food and craft vendors, musical performances, activities for kids, and other fun stuff going on.  As we approached the Tower Bridge, the plaza around London City Hall was teeming with activity.
Tower Bridge
City Hall
Giant banana
Lots of kids running through this fountain
 At this point, we were ready for a treat of some sort, and this Mad Hatter's Tea Party booth hit the spot.  Tea, cakes, and a little table for two!
The good kind of Tea Party
Dance party at the Disco Shed
Petting zoo
Good thing we didn't see this until after we had tea!
Tiny, but ornate boat
They're getting ready for it?
Art installation
 As we crossed the Tower Bridge, it had just stopped raining, and we were treated to a huge rainbow that spanned the Thames.  It did help make up for the rain a bit.
Rainbow over the Thames
 Once across the bridge, we took a quick tour around St. Katharine Docks, which is adjacent to the Tower of London.  As part of the festival, several classic boats were on display here, including a few that had participated in the earlier parade.
Boats at St. Katharine Docks
More boats at St. Katharine Docks
Another rainbow!
Sir Paparazzi?
As we emerged back on the river front, we caught a glimpse of the Tower Bridge opening up to allow a tall boat to pass through.  A Mississippi riverboat on the Thames?  Yep, that's the Dixie Queen.
The Dixie Queen goes under the Tower Bridge
By this time, we were ready for dinner, so we walked across the London Bridge and looked for a place to eat.  Along the way, we passed this building, which appeared to have the Blue Man Group climbing up it.
This isn't the West End!
We ended up at a cute little place called Joe's Kitchen.  Not only did they serve breakfast all day, but they had a special menu with ingredients sourced from the nearby Borough Market.  We were a little surprised that only one other table was occupied the entire time we were there -- especially on a Saturday night -- until we learned from our waitress that they had only extended their hours to dinnertime a couple days earlier.  She suggested we come back sometime for brunch.  We later discovered it was a chain restaurant -- although the only location with a special Borough Market menu -- but we'd still probably go back if we were in the neighborhood.

Since the Northern Line was undergoing weekend track maintenance, the nearby Borough station was closed, so we walked back to Waterloo and took the train home.  Hopefully all that walking -- easily 5 or 6 miles -- balanced out all the treats we ate.

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