Thames Path – Arrival in England & On the Trail

 London viewed through a dirty airplane window. See just a bend in the River Thames on the far left.

London viewed through a dirty airplane window. See just a bend in the River Thames on the far left.

We’ve been more than ready for this trip to England. The backpacks were loaded (but not over 20#) for several days, leaning against our bedroom wall. We ran last minute errands on the last day, finished up tasks and our spirits were high. We puttered away the morning eagerly anticipating our late afternoon departure from Las Vegas to London’s Heathrow airport via Dallas. Mary was taking us to the airport. When the text message about a delay came through from American Airlines, I could feel my heart dropping. Once you’ve got your heart set on something, it’s easy to be disappointed.

It appears a departure delay from Vegas would not allow us to connect to our onward London flight. However, American took the liberty of rescheduling us on a British Airways (BA) flight direct from Las Vegas-London. Would that work? Please confirm. Hell, yes! Disappointment turned to exhilaration in a matter of seconds. We’d depart 45 minutes later than originally scheduled and arrive 2-1/2 hours earlier. Life is good.

An hour’s delayed BA departure due to a ‘paperwork snafu still had us arriving late morning in London. The flight was unremarkable … the finest kind. BA still serves full meals and free booze, even to us lowly economy class folks. The seats were reasonably comfy, there were movies to watch, and we actually slept a bit en route. Though a bit stove-up after 10 hours of flying, we arrived tired, but excited. London welcomed us with sunny skies.

David worked the numbers (of course he did) for local travel to our hotel in Woolwich via trains, underground and buses. Turns out it was cheaper and faster to take an Uber than to pay two fares on the various trains and buses, not to mention lugging our backpacks and walking between stops. Instead, we had front door service to our hotel.

 Thames Path sign points to the Thames Barrier.

Thames Path sign points to the Thames Barrier.

Since we were early for hotel check-in and we needed some steps and exercise and heck, we are in England, we checked the backpacks and set out to find the Thames Path. Not difficult, just find the river which happened to be two blocks from the hotel. The Woolwich Ferry Dock was right there and we spotted the marker for the path immediately, pointing us towards the Thames Barrier, the official start of the national trail.

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Though we knew we’d retrace us steps tomorrow, we wanted to get a feel for the river and the path. A mile up the trail, there is was, the famous Thames Barrier. We oohed and ahhhed and took pictures and after another hour or so, jet lag set in and we headed to the downtown Woolwich area for dinner. The streets and pedestrian mall were crowded with people … businessmen, students still in school uniforms, women in saris, men in turbans, young moms with their kids … lots of languages, ethnicities and colors all celebrating the end the day. We walked past a lively market area with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, flowers and fish.

 The Earl of Chatham Pub - Ending our first night in London eating pub grub and sipping a pint seemed like the right thing to do.

The Earl of Chatham Pub - Ending our first night in London eating pub grub and sipping a pint seemed like the right thing to do.

We randomly chose the Earl of Chatham pub for a dinner. It looked inviting. David had a jacket potato (baked potato) with chili and cheese and I chose chicken curry with basmati rice. Good pub grub accompanied by a pint and we were totally wasted. Back at the hotel we lasted till just after 6PM before collapsing into bed.

A quick interjection here for Yanks like us who need pronunciation lessons and translations of British words. Thames is pronounced ‘Tehms’. Unlike the Thames (thay-ms) River in New London, Connecticut, USA which is pronounced as it looks … this is Old London, England and rarely is anything pronounced as it would seem to Americans. Woolwich, for instance, is ‘Wool-itch’ and Greenwich is ‘Gren-itch’ and Quay is ‘key’. Potato chips are crisps and French fries are chips. I could go on, but suffice it to say, we confess we’re Yanks right off the bat and ask for translations whenever necessary. Usually no further explanation is required after they hear our accent.

arrival_thames barrier-mcl.JPG

Nine hours later (that would be 3AM London time), we were both wide awake impatiently awaiting sunrise – another 3+ hours away. We dozed another few hours, had a cup of tea, got our packs all in order and headed out on the trail. We retraced our yesterday’s steps for a mile and then we once again reached the Thames Barrier. We were at last walking the Thames Path.

Come on! Get on your walking shoes and join us for this 180-mile walk along one of the world’s most famous rivers from the Thames Barrier shown above to its headwaters in Kemble.