OK, not Xanadu, but East London is endlessly fascinating.
I recently guided a group of five self-proclaimed softies who wanted a day out on bikes, only they didn’t all have bikes and hills were definitely off-limits. Struck me that an adaptation of the Tidal Time Traveller would fit the bill nicely.
We met just off the Limehouse Basin at a Boris bike docking station, where to make things even, we all hired one. Its a fairly easy task, turn up with your bank card and off you go, no need to pre-book or anything, they cost around £4 an hour which is reasonable given the convenience.
Fully equipped we headed off along the Mile End Park as far as Victoria Park, which after its recent restoration oozes Victorian splendour with its lake, fountain Pagoda, not forgetting of course the two curious porticos that were at one stage on the original multi-arched London Bridge. At this point we left the peace and entered the chaos of semi abandoned warehouses, edgy graffiti and trendy pop up coffeeshops, modern London in the messy process of reinventing itself.
Whisking through the Olympic Park, past the Stingray, aka Aquatic Centre and the now under stated Stadium on to the Greenway, an old railway line, now cycle path that leads directly to massive Royal Docks.
Just before reaching the docks, the cycle path goes over a shallow humped bridge, which as you ride up it gradually exposes the vast stretch of water – the same sense of excitement I had as a small child when finally glimpsing the seaside after a long journey.
Well, that small child was truly awoken crossing the Thames on the Emirates Cable car, if you haven’t done it, put it on your bucket list, it's fab as you sail above the banks of the Thames, London below turns to toy town, the DLR trains turn into Hornby models and you half expect a huge hand to descend from the sky to put the carriages back on the rails!
Landing in Greenwich is a curious experience, the Dome on the right is impressive, the windswept empty car park less so but this is London, so after riding just half a mile through the squalor concrete depots along the soon to be rebuilt Thames Path, you dive under a derelict iron gantry, down a cobbled back street and before you know it, you're cycling through the Colonnades of the Old Royal Hospital in Greenwich. I love London!
Must admit - I did a bit of the showy off tour guide here, Greenwich as everyone knows is the home of the Cutty Sark, Maritime Museum, Painted Hall and even Time itself but also hidden away is the most jingoistic courtyard in the land with the most impressive Coade stone pediment celebrating Nelson.
By now we had clocked up just under 12 miles but with a leisurely pub lunch, we'd taken the best part of the day to complete the trip. The group were satiated, understandably, politely declined the offer of a tour climbing Greenwich Hill to the see one of the best views of London in favour of a refreshing pint.
This where Boris bikes are so brilliant, we found the nearest docking station, dumped the bikes and fully refreshed, caught the train home, easy as...