Today’s sponsored post was written by Louise Vinciguerra. Louise is a fantastic joke teller, has a million and one hobbies, and enjoys matching her fonts with her moods. This Brooklyn native dirties her hands in content on weekdays and, as a devout nature lover, dirties them in soil on the weekends. When she’s not on Facebook, WordPress or Twitter, she’s traveling in search of fun food, dabbling in urban farming, or planning nature trips from her resident city of Rome. When she’s not doing any of the above, she sleeps.
When you start making your itinerary for a trip to London, certain landmarks undoubtedly make the list: Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the Tate Gallery. And while you might take in the view of the River Thames from the London Eye or cruise along the river to see the city from another vantage point, for the most part, you probably don’t think of London as a destination for water-based activities.
But in the month of September, some of London’s best activities take place in and around the water. From festivals to athletic events, the Thames is the site of several can’t-miss events — and you can be more than a spectator.
The Great River Race
2013 marks the 25th running of the Great River Race, a river “marathon” in which participants row boats almost 21 miles up the Thames. Beginning at the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre in London, and racing upstream to the west to Ham House in Greenwich, the race requires traditional cox-powered boats rowed by no fewer than four oars that carry at least one passenger.
And the boats aren’t necessarily your ordinary rowboats. One of the best parts of the race is the unusual array of boats traversing the Thames, ranging from Chinese dragon boats, Viking longboats, Hawaiian war canoes and various other canoes, skiffs and cutters. The watercrafts are generally piloted by teams, and the majority of participants are not professional — or even experienced — oarsmen. Families, groups of friends or co-workers and others form teams. Since the race is handicapped based on age, gender and experience, a lack of skill does not mean a poor performance.
While anyone can join the race — even those using rental boats — watching from the shore can be as enjoyable as rowing up the river. Thousands of spectators line the banks of the river and the bridges over the water. The Tower Bridge tends to be the most popular spectator spot, but the London Bridge offers an equally good vantage point. The Westminster, Battersea, Richmond and Hammersmith bridges are also ideal for watching boats traverse the waters of the Thames.
The Mayor’s Thames Festival
While the Great River Race allows you to get right onto the waters of the river, the Mayor’s Thames Festival is a celebration of the existence of the waterway that makes its way through the city of London.
In the past, the Thames Festival was a two-day affair, focused largely along the river banks, art and music events. While the street fair with art installations and musical performances as well as food and dancing is still a part of the festival, in 2013 the focus is shifting. The Thames Festival will extend to 10 days this year, with more events taking place beyond the usual locations between the Tower and Westminster Bridges. The events will also become more focused on water and the river, designed to encourage festivalgoers to use the amazing natural resource that is the Thames. One of the new events is “1513: A Ship’s Opera,” in which dozens of historic vessels will perform an opera using their whistles, cannons and other sounds in time to a light show.
But for many people, the highlight of the festival remains the grand finale, which begins with an informal procession along the Victoria Embankment. As the crowd travels along the Blackfriars Bridge, it’s accompanied by costumed performers carrying tambourines and whistles. The end of the procession is a grand fireworks show above the London skyline.
Both the Great River Race and the Mayor’s Thames Festival draw massive crowds to London, and hotels and inns fill up quickly. If you want to attend one of these events, search for a hotel or B&B in London on Venere in advance. Choose a site in walking distance of the Thames River Basin District.
London is a veritable treasure trove of historic and cultural attractions, with enough to do to fill any vacation itinerary. But for unique views of this stunning city and the chance to experience its rich cultural heritage, it’s worth spending fall on the water in London.
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