So let’s just take a look at one area of this fascinating city– an area with its own exotic history. Let’s go to part of the famed East End, to London’s Docklands, the most architecturally exciting development in the United Kingdom.
The Docklands, from Tower Bridge to the Royal Docks and the Isle of Dogs, is one of the oldest areas of London, containing the wharfs, warehouses and ports along the River Thames. It forms part of the boroughs of Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Greenwich. The docks were formerly part of the Port of London, at one time the world’s largest port. It occupies an oxbow peninsula in the Thames, where for centuries the main trading of England was based. From the late 18th century through to the middle of the 20th, this area was the world’s most important port. By the 1960s, though, a new containerised port had been established at Tilbury, Essex, and the East End was in deep economic and social decline.
After closing the larger Upper Pool docks in the late 1960s, the Port of London Authority decided to sell riverfront properties covering 850 acres (344 hectares). In 1969 the Greater London Council (GLC) bought the first parcel, the St. Katherine Docks, and prepared it for development. Although some of the original warehouses were retained, a hotel, yachting marina, restaurants, and apartments were built. The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was created in 1981 to encourage further riverfront investment and redevelopment.
Enthusiasm for redevelopment in this area proved to be astonishing. Private developers bought and restored “forgotten” squares and terraces in waterfront neighbourhoods. One of the more notable plans, and also one of the most criticized, is the Canary Wharf development on the Isle of Dogs. A complex of stone- and glass-sheathed office buildings begun in the 1980s, it is dominated by a central 45-story skyscraper, One Canada Square. Britain’s tallest building, this was constructed by Canadians. Throughout Docklands, you can now find restaurants, shops, apartment and town house developments with a distinct Canadian flavour, sometimes mingling with some of the oldest streets in London. December 1999 marked the arrival of Four Seasons Hotel Canary Wharf, which may have put a mark of permanence on the new upscale image of the area.
Canary Wharf was originally called the Rum Quay because of its trade with the West Indies. The Wharf got its present name because, after World War II, this was where the Fred Olsen Line discharged bananas and tomatoes imported from the Spanish Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. (Quite by coincidence, the Canary Islands were originally known as “Las Islas Canarias” – the Islands of Dogs.)
Eastenders have always been considered an inferior lot by other Londoners. It has traditionally been home to the working classes, home of the cockney accent and rhyming slang. Jack the Ripper committed his murders here in 1888, but on the other hand actress Angela Lansbury was born here, the original Liberty Bell was forged here and the Salvation Army was founded in East End. This is Dickens country, pure and simple. (Here is a website about Jack the Ripper: http://www.casebook.org/ , and you can find out a bit about the interesting array of markets in the East End here: http://www.britannia.com/…markets.html)
If you are exploring the famous Tower of London, walking alongside the ancient Tower walls, you might well turn a corner and suddenly find yourself thrust into the most modern area of London. The contrast between London the Old and London the New will never be more apparent.
Only two miles east of Tower Bridge, with the center of London only about half an hour away, you will find Odessa Wharf, a building project that renovated a Docklands warehouse situated in the Surrey Keys area. This is a small, exclusive RCI Gold Crown Resort (a member of RCI Points) which only offers 8 elegant units tucked in between its towering and more boorish neighbors and “shining out like a good deed in a generally naughty Thames-side world.” Although Odessa Wharf is a closed resort for Full Membership, some Associate Memberships with no share option are available, giving access to one week of accommodation every year, which can be taken subject to availability.
The designers of this award-winning building were ingenious in their methods of securing sun, light and views in the main body of the building and at the same time preserving privacy. They went up, to timber cabin cowls on the roof, reached by spiral stairs through double-height top-lit living rooms. Not stopping there, they provided oriel windows to secure more light and glimpses of the river– windows which also act as an additional means of providing privacy from neighboring buildings.
It is very Scandinavian in concept, a Danish-led development, which shows very forcefully in the consistently high quality of the work and in the concept of the river-facing rooms and an external roof-level deck for the shared use of its occupants.
Said Great Britain’s Designs for Homes, “Downstairs are dining kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms, with security ensured by vertical sliding shutters – an old London dodge. …The bold, big-scale timber construction and detailing of these additions, and of the balconies beneath, is entirely appropriate to the original 19th Century warehouse, and puts to shame the handling of many similar conversions.
“The same care has been lavished on the public walkway which swings out in a generous sweep over the river, in marked contrast to the mean, gated terrace which is all its neighbour to the west can offer. It’s a reproof to our own developers that it takes a client from overseas to show what intelligent patronage and high design standards can achieve, but at the same time this is also a development from which, hopefully, they can learn.”
This is quite an exclusive riverside development, with luxury one- and two-bedroom stylishly furnished apartments and townhouses. Some units have a balcony and sitting area with views across the Thames, and all occupants enjoy this vista from the communal roof terrace. It is right in the heart of everything, with all the excitement the Docklands offers within easy reach. Dining, shopping, business, sightseeing– and history everywhere you look. In addition, the famous Docklands Light Rail system is easily available to whisk you quickly to wherever else in London you might want to go.
All in all, this is a very unique timeshare resort, in a unique location. While it may not have the depth of amenities available in some of the larger and more expensive resorts of the world, it more than makes up for any such lack in its quality and location. Give it a try next time you visit London. We think you’ll be most pleasantly surprised.
Some Web sites to explore for more information:
- http://www.a-london-guide.co.uk/ –Everything London
- http://www.visiteastlondon.com/ –Visit the East End
- http://www.docklands24.co.uk/home –Everything you might want to know about The Docklands today
- http://www.mycanarywharf.com/ –Canary Wharf today
- http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/ –A fabulous guide to a The Museum of London