Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our Day 6 In London

Tower of London

Today was our day to learn the Underground. We could have taken a scenic tour across London with the bus, but this morning we wanted to get to our destination as quick as possible, in which case, the Tube is your best bet. A tunnel is a tunnel, but the Tube does get you across distances fairly quickly.

We were off to the Tower of London.

The story of the Tower of London, is the story of England. When the French Norman, William the Conquerer invaded and conquered Britain, he built the original Tower, now called the White Tower. King after King, with a few notable Queens, all played their parts here at the Tower of London.

Being a tourist site we expected line ups, in which case it is always best to get there early. We like to take our time, and not rush, so we expected lineups. We were pleasantly surprised to wait only a few minutes to purchase our tickets.

There is much to see at the Tower of London, but we were advised that to beat the crowds, we should go and see the Crown Jewels first. Finding the place on our map, we made our way there. We still had to walk quickly up and down the crowds control barriers, but were so happy that there were no crowds. Inside, we again had to zig zag through a couple of rooms filled with crowd control aisles. We could only imaging how tiring it would have been had we had to wait.

The highlight, is a row of cases displaying the various crowns and regalia. Two moving side walks carry on lookers either behind or in front of the case. A third walkway in front has panels describing each case and it contents. Take a first pass on the moving side walk and be amazed. Then walk back and read the panels for a deeper understanding, and then again take a moving side walk and appreciate them fully.

While the Crown Jewels might be the highlight, there is so much more to see.

We looked across the lawns were Queen Anne Boleyn among others lost their heads. Now a memorial sculpture commemorates this place of execution, as ravens alight nearby. A lone guard stands in front of the Queen's House, while other Beefeater Guards give entertaining tours and answer questions.

Next we decided to head to Bloody Tower. Walking to it we passed Traitor's Gate, the boat entrance from the Thame's were prisoners were brought in.

While the Tower of London was built as a defense and palace, it has so often been associated as a prison. If it is hard to get in, it is equally hard to get out.

Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned here more than once, spending 13 years of his life here. His wife, was allowed to live with him, and his son was born here. Bloody Tower gets its name because of some notable and questionable deaths that occured here. The most famous of which is the probable murder of the 13 year old future King Edward V and his younger brother. Shakespeare has King Richard III as being the one who ordered their deaths.

We next visited the Beauchamp Tower. Why it is pronounced BEECHum completely escapes me, after all, all these early Kings were more French than English. The tower held a multitude of famous prisoners, many of whom scrawled graffitti on the walls that survives to this day.

The Central White Tower was the orginal Keep, and the rest was built around it. Today, it holds the White Tower Museum. As you make your way through it, you encounter Suits of Armour, including King Henry VIII's armour when he was a fit and slim 25 year old, as well as his older armour when older, overweight, and much less fit for any real battle. Those with a military interest will enjoy the displays that demonstrate the evolution of weaponry. Also in this museum is the actual chopping block and ax that beheaded so many.

We walked along the walls of the castle, taking in the sights of the castle grounds, as well as of Tower Bridge. We also noted how large the crowds now waited to gaze upon the Crown Jewels.

The last place we visited was the Royal Chapal of St. Peter ad Vincula where the headless bodies of those who were beheaded were buried in unmarked graves. Queen Anne Boleyn is said to haunt this chapel. (She apparently is occiasionally seen in the White Tower carrying her head in her arms.)

We were surprised that we spent the whole day here, but there is indeed much to see and appreciate.

We found a pub, to rest, eat and drink. Hera ordered a typical pub grub, a delicious Indian Chicken Tikka with hot nan bread and basmati rice. London food has definitely changed.

After our meal, we took a bus and got off just before Trafalgar Square and headed into Soho. The place was alive with people milling about, and others dining outdoors, while musicians played and entertained.

Our last task of the day was to purchase our tickets for a show. We decided on Chicago, and will see it in a few days.

Pleased with our day, we made our way back home.

Photographer's note: This last shot below was shot with Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone. It is our shadow.


Hera & Anthony