Thames Festival – London at its best!

This was (still is) a great summer for the best city in the world. The Jubilee, the Olympics, the Paralympics… and this weekend, to mark the end of it, a brilliant Thames Festival.
I’m not quite sure how I’ve missed it all these years. Perhaps it’s because we haven’t lived close enough to the Thames before, or perhaps this year the events were more relevant to my interests.

That, and the weather was such that the only place to be was by the cool breeze of the river 🙂

The Festival lasts all weekend, with many of the events running through the evening, but, a busy man that I am, I only spared a couple of hours of the Saturday to see the things I found most exciting.

  

Starting from Maltby Street Market, as every Saturday (I have to write a proper blog post about that place one day), I had to cross the Thames to reach St Katharine’s Docks.

Now I have lived in London for almost six years now, and I have only seen the Tower Bridge open once – from afar. Today I’ve seen it TWICE, while CROSSING the bridge! (both ways). There was just so much traffic on the river today! I did mention before how Thames Path is the best urban walkway in Europe – today it was ten times as fun. Barges, tugs, cruise ships, sail ships, the lot, going one way and another. The poor Tower Bridge hasn’t seen that much work since the Jubilee Parade!

So yeah, even getting to the first Festival spot was fun. But the real adventure starts at the Docks.

   

The ships! Oh, the ships! Luxury gentlemen’s yachts from the 20’s and 30’s, boats that took part in Dunkirk, a tall ship from Amsterdam, narrow boats, coal barges, all gathered in one place to ogle for free! And see that red sail? That’s HUANTIAN, an authentic Chinese junk, just like the ones Bran saw in Fan Yu 🙂 Only the second junk ever to grace the Thames – and first since 1851 🙂

Huantian is a terrific vessel – if you’re around London right now, this is a definite MUST SEE. The inside is a splendid example of Chinese interior design, mixing tradition with modernity.

  

The fourth photo above is a replica of a Phoenician galley, built to plans based on a boat discovered near Marseille. The ship circumnavigated Africa, replicating the legendary feat of the ancient Phoenicians. This is another MUST SEE this week.

From the docks, we went all along the south bank, through food stalls,  bric-a-brac vendors, green spaces filled to the brim with sunbathers (and sports fans – there was Murderball on the big screen!) and street performances, like the Morris Dancers below:

  

That last photo? That’s the reason we came to the Festival in the first place. The Shishi-Odori dancers from Tohoku. We’ve stood through the entire performance in sweltering sun and didn’t regret one second of it. It’s rare to see these dancers this close even in Japan, so imagine what a treat THIS photo was:

That’s me and the Shishi-Odori dancer! Yay!

After that, we were too exhausted to continue and went to Brixton for a pizza. It does seem everyone in London was still on the Festival, because for once there were no queues 🙂

All in all, a great ending to a great summer!

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