A few weeks ago I received an exciting e.mail from Silver travel advisor, a website for the mature traveller. I learnt that I had won a twinkling Thames cruise aboard the paddle steamer Waverley and a night bed and breakfast at the Croydon Hilton in the monthly draw. The prize was provided by Just Go Holidays
PS Waverley claims to be the last ocean going paddle steamer. She was launched in 1946 to take passengers for cruises on the Scottish lochs. Her name comes from a novel by Sir Walter Scott. Originally she was owned by the LNES railway company and provided excursions for rail passengers to Scotland. However these excursions became less popular as more people bought cars and train travel went out of fashion.
PS Waverley is now owned and operated as a charity by a preservation trust who have lovingly restored her. They take her around the British Isles, spending the Spring in Scotland, before moving down to Liverpool and later the West country before sailing on the Thames in the Autumn. My husband sailed on her about fifty years ago when she was much newer but this was my first time on board.
We opted to make our own way to the hotel in Croydon. I had never stayed in a Hilton hotel before as I normally opt for budget travel and was not sure what to expect. The hotel was very good but not as swanky as I expected. I was quite glad I was not spending my own money. Coffee in the bar was £4.00 a cup and wine £8.00 a glass. I was able to catch up with an old school friend who lives in Croydon for coffee before we met the rest of the coach party. We were taken by coach to Graves End where we embarked on PS Waverley for our evening trip up the river Thames to central London
The Thames estuary has been transformed in recent years and is now home to several hundred seals and even this month a beluga whale. I was hoping to see some marine life but was unlucky. We opted to have a meal on board and were able to eat a very good curry while sailing past the docks at Tilbury. We then had a chance to look at the well polished and beautifully maintained engines before going out on deck to listen to a commentary on the sites of London.
I was amazed at the size of the Thames flood barrage and pleased to see Greenwich and the Cutty Sark. We also sailed past the Millenium dome now the O2 arena and Canary wharf. The cruise ended at Tower Pier.
Tower bridge was opened so PS Waverley could sail underneath which made us feel quite important.
After a night at the hotel and a very good full English breakfast we went by coach to central London. We met our son who teaches in London and strolled round Hyde park admiring the variety of bird life including the noisy parakeets, waterfowl and herons. The three of us enjoyed traditional wood cooked Pizza at the Serpentine restaurant which I thoroughly recommend.
If you want to find out more about the river Thames or London I can recommend these two books. (disclosure if you click my links I get a small bonus).