Something I have discovered from my travels is that I feel most at peace by a body of water: in Isla Vista I had the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, at my dad's house in France the beautiful Lac du Salagou is a short walk away...and in London, I have the Thames.  I hadn't realised what an affection I have for this big, brown river until I found myself taking a thousand photos yesterday morning walking home from my last day in Richmond before I leave.  I love to photograph the river, to walk beside it, and will generally try and find a pub overlooking it.  Oceans and lakes are effective stand-ins but the Thames is the mucky water flowing through my veins.

At The White Swan pub, Twickenham
I loved living in Manchester, it's a fantastic city with everything a student could want, yet I always felt something was missing.  The weather was pretty relentlessly bad, but London is hardly a tropical microclimate so that couldn't have been the issue.  Now I realise it was the sense of aloofness.  Canals cut between red-brick buildings, as utilitarian and industrial as the city's architecture.  Of course there is a river, and I'm sure had I looked hard enough, decent walks and riverside pubs to be found too.  But I suppose ultimately it's part of being a Londoner to be drawn to the Thames.  After all, it's what made this settlement into a city, an international market place for centuries, and the capital of the UK.

High tide in Richmond; low tide in Southwark
My mum is particularly obsessed with the tides and the insane power of the Thames, which is probably why we've always gone for walks as a family along the riverside.  It is stunning how fast the sandbanks can disappear - the pub pictured on the left is frequently flooded by he rising waters.  I remember many years ago, as a child (yes, in the UK children are allowed in pubs) we were seated in the beer garden and the tides began lapping at our feet.  Soon enough the garden became flooded, and my family and all the other patrons were forced, laughing, to clamber over the wall to get to higher ground since the pub's back door had been closed and sandbagged.  I was a tiny child (still am to an extent) and my dad was forced to carry me at times rather than let me wade knee-deep through puddles.

One of my favourite things about being beside the river are all the simple, traditional boats.  You can rent one for £6/person in Richmond and explore the area at a leisurely pace over the water, something I'd love to do with a visiting friend one day.  I've seen some funny sights on rowing boats in the past: an entire wedding party, complete with bride in dress and veil; a group of men in drag, drunkenly splashing down the river at a slight diagonal angle; women in seemingly Edwardian dress with parasols to protect them from the sun.  Tide Tables, a coffee shop situated under Richmond Bridge is a good spot to watch the river; also The White Swan pub in Twickenham; or the London Apprentice in Isleworth, although it is often particularly low tide there.  Obviously I am more familiar with my neck of the woods, greater west London, but I hope one day to explore the river throughout the city, and maybe cross the river on the clippers, for which you can use your Oyster card.  Imagine if your daily commute was by riverboat!  New life ambition...

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