Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Day 3: Greenwich

Today turned out to be another very hot day in London. My arrival coincided with one of the biggest heat waves on record here. Day after day of 30C heat.

Of course, I turned up wearing merino wool, almost from head to toe. This week was going to be a test for the dress and the t shirts!

Greenwich village is a little way down from London proper, but a short ride on the tube, the monorail and a short walk was all that was required to get me to the first stop of the day. 

The Queen’s House.

I got there a little early so I settled myself on the balcony outside and gazed at this glorious view. Isn’t it beautiful? It’s the perfect mix of old and new.

Then I saw Deana approaching across the lawn. She was giving me a Greenwich tour for my birthday.

Deana and I met eight years ago when I announced on the frog blog that I was going over to the UK. She emailed and introduced herself, explaining that she’d read the blog for years and invited me to stay at her place for a few days. 

She didn’t sound like an axe murderer so I accepted. I spent 3 happy days with Deana and her family, and she took me to see Hever Castle ( Anne Boleyn’s childhood home), Jane Austen’s house in Hampshirite, which is an absolute Must See) and Canterbury Cathedral.

It’s been a long time between visits, but here we are again!

The Queen’s house has an interesting history that, if I was blogging on my laptop I’d link to it, but I’m not so you”ll have to do it yourself. It has many beautiful things in it, but I was here to see one thing in particular- the Armada portrait of Elizabeth I.

There are a lot of paintings here, which isn’t surprising as the house was an art studio during Charles II’s reign. He allowed a family of maritime Dutch painters to work here, so there are MANY paintings of maritime battles and such. Yet there are other paintings hidden among them that delighted me as well.

I loved this painting, It’s a Rembrandt, called “Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the tomb.” It’s depicting when she sees Christ and realised that the impossible has happened and he’s risen from the dead.

He is sporting a nice sun hat. I guess it’s sensible – it’s warm in the Middle East.

This one is really cool. It’s “The Parting Cheer” by O’Neil. It’s showing the pain and heartbreak of those left behind when their loved ones sail away towards a new life. I love that there’s one little girl who’s aware of our presence and is looking straight at us.

These paintings are of the Normandy landings in 1944, by Stephen Bone. They think they were painted on the spot because there are traces of sand caught in the paint.

Look at the beauty of the Tulip Stairs.

We loved them!

Charles II gave permission for a father and son team to live at the Queen’s House and paint. Here is a picture of the father, Willem van der Velda. It’s thought that the parchment he’s holding was originally blank, but his son, (same name but with “the younger “ attached) painted some plans that his father had been working on. Sort of like saying, “This is what my Dad did.”

This is an engraved Nautilus shell. I actually have one of these in my china cabinet at home. My grandmother Dolly found it on a beach in Queensland and was so happy about it. This one is far larger than mine, but I know how delicate they are. Being able to carve into one is great craftsmanship.

This is a very early Australian painting. The emu isn’t bad, but the kangaroos are a little chunky.

look at the next two pictures. I never knew this guy existed. Imagine if he had’ve lived? Maybe England wouldn’t have executed their king? It’s funny how history exists on the spin of a coin sometimes.

Poor thing.

Here’s his mum, Anne of Denmark. Notice her pearls. I’ll be referring to them a bit later on.

Mary I, ( Henry VIII’ daughter, also known as’Bloody Mary’ because she burnt a few Protestants at the stake) and her husband Phillip II of Spain.

Poor Mary led a thwarted life. Henry VIII has a lot to answer for when it comes to the women in his life.

Henry VIi , who defeated Richard II and ended the War of the Roses. He doesn’t look too happy about it. Below is his grandson Edward, Henry VIII’s long desired son. It’s sad to think that he died at 16, poor boy.

His big sister Elizabeth, looking regal. A guide here told us that Elizabeth had once had a miniature painted of her, and forever after, she insisted that anyone who painted her had to copy her face from that miniature.

It must’ve been like getting a great driver’s licence photo. You want to hang on to it forever.

Here he is. The man whose grave I’ll be standing on in 3 day’s time.

Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria. He believed so strongly in the divine right of kings that he refused to compromise and move with the times. It ended up costing him his head.

Remember him. He comes up again a few days later.

And then I walked into a room the same as all the others… and there she was.

Queen Elizabeth I, after the English had kicked Spanish butts when they tried to invade. Remember the portrait of Mary I and her husband Phillip?

He was the one who tried to take England from Elizabeth. What an arse.

anyway, look at how she’s standing proudly. One hand is on a globe of the world, with her finger pointing to Virginia, the first colony in America and the first one named after her.

Her gown is embroidered with the sun and moon symbols. In medieval portraiture, the king is the sun and the queen the moon. She is stating that she embodies both.

the panels at the back show before and after pictures of the Spanish armada. Really rubbing it in.

and look at those pearls. Look familiar? Anne of Denmark has recycled them and worn them in a different way in her portrait.

I was a little bit happy. Here’s a few close-ups

Look at the pearls. They have an iridescence about them.

It’s also a statement of wealth. Pearls were horrendously expensive back then, as they had to be dived for and searched for. Therefore, having strings of matched pearls like this is a tremendous show of wealth.

And look at the feathers in this fan!

I was so happy to see this portrait. What a piece of history! She’s saying to the world, “ Phillip fucked around and found out. Don’t mess with me.”

I love it.

After that feast for the eyes, we sat in a shaded spot and ate the picnic Deana brought. Then it was a walk up a VERY steep hill to see The Royal Observatory. This is where the famous meridian line is located.
Here I am doing the obligatory photo with one foot east and one west. It had Sydney, Canberra and Hobart, but no Melbourne.

We wandered around the cobbled courtyard and found ourselves at a little balcony overlooking the wonderful view we’d seen before. Then I saw a sign directing people to the Camera Obscura.

Obviously I couldn’t take a photo in the dark, but trust me – the picture that was projected down from the mirror in the chimney was a perfect representation of The Queen’s House. What made it even more memorable was that it wasn’t a static image, like a photograph. Every time a car went past, you could see it moving, which really brought home that we’re not just looking at a photograph, but we’re seeing the space in real time.

Remember the photo at the top of this post? Here’s the same view but from the hill at the Observatory. There’s the Queen’s House.

Next stop was a look through the house that a long succession of Head Guys of the Observatory lived. One poor woman had 9 kids on top of that hill in a house where all the rooms run into each other. At least the constant breeze up there meant that drying the washing would be… well, a breeze!

I took a snap of this dress. It belonged to the daughter of one of those guys and it’s so wonderfully Georgette Heyer.

The bottom part of the building was devoted to watches, clocks and the quest to find longitude. (Or is it latitude? I can never remember which.)

This sort of stuff didn’t grab me much, but I found this clock very interesting. 

We discovered there was an easier way done, so we took it, ambling back down and talking all the way to The Cutty Sark.

This was really interesting. The Curry Sark was a clipper that was primarily used for delivering tea. She used to swing by Australia to pick up bales of wool. Considering the distances she travelled, she was small. The men who signed up to sail on her were clearly crazy.

As soon as I stepped into the ship, I could smell tea. Deana didn’t, until I mentioned it, but then again, she’s English. About three quarters of the liquid components in her body would be tea.

I liked this one- how a lot of guys took the opportunity to get a free trip to Australia!

This was on the deck near the steering wheel. I felt sorry for him.

After seeing all that there was to see on the ship, we settled down on a shaded part of the deck and had a good chat. We lost track of time and were interrupted by a member of staff who wanted to clear the ship before locking up.

We weren’t ready to call it a day, so Deana suggested that we find a pub with a garden. I have to say, that gin and tonic with lime went down a treat. It was growing dark when we parted.

I admit that the Underground bamboozled me towards the end of the journey, but I fell in with a really nice Canadian couple who were also looking for Aldgate East. We all made it home.

I’m so lucky. What a way to see out my 50’s! Thanks Deana.


  1. FIRE for One

    What an interesting day! Thank you for sharing your travels.

    That lace on Queen Elizabeth I’s dress is really lovely, too. So fine and elegant.

    • Frogdancer Jones

      Isn’t it beautiful? I don’t know which would be harder, making it or painting it!

  2. Belinda

    What a great day! I have learnt so many interesting facts – Isn’t history amazing. Loved seeing the Cutty Sark too . What a wonderful birthday gift to yourself – one you will never forget. Enjoy your next outing!

  3. Josie

    Loved all the historical details, especially as I hope to be seeing this in 2 weeks!! Thank you!

    • FrogdancerJones

      Enjoy! Hopefully the weather will have cooled down by then.

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