I have lived near the Thames all of my life and have visited many places on it too. I have walked next to it, watched events on it and been on it in a boat so here's my review.
First let me say that the Thames is a very long river and not many people will have experience of the whole length of it, me included. My review is based on the river in London, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
Walking near a river is a pleasure to me so I use the Thames Path which is a national footpath along the towpath of the river or when necessary just slightly inland but following the river's course.This path is well signposted wherever I have been. I go between Marlow in Bucks and Henley in Oxon which is about 8 miles and very beautiful especially in Autumn when the leaves are turning colour. Luckiy you can take the bus back as I'm not fit enough to go both ways yet. This and other Thameside walks are best avoided at the weekend or during school holidays though if you want a tranquil walk because the towpaths are so busy otherwise. You do need to realise the quality of the footpath varies. By Marlow there is some vary uneven bits with bug tree roots.
Many Thameside villages like Cookham have amateur rowing regattas in the Summer as do the bigger places. The one at Henley is the most famous and is actually a serious sporting event with international teams. That regatta is also a posh social event and makes the town of Henley packed. Avoid unless interested! Henley is also the site of the River and Rowing museum which is about the wildlife, sporting and other heritage of the Thames.
Short and longer distance boat trips are available in the Summer from Caversham, Marlow, Henley, Windsor, Maidenhead etc as well as within London. I really recommend the latter. By river is a great way of seeing London sights such as the Tower and Houses of Parliament. The only thing to watch for is the river can feel surprisingly much colder than when you are on the land next to it.
If a king entertained his queen in Oxford he might take her to Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir but he would probably take his mistress on the Rosamund the Fair. Rosamund the Fair is a purpose built narrow boat restaurant which cruises the canal and river of Oxford transporting its privileged diners back through time to what is possibly Oxford's most romantic piece of history. Rosamund, the daughter of a welsh Knight, was the much loved mistress of King Henry II. During this medieval period the English kings made nearby Woodstock their favourite hunting lodge and it was there that Henry kept his love. Many legends and myths surround Rosamund but the most romantic and tragic comes from the fifteenth century. This story says that Henry kept Rosamund in a secret tower, enclosed by a rose bower which in turn was surrounded by a labyrinth. The way through the labyrinth could only be found by following a silver thread. When Henry went to war in 1175 Rosamund pleaded to go with him but he preferred to leave her in the safety of this secret place. However, Henry's wife, Queen Eleanor, took advantage of his absence to rid herself of this unwanted rival. By fair means or foul she found her way through the secret maze and killed Rosamund. Some say with poison flavoured with roses and others say it was with a dagger. Fair Rosamund died at Woodstock and a holy well in the grounds of Blenheim Palace commemorates her there. Rosamund was buried at Godstow Nunnery which is near the river at the Wolvercote end of Port Meadow. Legends about her tomb at Godstow are just as bittersweet. When she died she was placed in a magnificent tomb inside the chapel but after Henry died a visiting bishop insisted that her bones be removed to outside the abbey. Perhaps due to this disturbance Rosamund's ghost is said to still walk the area. The words on her grave outside have been translated as: Here rose disgraced, not
rose the chaste reposes. The scent that rises is not the scent of roses. Someone didn't approve of her very much then but this did not stop her legend growing and the memory living on! Fair Rosamund is also linked to the legend of the Rose. Rosa Gallica versicolour also known as Rosa Mundi is said to be named after her, springing no doubt from her tears. The boat named after this romantic heroine gently navigates the ancient waterways of Oxford most evenings while serving those dining with some beautifully prepared gastronomic delights. We decided to sample Rosamund's delights on our wedding anniversary and falling in July we imagined that it would be a warm tranquil summer's eve. How wrong could we be - it was just our luck that the terrible storms and rain decided to deluge us on what should have been a perfect evening. Rosamund the Fair has her home in Jericho at Castlemill Boatyard. There is parking for customers at the boatyard. As we arrived in torrential rain we were greeted by the boat's crew holding huge colourful umbrellas to allow us to get from car to boat without getting wet. The boatyard is quite picturesque in its own right and had it been a nicer evening we could have sat and admired the view from tables on the gravel area by the boat. Other boats are moored nearby including the much smaller day boat Henry II, which can be hired for picnics complete with wicker hampers. Inside the boat is warm and cosy and comforting on such a night. Like any other restaurant the tables are laid with white tablecloths, fresh flowers and candles with soft music playing. At the far end of the boat the Chef, Sandy, was already busy in the miniscule galley preparing the evenings meals. In the confined space of the narrowboat all tables have a window view. The windows have been enlarged and lowered so that diners can admire the shifting scenery and although they got a bit steamed up on occasi
ons the attentive staff wiped them clear when this happened. The boat can accommodate up to 20 people and offers a choice of two menus changed daily and based on the chef's selection from the market that day. It is very popular and booking ahead is necessary, especially during term time, but the weather had been really awful all week and there were only eight diners when we were there. With our pre dinner drinks we were served Amuse-Gueule, an assortment of delicious tasty morsels in pastry and a bowl of black pitted olives. This gave us a hint of the wonderful cooking we were about to sample. We chose from the small but select wine list with prices starting around £12. I noticed that another table had asked for water and the water provided was from Blenheim Palace. This was a rather nice touch for the water comes from the spring which feeds Rosamund's well and is said to have some special properties. This was followed by freshly baked bread, an lovely assortment of different breads in different shapes all piping hot from the oven. Decorated with poppy, toasted sunflower seeds or crisply plain they all looked and indeed tasted very morish. The bread was probably supposed to accompany the meal but it was so delicious that it disappeared before the food began to arrive. This was no problem though as we were offered plenty more bread. ~~~First course~~~ The choices were: Warm Poached Salmon Salad with a Gooseberry and Elderflower Crème Fraiche and a Balsamic Dressing Warm Duck salad with a Mango, Paw-paw and ginger Chutney and Hoi-sin Dressing. Although the duck sounded appealing I really cannot stand ginger so I went for the salmon but hubby who had the duck said it was delicious and cooked to perfection, moist and pink and tender. My generous portion of fillet of salmon lay on a bed of mixed salad leaves covered with the creamy tart sauce which complemented it. I could
n't, however, discern the flavour of elderflower which was a shame. I know the taste of elderflower and gooseberry well as it is a jam we make annually. The dish was decorated prettily with garnishes of tomatoes, cucumber and quite honestly it was a meal in its own right. We finished our first course just as we were approaching Folly Bridge and we decided to risk the elements and go on deck. The big umbrellas kept the worst of the rain off and feeling a bit stupid and typically British for stoically refusing to let the weather get the better of us we waved to a couple of passers by who commiserated us on the rather sad weather. But actually it was not so awful because drifting along a deserted river with only the ducks, coots, and moorhens for company was a rather special experience. As the boat passed Salter's boatyard and Christ Church meadows we were joined by a few of the other diners. As we passed the college boathouses the rain eased off and everything became a lot less wet. The river was strangely empty for Oxford. We encountered only two eights crews practising and watched with amusement a couple of sodden cyclists negotiating the flooded towpath. The boat went down the river to Oxford Brookes boathouse and as it turned we were called in for the main course. Although it was not cold outside, just very wet, coming back inside was so welcoming. We passed through the thick velvet curtains to the warmth of the restaurant to be greeted with delicious aromas wafting from the tiny galley at the back of the boat. Our taste buds were already tingling as we returned to our table. ~~~Main course~~~ The choices were: Breast of Guinea Fowl set on a Potato Rosti with a Devilled Sauce and Glazed Shallots. Roast Sea Bass with Tomato and Red Onion Salsa served on a bed of Preserved Lemon couscous. Beautifully presented and cooked the sea bass, my favourite fish, was wonderfully succulent. The cous-co
us was the lightest and tastiest I have ever had and I am tempted to try something similar at home with preserved lemons. Fresh vegetables, courgettes, turned baby carrots, runner beans, broccoli, and baby sweet corn lightly cooked to perfection were served separately. I didn't finish all the cous-cous because I needed to leave some room for pud. However, that was just me and I noticed that everybody else had clean plates. On the next interlude outside we passed through Osney lock resplendent, as most locks are, with a beautiful floral display. From there we travelled up forgotten parts of the river lined by weeping willows and abundance of wild flowers all cheeringly fresh from the recent downpour. There was a delightful freshness in the air and as darkness took over a different atmosphere prevailed. The evening was approaching its climax. ~~~Pudding~~~ The choice was: Strawberry Fool with Crushed Meringue and a Fresh Raspberry Coulis. Swan Profiteroles with a Rich Hot Chocolate Sauce. Like their live counterparts drifting around us on the river these beautifully crafted choux pastry confections were a delight to the senses. Delicate, pale choux pastry necks rose gracefully from the plump cream filled bodies and their delicate wings rested softly at their sides. The sauce was served separately in a jug and I was torn between the desire just to admire this desert fit for Rosamund herself and to get stuck in. In the candlelight the dark chocolate sauce mirrored the darkness of the river outside but on the taste buds it was deliciously rich and warm. We had by this time arrived at Port Meadow, the ancient and beautiful area of common land of Oxford which has not been ploughed or built on for thousands of years and which remains just as it was in Rosamund's time. Unfortunately it was dark and cloudy so we didn't get to see it at its best. One could imagine how spectacularly romantic it wou
ld be to arrive at Port Meadow at sunset or on a clear moonlit sultry summers eve and watch white horses gallop and graze but even on this rather dull evening it still had a surreal magic, The warm glow from a beautiful old houseboat was reflected deep into the river and the slowly drifting swans glowed in the velvet darkness like soft crystal. The boat was quietly slipping through the dark water so gently that the reflections of the trees did not stir. It seemed that the river was sharing its secret, silent night time world just with us, the river birds and the occasional bat. A slight mist rising from the river showed in the lights from the boat and added to the drama of the silent return. Back inside coffee was served accompanied by hand made truffles. As Rosamund the Fair made her way back quietly along the canal we chatted to the other diners and arrived back just as we finished our second cup of coffee. Perfect timing for the end of a most special evening. As you probably have guessed an evening on Rosamund the Fair is not a cheap night out but it is superb value for money. For included in the price is wonderful food, friendly attentive service and a well trained crew in charge of the cruising Rosamund ensuring you have a great time whatever the weather. The boat casts off at 7.45pm and returns at 10.45. There is a set price of £52, broken down as £31 for the meal and £21 for the cruise. Rosamund the Fair also does lunchtime cruises at the weekend and can also be hired for private functions. They also do special themed evening and specials for such occasions as May Morning and Valentines Day, which is already fully booked for next year. Details are available from their web site at http://www.rosamundthefair.co.uk/ Sorry I know this is in the wrong category but Rosamund the Fair does ply her trade upon the River Thames at Oxford.
I have lived in London all my life and there was so much and still is that i have not yet seen and no matter what we all say we do live in a fantastic city with loads to do so here is a list of just some of the great things to do in London. LONDON EYE There is not one person i have spoken to that has a bad thing to say about the London eye. Once you have queued up for about half an hour which is the worst point you go into a pod and go round in a huge circle and what a sight you see once your about half way,London really does look amazing from so high up and you get a whole 30 mins to see it all a must for all Londeners to check out. TOWER of LONDON A beautiful yet gorry place to see what with it's history of chopped heads and imprisionment,torture not to mention the crown jewels(made me wanna take them home). The Beefeaters are a great tradition and look fantastic in all their glory. Once inside the feeling of history for me was fantastic great old rooms,cells torture implements etc etc. The old gates that are where the boats used to bring in prisioners for execution in a weird way really fasinate me just to think people used to come through it knowing they would not be coming back. History and beauty combined perfectly. LONDON DUNGEONS Take a trip around the great London Dungeons a great follow on to the Tower because you can see all the gorry details of how people were tortured and killed back in the days of old Henry 8 also models of people suffering from the plague etc etc,we are all in some way fasinated by gore and blood so get in there and don't forget your gorry postcards for mates they will love them. TATE MODERN GALLERY It is hard to believe that this beautiful building used to be a power station it really has been transformed into a fantastic work of art,thats not to mention the art it contains,some of the art is not what i would class as art but most is i
ntriging if not brilliant. Sections are seperated into History,memory,society,nude,action,body,still life,object,real life all of which have some really bizarre pieces. My favorite and most strange was a black room with a video of a naked man jumping on a bed to really strange music weird but fasinating. All of these are on the river and can be reached by boat,train,bus there is so much history and so many attractions to see along the River Thames yet it still only seems to be visited by tourist so if you live in London go find out about our beautiful city who knows you may like it.
Ahh the big smoke. Why do all cities try to do the same thing. We must have fun no matter what it takes and to have fun we must have a lot of cinemas and restaurants together. Yes it is a good plan. The difference in London though is that all the cinemas and restaurants are open together and then everything shuts at the same time, you can either watch a film or eat not both if you dare come out after 9pm. So take your choice, eat or watch a movie then go out to a club, any one will do because club culture is the same wherever you go no matter all we have to do to have fun is get hammered and then dance to Robbie Williams. Then we cacn say Lndon is up there with Los Angeles or New York. Not quite really there is a real village feel to London compared to the big cities elsewhere and we still can't get it right. (We do rest on our laurels and still think that the international consumer is just there to take money off and forget that the tourist likes to part with his money when he or she gets service and a good time not a surly, "no you can't eat now, we are going home".) Take a break from this culture - head for the river here you will find that the peace and quiet respite does not shut and the natural entertainment that is the wildlife and the water are open for 24 hours. The Thames a little bit of true international cosmopolitan feel in the big little town we call London.