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A cruise along London’s past

The cold bit through my gloves. Even my nose was cold as ice! But excitement coursed through my body, keeping it warm. My eyes feasted on an evening London by the banks of River Thames. What had seemed like a concrete jungle by day had suddenly transformed into a festival of lights by sunset. The river by the London Eye Pier was alight with dancing reflections of the innumerable buildings by its banks.

As is customary for most tourists, I hopped into one of the giant Ferris wheel pods for a slow view of the historic city. I could see what the fuss was all about: from up there, the city looked like it was celebrating its own version of Diwali. It was probably a good thing that I got to gape at the pretty lights before I got off the pod for the river cruise. Because a slow sail by the London Eye Pier is not merely a feast for the eyes, but also the mind.

The first of the monuments I saw was the Palace Of Westminster. Actually, I’d say it was ‘Big Ben’ that was visible first. The giant clock is a landmark most tourists are familiar with. What I–and probably, many others on the boat–didn’t know was that the clock tower is a part of the palace. The palace sure seemed like it was straight out of a Disney movie, but I really couldn’t see what’s so fascinating about a big clock whose bells chime every hour. Turns out, during World War II, Big Ben’s chiming indicated that Britain hadn’t been defeated. It was the sound people hoped to hear on the radio at the time. Big Ben was a harbinger of safety for a country that was at war.

Big Ben was just one of the sights on this cruise tour that had a historical significance to it. Two more were right ahead. I’d watched the TV series The Tudors to learn a bit about England’s history. So, when the guide on the cruise announced that we should look ahead for the Tower Of London, I was all eyes and ears. I instantly recalled the sad and unfair beheading of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife, at this palace. 

Of course, the Tower of London had seen many a poor and innocent soul perish at the mercy of the Tudor monarch, but Anne Boleyn’s story was perhaps one of the most outrageous ones.


Her crime was that she failed to give the king a male heir. But before she was disposed of by the king, Anne sure triggered off a big reformation for 16th century England. Upon falling for Anne, King Henry decided to annul his marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon. When the Pope denied the annulment, Henry called for a separation of the Church of England from papal authority. This led to a series of events that actually brought about religious and political reformations.

Of course, the Tower of London had seen many a poor and innocent soul perish at the mercy of the Tudor monarch, but Anne Boleyn’s story was perhaps one of the most outrageous ones. Lit up by the evening lights, the fortified palace resembled anything but a prison. But, as the guide described, this palace was quite notorious during the Tudor regime, before which, it had served as a royal residence for rulers. Today, it stands by the river as a mark of the sea change that England’s monarchy and the church underwent.

Clearly, a cruise ride along River Thames by the London Eye Pier can turn out to be a lesson in history. A mere bridge, a prison, and a clock tower, they might be. Yet, they’d been such significant landmarks in history.


Next up on the tour was the London Bridge. Most confuse the London Bridge with the more iconic-looking Tower Bridge (thanks to its fancy bridge towers and catchy white-and-blue colour combination). But the London Bridge, while not much of a looker, deserves an applause for standing strong since 1831. It’s a replacement for a 600-year-old bridge that once stood here. The nursery rhyme ‘London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady’ is actually a reference to the older bridge’s sinking inch-by-inch along the east side. What’s impressive is that the older bridge was sold to an American entrepreneur who then had it used as part of the London Bridge that was rebuilt at Lake Havasu City in Arizona.

Clearly, a cruise ride along River Thames by the London Eye Pier can turn out to be a lesson in history. A mere bridge, a prison, and a clock tower, they might be. Yet, they’d been such significant landmarks in history. Even today, they aren’t just pretty sights, but a testament to all that London has witnessed before transforming into the vibrant city it is now. 

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