Sunday 11 August 2019

No cats. But no cattiness either.

With thanks to Silversea for this cruise
It's a bit disconcerting, after travelling, with two days' notice, halfway round the globe to start a cruise, when your ship doesn't turn up. I woke up at 11pm last night to look out of the window, expecting to see Silver Wind, all lit up and playing music, towed by a tug up the river, through the opened bascules of Tower Bridge to moor just the other side - and waited, and waited, and it never came.

Nor did any sort of notification from Silversea this morning - but after ringing them, we were told to take a taxi out to where the ship is actually moored, way down the river at Tilbury docks, and to get reimbursement later from the company. Just as well, it's about an hour's drive, traffic willing.

So this morning, having woken very early, I took a stroll in the sunshine along the Thames, admiring all the buildings, ancient and modern, the neat gardens, the bridges, and London's everyday gifts of "Oh, look!" Today that was London Bridge, the Great Fire monument, Pudding Lane, All Hallows (the oldest church in the city - 675 AD (I felt the AD bit was rather superfluous)) and of course the Tower, with its moat and towers and walls and battlements and immense history, all helpfully recounted on story boards. Gorgeous.

Then we ate breakfast at St Katharine's, in a little café as locals wandered past with their dogs and passed the time of day with each other. We had some hours to fill, so we went to the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square - another long, fast queue, lots of people of all nationalities. The gallery has an incredible collection of big name works, and it was marvellous to get right up close to them. There were so many, in fact, that it was a bit overwhelming, and I found myself doing a little survey of incidental animals in the pictures. Lots of dogs, horses (a full-sized stallion by Stubbs!), sheep and cattle, even a crab and a monkey - but not one cat that I could find (if you discount a lion and a tiger). The collection is clearly pre-internet.

Outside there was a real buzz of tourists and buskers, and masses of people virtually queuing up to get photos with the lions beneath Nelson's Column, everyone studiously ignoring the 'No photos' signs. It all looked busy and interesting and fun, and I was glad to be there.

Then it was taxi time, with friendly Gary who, no doubt thrilled to get such a big fare, drove us through Wapping, telling us about Graham Norton's house, and Helen Mirren's, and other bits of trivia on the long drive out of the city to Tilbury. Just the £130, since you ask.

Another bigger ship was in chaos as passengers left and arrived, but we were whisked aboard Silver Wind with lots of welcomes and little fuss, and told that strong gales yesterday had made it impossible for the ship to sail safely up the river, through the Thames Barrier and under Tower Bridge. So that was that mystery sorted.

It was lovely to be welcomed into the bosom of Silversea again - this is our seventh cruise - although we are fussy now and noticed straight away that Wind is smaller, older and less well-appointed than their other ships we've sailed on. Not that we're slumming it, you understand - it's just that everything seems scaled down. But all the important things are here, and we went cheerfully down to dinner that night, to share a table with a liberal Canadian couple, a pair of Republican Trump apologists, and a rather ponderous English Brexit mansplainer and his wife - so it was a lively conversation, but not at all unpleasant, and we were amongst the last to leave the restaurant. 

And we were already underway, cruising smoothly down the river, to turn right during the night towards our first port of call in Cornwall, the day after tomorrow. It's lovely to be back!

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