London is the hottest city on the planet right now -- London 2012 is in full swing and the world’s media are watching the Olympic stadium, the city, and the River Thames, just as they were during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations back in June.
While the roads, parks and public spaces are heaving with tourists, there is a chance to escape the melee, yet experience many of the great sights along the banks of London’s historic waterway -- and all in just 50-minutes. Is it really possible in such a short space of time? It is if you are sitting on one of a fleet of high-performance crafts run by London RIB Voyages that offers a very unique experience and perspective of London’s historical and modern buildings.
Exhilaration, excitement, and adrenalin-fuelled fun. These are just some of the adjectives that trip off the tongue as easily as the RIB (rigid inflatable boat) carves a path along the river. Moored at the Pier, immediately under the London Eye, the striking orange-coloured rubber dinghies are nestled between the large sightseeing barges, waiting to propel guests on a memorable excursion.
Stepping aboard the RIB we were greeted by our guide Stacy (the RIB always sails with a knowledgeable guide) who sets the scene of the trip as soon as the life-jackets are strapped on. Bringing her own individual humour aboard, she describes the history of everything from the gothic façade of The Palace of Westminster through to the gleaming skyscrapers of the Shard and Canary Wharf.
All the while anticipation is growing towards the moment the driver pushes the throttle forward and opens up the twin 200hp Envinrude engines which lift the nose of the RIB and pin you firmly to your seat, and, quite literally, make your hair stand on end.
The magical moment comes for us just after we pass beneath London Bridge adorned with the Olympic rings. The bridge forms the invisible border between the speed restricted area and the part of the Thames where the boat’s performance can be realised.
The RIB gets free reign around the comparatively traffic-free waterways of Wapping and Canary Wharf creating a blur of London’s modern developments creeping further east -- a major part of the London 2012 legacy.
With rock music accompanying the increase of speed to 35 knots, we zip across the water like a skimming pebble bouncing effortlessly from crest to crest, the driver arcing and swerving ever more acutely to encourage whoops of joy from his passengers.The RIB then returns sedately to its berth and you stand on firm ground with a camera full of unique images.
For more information go to: www.londonribvoyages.com
Ramy Salameh is an award-winning freelance travel writer based in London and a member of the National Union of Journalists.
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