Travel By River

Are you quite ready to get back to London?  I know I am.

France was magnifique, but London Town is home!

Sadly, I only have a few more days in this beautiful city before I head back to America.  Consequently, the rose-coloured (yep) glasses are in full effect and I’m looking upon even the most mundane details of London life with soppy sentimentality.  I thought I’d take a break from big adventures to appreciate some of the little things.  So this, folks, is a post about my work commute!  Hooray, right?!  No?  I promise you’ll like it.

I’ve had a summer internship at a start-up in the City (the financial district), which meant an hour-long twice-daily commute on the packed tube during rush hour.  Despair, sweat, and death.  In that order.  Until societal expectations change and it is socially acceptable for me to rest my head on the back of the businessman wedged in front of me, this will never be a happy situation.  However, a couple of months ago, I made a life-changing discovery.

I could take the BOAT.

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TfL (forever the gold standard for public transport systems in my heart) runs a River Bus service called the Thames Clippers which can zip you up and down the river in half the time that the tube takes.  There are only a handful of piers sprinkled along the Thames, but by a stroke of good fortune, I live nearly right on top of one.  It took me a few weeks of acclimatization before I could get up early enough to catch the boat in to work, so I started out just taking it home.

My office was a quick 15-minute walk to Blackfriars (above), through the City and past St. Paul’s.  Having the chance to walk past that beautiful cathedral every day is something that’s quickly become routine, but I want to remember how special it really is (a life exotic, ya know?).

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I hop on there, and the boat rolls up to Embankment next (right by LSE… yup, I could have been doing this alllll year.  Kicking myself to the max!).

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It’s kinda lovely.  I’ve had a couple of trips where it’s been cloudy or raining, but it’s still not too shabby when you get this view:

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(I spy the London Eye!)

Let’s face it, Big Ben looks purdy in any light.  Even under an Eeyore-worthy little black rain cloud.

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Moving right along.  I can’t even tell you what a difference it made to my general mood and peace of mind to breeze along the river in the fresh air (or cozied up inside) instead of shoving myself in to a Tetris puzzle of suits and hoping nobody sneezes on me.

You also get a completely different perspective on London by traveling by river.  It’s like when I started walking or taking the bus between by usual tube stops – I realized how everything was connected instead of just popping up from underground!

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The futuristic flat buildings at St. George Wharf are pretty cool, and somehow remind me a little bit of Sydney.

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The further west you get, the more things calm down.  Passing through Vauxhall on one side and Pimlico on the other, suddenly the bustle of Westminster seems far behind you.  There were times during the year when I lamented the fact that I lived so much further from the city center than some of my classmates, but truthfully,  it’s very refreshing to leave it all behind at the end of the day and head back to Zone 2.

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Whenever we sailed past the lovely Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park, I always knew I was getting close to home.

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Then the lovely Albert Bridge would loom up out of the distance.  This is my neck of the woods (that phrase always makes me think of Al Roker… sorry Dad).

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After a few more minutes, we’d dock up at my pier and a handful of us are unloaded a few steps from my front door (well, basically).

And look – eventually, I got my act together enough to catch the morning boat in to work, too.  I would pop into our local coffee shop (where I’m sitting right now, incidentally) and leisurely wander down to the pier with Americano in hand.  It’s been the epitome of the word “pleasant.”

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I just can’t believe I didn’t figure this out sooner.  My commute became one of the things I looked forward to most – just a few calm, peaceful, precious minutes to relax and clear my head before heading in for a full workday or getting home to continue dissertation work.  I’m going to be the crazy lady who waxes poetic about her youth in the urban jungle by saying, “Oh, I miss commuting!”

Ah well.  I was always going to be crazy.

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2 thoughts on “Travel By River

  1. !! Wow. I LOVE your commute. Seriously, what a groundbreaking revelation – boating daily on the Thames. Yesh, color me jealous!

    My husband had a similar stunning-commute for awhile when he biked to work in DC – cruised along the Potomac, across the Memorial Bridge, around the Lincoln Memorial, along the Reflecting Pool, around the National Monument then arrived right at the front door of his office. Crazy!

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