Okay it's fair criticsm that the financial district isn't really east London, but it is for us because that's how the pictures divide up. This picture is taken from St. Paul's cathedral. Down this street somewhere roughly on the right edge of the frame would probably be part of Bank underground station. Beware of Bank station. On the maps it looks like an elongated dot connecting several tube lines, just like most other connecting stations, but it's not! It's actually a trap! I don't recall what lines we were even switching from but I think it was about a two mile walk with so many stairs and turns that I'm pretty sure we ended up directly beneath where we started. I would have to guess Neil Gaiman got the idea for Neverwhere from Bank station.
It's our favorite thing in London. No, not the do not enter sign, but the Swiss Re building. Everyone seems to hate it. Our guidebook referred to it as a giant gherkin but we think it's cool. In general, we think all distinctive buildings are cool unless they're just outrageously ugly (like say, most of Milan's tall buildings).
This is Leadenhall market. We visited quite a lot of markets while in London and this is hands-down the most impressive from an architecture and cool photography standpoint. In terms of shopping there's not really all that much here compared to other markets. It does have the claim to fame though of also representing Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies. When we wandered through on a Sunday it became apparent how easy it would be to film here as the place was absolutely deserted (this picture was taken on a Friday though).
Another distinctive building in the financial district is Lloyds of London (what's with the re-insurers getting all the good architects anyway?). With all that stainless steel and the whole inverted industrial look it seems like it should be in Switzerland or Germany but it's in the middle of London instead. Watching the elevators go up and down is a good way to amuse yourself while you're waiting for the school group to get out of the frame of your Leadenhall Market photograph.
Not the financial district at all - well not the primary one at least, that's Canary Wharf out there which is newer and hipper and has a fun elevated train running through it. The pointy building is the rather unspectacular holder of the 'tallest building in the UK' title at the time of this writing. In the foreground is Greenwich park, the queen's house (in the center, and it isn't anymore) and the Royal Naval College on the river. The Royal Naval College was designed so as not to ruin the view of the Thames from the Queen's house.
Greenwich is a fun and interesting borough of London to wander around in. Unfortunately we happened to pick a day when 'Ellen' was speaking to the public. Ellen (MacArthur), is Greenwich's native competitor in long-distance solo sailing races. Greenwich, which also goes by the name 'maritime Greenwich' handles any maritime happenings for the city of London. That's the Cutty Sark (not in the water) behind the crowd of people waiting for Ellen.
Greenwich is also home to the Royal Observatory, one of the true shrines of astronomical history in the world. David could rant on about this topic for some time, but he won't since 98% of readers would be bored out of their mind. Instead, he'll point out that the official 'British Yard' is extremely underwhelming. There it is, welded onto a brick column. Yay. In retrospect it would've been fun to climb onto the official British Yard and get some amusing photo of the 'two feet' sign with a foot on either side of it. Oh well, something to aim for when we go back.
Here's the Greenwich observatory from the back of the Maritime Museum. The Maritime Museum (which is free) is an odd collection of exhibits which can be difficult to find. Like any free museum though, it's worth a visit. (Okay, that might not be true, there are probably free museums in the world that are not worth visiting, and when we find one we'll mention it on some future page). That orange globular thing is the world's original 'time ball'. At 1 PM every day it drops with minimal fanfare. It's a hold-over from a tradition that was designed to allow ships on the Thames to set their onboard clocks. This is the logical point to launch into a history of the Longitude problem but I won't do it. If you're coming to Greenwich, read Dava Sobel's 'Longitude' before you get here, the museum will make so much more sense, and it's that much more impressive.
You know, maps always depict the Prime Meridian as a black line for some reason. But no - it's actually red as you can see there on the wall. It then runs across the stones of the observation deck and down the wall. At night, the Prime Meridian becomes green and is a laser line shot out of the observatory. 90% of all the people at Greenwich Observatory are standing on the line taking pictures of other people on the line (yeah okay we did it too). The town center of Greenwich is very cute with lots of odd little nautical-themed stores and crowded restaurants (thanks to Ellen). Greenwich market is a fun assortment of food stands and crafts and it's indoors just in case it's ridiculously cold and windy when you visit.