Tuesday 9th October 2012 – 29th meeting of 2012
Today we had booked to have a unique and quirky way to see London – on a Duck!
We meet at Waterloo and had our usual coffee in Starbucks. Waterloo has undergone a major improvement programme. A mezzanine floor has been added and two new escalators making access from Waterloo East to Waterloo much better and it also gives Waterloo concourse a brighter, larger feel. There are also lots more shops, drinking and eating places making it a much better experience for travellers.
From here we walked to the Chicheley Street, which is just behind the London Eye, to get on board the Duck and our tour of Westminster. The ducks used for this tour are amphibious vehicles which were used in World War 11 to take troops ashore for the D-Day landings and now nine of these have been converted for this unique tour of London. 22,000 were made by America and took 56 standing military personnel when used at Dunkirk. The amphibious vehicles were known as DUKW but are now affectionately known as Ducks. Nine are used for the tours. They have been refurbished with stairs, seats, painted bright yellow and named after female characters from Shakespeare, ours was Mistress Quickly.
Our guide and driver joined us and after introductions and a health and safety talk we started on our noisy, bump, windy ride. The sun was shining as we went along and many people were looking and enjoying the sight of the Duck. We went over Westminster Bridge giving stunning views of Houses of Parliament, then Victoria, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, St James’ Palace, side view of Buckingham Palace, Wellington Barracks and many many more of London’s finest sites. The guide gave us a very interesting commentary that had humour and pride. We went along to the edge of the Thames at the MI6 building and there waited for the change from driver to captain. Because of safety a Thames waterman has to take the Duck in the river. Once our Captain was on board and we had had our health and safety talk we slowly made our way on the beach and splash into the Thames. This was great fun and we all laughed at the experience of being afloat!
Once in the water you could feel the undercurrent that the Thames is famous for. It looked very calm but you could notice the pull when sailing. I found it quite amazing that this vehicle could float and the power change to water. We laughed and enjoyed the experience and I thought that this would probably be as close as any of us will get to being Bond girls!!! We went down river and we were ‘pumping the river’ going fast with the fast tidal flow. As we turned to return and go up river the pace substantial slowed. On the river we saw Lambeth Palace, stunning views of Palace of Westminster and apartments worth millions of pounds where many ‘celebs’ live. Once out of the river and our driver back on board we chugged our way back to starting point by London Eye.
This tour is very good, cost £21 adults, £14 children, £17 concessions, last 75 mins with 30 mins of this in the water. We covered all the famous landmarks of London, saw four palaces, Buckingham Palace, Lambeth Palace, Palace of Westminster and St. James’ Palace and experienced a trip on the Thames which is the heart of London. It is good fun and very enjoyable. We all had a great time and would recommend it for something completely different!