Grand Days Out: Docklands

“One if by land, and two if by sea; Four if by cable car; And I on the opposite shore will be …”

It being half-term, Grand Days Out have been to the forefront chez TVClaw recently. The last one of the holiday was to visit Mr L. in his weekday habitat of Docklands.

The round trip took in almost every mode of transport known to Londoners, bar Boris Bike. Walking, bus, tube, DLR, cable car, boat, taxi.

Having spent almost two hours getting to Canary Wharf the children and I were ready for some belated Día de los Muertos slap-up nosh at Wahaca.

I know, I know, purists argue that Mexican food in New York City pales in comparison to that on the West Coast, but I love it. Every now and then I get physical pangs thinking about the Chili Colorado at Lupe’s East LA (irony acknowledged) near my old office in Tribeca, and I’ve managed to pass my hankerings on to my burrito-mad children.

And so the tepid, bland offerings — mostly buried under piles of cold, tasteless cheese — dished up for our lunch at Wahaca were disappointing, to say the least. I’ll be charitable and suggest it was an off day, but I won’t rush back. The decor’s great though.

From Mexico to Sailor Town, care of the wonderful Museum of London Docklands in West India Quay. Free to enter (donations welcome, but not solicited forcefully) this gem of a museum is packed with interesting and entertaining exhibits and galleries.

We had a rollicking half-hour in the company of “Michael Faraday,” who explained his most famous experiments and discoveries in the world of electricity. … We sat in a two-person bomb shelter shaped like a panettone (I think I would have preferred to take my chances outside, given the choice), and then watched film of the docks being bombed during The Blitz … We stood agape in the most moving gallery devoted to the grisly history of the slave and sugar trades that shaped so much of the modern world.

Then it was back onto the DLR for a sunset trip across the river in a cable car from the Royal Docks to Greenwich. The Emirates Air Line terminal was empty so we had the 10-seater cable car to ourselves. Which was nice, as there were a few potential brown trouser moments.

I don’t think my blood pressure could have coped had we been sharing with anyone deciding to have a laugh by rocking the car. Or anyone freaking out mid-ride, which is what happened the last time we were on a cable car.

Back in April our journey upwards on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway  — “Ascend two and one half miles to a pristine wilderness aboard the World’s Largest Rotating Tramcars” — was memorable largely for the handful of elderly women in our car who spent half an hour alternately screaming hysterically and sobbing onto each other’s shoulders while furtively trying the door. I felt jittery, to say the least.

This trip, while awesome, is definitely not for people who don’t like heights or enclosed spaces. However, once up at the cruising altitude of almost 300 feet, the view is spectacular. London at lighting-up time looked like a twinkling wonderland.

Then we headed for the Thames Clipper boat service from the O2 to Embankment. By now it was properly dark outside and I realised that London really does look magnificent from the river. The vista of Tower Bridge looming into the central foreground with St Paul’s behind is hard to beat as far as wow factors go, ‘though Wren’s Royal Hospital comes close.

And so back to the underground for the trip back to TVClaw Towers. Emerging above ground we sprang for a taxi instead of waiting for the bus (which was on diversion). A relaxing end to a truly Grand Day Out.

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw

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