Do you know about these? They don’t sell them so much in the Netherlands, unfortunately, but they’ve got something similar and equally amazing called ‘Danoontje’. I wanted to share with you one of the best things in adult life, which is taking one of these six-packs of yummy fruity yoghurts for kids, ripping the foil off all six of them at once and just eating them all in one go like there’s no tomorrow. BOOM! Screw them rules, I’m having ALL the yoghurts. It’s one of those things of recently having entered adulthood where you can’t quite believe people allow you to do this without stopping you, like standing on tables and staying up until morning. Really, you should try it, it’s quite liberating. If you’re feeling especially crazy throw in some M&Ms or whatever floats your boat.
Anyway, enough about dairy, last Sunday I went to Greenwich for a day! Greenwich is a town in South London, and is of course mostly famous for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the Prime Meridian. Because of this, it is the Royal Observatory (where GMT is measured) that gets the most attention from tourists at Greenwich. I was planning to go there as well, but it turns out Greenwich had so many interesting sights to offer that I didn’t even have time to visit it!
Firstly, I went to the Cutty Sark: the world’s last surviving tea-clipper. This massive ship from the 19th century has recently undergone a long restoration and is now open to the public. It’s quite impressive: they basically built a glass case around the ship, and underneath it there is a museum. I didn’t actually go in, though, because the queue was incredibly long. I did take some nice pictures of the whole construction, as you can see below.
I was most interested in visiting the Old Royal Naval College. This Baroque architectural masterpiece by Christopher Wren was built on top of the remains of a royal palace and is therefore twice as interesting! It is truly an impressive sight with its twin domes and its excellent location by the Thames. Building began in the 17th century with the purpose of making a new royal palace. However, eventually it was made into a hospital for disabled, retired mariners. Then it was turned into a prestigious naval college in the 19th century, which it remained until 1998. Now it houses the University of Greenwich and the Trinity College of Music, a department of the larger Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, where I took a dance summer course a few years ago! I can’t believe I was studying so close to this place and never bothered to visit it…
On top of all this, the college stands on the remains of Greenwich Palace (or: the Palace of Placentia), a royal palace built by Henry VII, and the birth place of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Those of you who know by now what a royal history buff I can be sometimes, can imagine how excited I was about this. 😉 Even more mind-boggling: Henry VIII waited at Greenwich Palace for the signal that his queen Anne Boleyn had been beheaded. As soon as he heard the sound of the cannon coming from the Tower of London, he jumped on his horse and went to propose to Jane Seymour. Below you can see a reconstruction of one of the windows of the palace they excavated. The coat of arms is that of Anne Boleyn. On the bottom of the court of arms you can see the motif of interlocking initials of Henry and Anne. Apparently when Anne Boleyn arrived at the palace for the first time in 1533, all the windows had to be re-glazed to replace the coat of arms of Catherine of Aragon, who Henry had just divorced. 3 years later they were replaced again with the coat of arms of Jane Seymour.
The college has four major courtyard buildings at its centre of which two have a dome. Underneath these domes are two interesting rooms: the Painted Hall and the Chapel. The Chapel was designed by James Stuart, whose nickname was ‘Athenian’, because he had a distinct neoclassical style, which can be very clearly seen in the Chapel’s design, such as in its pastel-colored plasterwork, Greek columns, and symbolism.
Interestingly, the constructors used a clever way of making ‘fake’ marble columns, which was first developed by the Romans. They call these columns ‘scagliola’ columns, which comes from the Italian word ‘scaglia’, which means ‘chip’ or ‘flake’. The fake marble was made by mixing ground plaster with colored pigments and animal glue and was obviously much cheaper than the real thing. Below you can see a picture indicating how such columns are constructed.
I also really liked the symbolism employed in the design of the Chapel. Below, for example, you see a ‘guilloche’ pattern, which is based on knotted rope and refers to the naval nature of the building. This pattern was employed on the floor of the Chapel.
The Painted Hall was decorated by Sir James Thornhill. The trompe l’oeil paintings in this room refer to the establishment’s royal patrons and the importance of the Royal Navy in the British Empire. Funnily enough, Thornhill also included himself in the paintings. In this self-portrait he holds out his hand behind his back as though he’s asking for more money for his work. Rumor has it that he only earned £3 per square yard for the ceiling and £1 per square yard for the walls!
OK, I think I’ve bored you enough with historical facts for now. I’ll post some more touristy pictures soon!
Oh, and I also loved reading what others had to say about Greenwich 😛