Saturday, May 25, 2013

Greenwich and The Mitre Free House

There's just something about Greenwich. Although close to London, it portrays a different vibe. It's easy to get there; just hop on the Tube or take a ferry. If you have never been before I recommend the ferry in order to see the revitalization of the Thames, the Tower Bridge, and how the tides affect this famous ribbon of water.

The View from Greenwich

Greenwich offers many choices for the tourist, most containing a nautical theme (Cutty Sark, Old Royal Naval College, Maritime Museum). And then there is the park with the Royal Observatory at the apex. On this visit we concentrated on three things: The Cutty Sark, Old Royal Naval College, and The Queen's House Museum. The last two were free (the Observatory is free, too).

We began with the Cutty Sark. That way-fast tea clipper whose life span was shortened (at least as a tea caddy) by the steam ship and the Suez Canal. The last time we were across the pond, the Cutty Sark had suffered a restoration setback via a fire. Hubby was devastated. He was much happier this time. The Cutty Sark is a full-blown museum. Although admission is a bit steep at 14 pounds, for us, it was well worth it and afforded a lot of photo opportunities. Particularly impressive was how they have suspended the ship off of the ground to relieve undue pressure on the hull.

Clipper Ship



Cutty Sark and Figurehead

Upon disembarking we were hungry (the Cutty Sark cafe did not appeal to us) and happened upon The Mitre Hotel and Free House. It looked and acted like a pub. Upon a tiny bit of research I discovered that a Free House was a pub that was not tied to a particular brewery.

The Mitre Hotel Free House

We chose a cozy spot, perused the menu, and ordered from the bar. One thing to note. Our menu listed beers, but all of these beers were by the bottle. We had to ask (or recognize the tap) about anything on draft. Hubby had a decent ale with an unrememberable name. I ordered a Bulmers Pear Cider. I like pear cider and most places carried some version of the stuff.

The Mitre Interior

Bulmers Pear Cider

We both had very traditional lunches. Me with a Steak and Ale Pie; hubby with Bangers and Mash. Both were tasty and mirrors our versions of comfort food. The pastry for my pie was a bit thick and heavy for my tastes, but the beef inside was fork tender and satisfying. And who can turn down a lovely plate of mild sausages, mashed potatoes, and gravy? And topped with sauteed onions? A right proper lunch.

Steak and Ale Pie

Bangers and Mash

After lunch we headed to the twin domes that Wren built at the Old Royal Naval College. The building was originally used as a royal hospital for seamen and then converted to a naval college. Now it's a museum. Underneath one dome is a chapel and beneath the other is the Painted Hall - the most lofty and elaborately decorated dining hall I've ever seen. Once the hall was painted it was also deemed too fancy to dine in.

These buildings are HUGE and a bit surreal. Just walking around can be fascinating.


As previously mentioned, the Painted Hall is over-the-top elaborate with soaring arched windows. The ceilings and non-window spaces are painted in the curlicue-baroque style. I thought it was interesting that the list of benefactors were also painted on the wall with the amounts contributed. These days, benefactors are just named on the museum or hospital wall.

A Mighty Fine Dining Hall

Painted Hall Vestibule

Rule Britannia

Painted Hall Benefactors

The Chapel is just as ornate, but much brighter in hue. The carved ceiling intrigues and was difficult to capture.

Royal Naval College Chapel

Chapel Ceiling

Chapel Pipes

While it is not overtly apparent, there is an underground passage that connects both domes. In the middle the  Royal Naval College motto appears: By Wisdom As Much As War.

By Wisdom As Much As War

We then headed to The Queen's House, a small art museum portraying naval treasures and a spectacular spiral staircase. The naval paintings were okay.

The Queen's House

Edward Cooke - Hay Barge Off Greenwich

J.M.W. Turner - The Battle of Trafalgar

The tulip staircase, however was awesomely brilliant. And a contemporary textile installation entitled Flower Helix by Alice Kettle hung from the center. The mix of vintage and contemporary kept me happy for quite a while.

Ascent with Alice Kettle

Flower Helix Detail 1

Towards the Light

We had a great day in Greenwich. Even though the place contains many attractions, it still has a small-town feel.

Neon Green Scooter

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