Whilst my kids and I thoroughly enjoyed our trips to the Olympics, one of the happy side-products was the discovery (for us) of the joys to be found around the Royal Docks.
Travelling to the ExCel Centre we used the DLR from Tower Hill/Gateway. Our non-London companion was very impressed with these driverless trains – trundling along over elevated paths with wonderful views of the Docklands, Billingsgate market and various water areas. To avoid the anticipated crowds we alighted at West Silverton expecting a 20 minute walk or so. The Olympic Games Makers were out in force to guide us on our way. With lots of smiles.
The route took us alongside the Royal Victoria Docks where we spent a while watching young people wake boarding – towed along in the water by an overhead line. This looked like lots of fun – and there were even ramps on which to perform jumps if you were brave enough. In the distance we could see large inflatable spheres on the water with people inside. The whole area had a holiday feel about it and for a moment we quite forgot that we were in East London. We wished we had time to explore this area more and take part in some of the water sports.
When we had finished watching the Taekwondo – which was excellent - we wandered back along the Northern shore of the Docks – watching the propeller and jet planes arrive and depart from the nearby City airport. It was nice to see that they had left the old lifting rigs in front of the new housing developments as a reminder of the area’s historic industrial past.
With our travel cards, our single ticket to ride the Emirates Air Line cable car back from Canning Town DLR station to North Greenwich was just £3.20 and although the “boarding” queue looked long it was just 15 minutes before we were in the terminus and climbing into one of the Gondolas with a family with a buggy and a couple of rather young children. It was a bit like getting into a ski lift. We couldn’t help compare the experience to getting on the London Eye – only this was much cheaper and faster.
Once in the gondola we were sailing up, up, up into the air and in the warm afternoon sunshine the view was spectacular. We could see Canary Wharf in the distance – its office windows gleaming and glinting in the light. The Thames was below us and it was so easy to see the huge curve in the river around the Greenwich Peninsular. It was like flying – and rather exciting.
Our fellow passengers squealed with delight as the cable car passed over the pylons that held the cables in place as it made a small juddery shaky movement – a bit like a theme park ride. But not nearly so scary. The journey lasted around five minutes and as we disembarked we nearly all wanted to get back on it again.
As we walked towards the North Greenwich Arena (formerly known as the O2 Arena) we watched a helicopter fly beneath the cable car wires that were so high in the sky. On the Jubilee line tube back to Waterloo we all reflected that whilst the Olympics would soon be over, this amazing area of London – and the thrill of the cable car ride – will be here for us to continue to enjoy. We are planning our return trip.
What’s on at ExCel http://www.excel-london.co.uk/whats-on/
Transport for London Emirates Air Line http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modalpages/23828.aspx
Royal Victoria Docks Watersports Centre http://www.royaldockstrust.org.uk/summerwatersports.htm