Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tower of London

Sorry this is later than promised...

I actually woke up with a cold this morning, and wanted nothing more than to take a hot shower before heading out. Too bad the hot water in the hotel malfunctioned, leaving me with two choices: take an ice cold shower or foist myself on the British after already having gone longer than normal without a shower. I chose the first option. It wasn't the right call, but by the time I realized that, I had shampoo in my hair. I finished as quickly as I could, and finished getting ready. Since it was August, we had packed summer attire almost exclusively, which did not serve us well on this day since we discovered when we got outside that it was probably in the 60's and raining. We decided not to go back and change, hoping that it would warm up. Another bad call.

What wasn't a bad call: the Tower of London. This place is awesome. The Tower used to be the royal castle before Windsor. It was built in the middle of London hundreds of years ago, and modern day London grew up around it. The London skyline is fascinating from this area--you have many very modern buildings, and then this medieval castle in the middle of them all. Way cool.

We got there about 11 a.m., and took a Yeoman Warder tour. The Yeoman Warders are the official guards of the tower, and they have to live on the premises. The tour provided some interesting information that we wouldn't otherwise have gotten, and we were able to see the Chapel, which is only open to those who take the tour.

After the tour, we headed over to see the crown jewels, which are housed in the one of the buildings that comprise the Tower, got mowed over by a group of over-exuberant Japanese tourists (“Oh, I’m sorry, how silly of me for standing in this space which was so obviously intended for you instead”), and then headed over to the White Tower, which is the main building. I really enjoyed the displays in the White Tower, and one of my favorite parts of the entire day was just walking up the staircases in all of the towers. They are just like something you'd see out of a movie-stone, narrow, and winding. It just made me feel like I’d gone back in time several hundred years, and you got some sort of sense for what it was like to have actually lived/worked in the Tower. Plus it made me feel like I was actually in a castle.

At one point, we saw a gentleman coming out of a smallish doorway, so we poked our heads in after he left to see what he was looking at, and find…a medieval toilet! Hahahahahaha!! It was a seat with a round hole on it, and a pipe that went down at a diagonal angle until hitting the outer wall, where there was then an opening directly to the outside world to dispose of the toilet offerings. Eww! We wondered if anyone ever happened to be walking around outside near the pipe openings when…well, you get the idea…

We spent about four hours at the Tower, and saw pretty much everything. It ended up being a really good morning. After we were done, we walked around to look at Tower Bridge, and then headed off to the British Library.

The British Library had been the one thing I knew from the beginning I wanted to see in London. It has old old copies of the Bible, and original copies of the Magna Carter, pages of Leonardo da Vinci's notebook, some of Shakespeare's works, and some works from the Beatles. I really enjoyed our time there.

We headed back to the Tower of London later that night to attend the Ceremony of the Keys. The Yeoman Warders have a particular way that they have to lock up the Tower--it's been the same ritual for hundreds of years, and it is free limited seating if you request your tickets in time. It was so weird watching the Tower being closed down at night the same way it has been for centuries, and being some of the only people in the Tower after dark.

There are just so many cool things to experience in London. Jody, I hope you have a great time. :)

And here are some pictures!

Above: Tower of London

Above: Our Yeoman Warder

Above: Royal Guard at the Tower of London

Above: The White Tower

Above: Armor display in the White Tower

Above: The Tower Bridge at night.

Above: London Skyline


Jeff said...

Nice report! In all my travels around the world I've yet to visit England. This place sounds so cool - and full of history. Sounds like you had a great time!

VE said...

Next time, bring a cue tip and paint it light one of the guards and see if you can make him laugh...

Mrs. R said...

Jeff: Thanks! We did have a great time. You absolutely must go. What I loved so much about London was that it was both full of history and modernity, so there was always something to do.

VE: You first. Those guys were all business.