Posted by: cousindampier | 5 June 2014

The Way Home, Day 8

Central London from Canary Wharf

Central London from Canary Wharf


Of the four or five times I have arrived in London, this is the first day rain has scarred the sky. People often cite London as a rainy city, but it is more a beautifully cloudy city, with dark storm clouds always nearby, and white summer clouds in the distance.

Much like Istanbul, this time in London is a bit different than the times before. A lot of walking is involved. Bread is heavily involved.  The walking should be a good thing, but I managed to pick a hostel far enough away from the city center that even I hesitate to walk there.

Unlike Istanbul, I am here for a reason. Later in the week, my goal is to talk to Kings College and see if I can get any funding for the next year. And as I said, my hostel is more or less the distance from Earth to Jupiter’s Moons.

This was a brilliant choice to accidentally make. I lived in London for six months when I was 21 (great move on my part – turn the legal drinking age in the United States and leave for the UK about a week later, where one can drink at 18. Totally defeated the purpose of aging. Yet, I digress). I’ve been back to visit friends a few times since. I flew through London on my way to Almaty last August.  I’ve introducted the city to people, and generally think its one of the best places on earth, and yet I’ve never made it out to the Docklands.

This is where my hostel is – technically on the Isle of Dogs, which was either originally named the Isle of Ducks or the Isle of Dykes, depending on the sources you believe. In the 1800’s, during the height of England’s Empire, it was the center of one of the more important maritime docks in the London area. Though it remains part of the greater city of London, the Isle has always been separate from London, requiring a bridge or a tunnel to reach it until the construction of a light rail system in the late 1990’s.

And it is a fascinating place to walk around. The Dockyards are the site of some immense buildings with some recognizable names on the sides – Citibank being the most prominent. The glass on the skyscrapers is more blue than the brownish water of the canals, and yet it is historically a maritime area with much remaining to remind any businessperson of its unique history. I’ve been told it is an up-and-coming area, one of those areas of any big city where property values are soaring. I doubt this only because it seems like the Docklands has been an ideal place to live for a number of years. The bars, restaurants, and park speaks to that.

Running along the east side of the Isle is a run of contrast. On my left stand blue windows and black suits; and on my right, across the water, are docks and sand and silt, ready to be loaded onto barges. Across the footpath on the south of the Isle is Greenwich, a place near to my heart because of its observatory and the history of exploration which began there (at this point, it is a ritual to visit). At night, the green laser signifies 0° longitude, and during the day the beautiful lines of the Cutty Sark -an old clipper ship built for carrying tea – draw the eye.

It is a fun place to be. Walking randomly down back alleys and over cobblestone streets is a habit at this point, and the Docklands is a fascinating random walk. I may only have to days here now, but come fall it will be traversed more and one day perhaps, just perhaps, even inhabited.


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