Man, it’s been a hell of a week. I came down with some crazy virus and spent the first few days with aches, shakes, and chills, and quickly moved on to severe ear and throat pain. We took a short plane ride and I was then unable to sleep for two days based on the excruciating pain in my ears. A 15 minute doctor visit and 100 GBP ($150) later.. we found out that (a) it’s a virus.. suck it up and it will pass.. and (b) don’t fly when you have a virus. It makes the ear pain worse.
Anyway, it seems to have subsided for now besides the fact that I lost my voice completely, but I’ll take that over the other symptoms. Luckily, however, besides a few lazy mornings, sickness didn’t keep us from getting out there to take on the world.
Before we delve into the exciting city we are in now.. I need to finish up some updates from our last adventure 🙂
We hit a lot of the typical London stops. We went to see the markets and performers in Covent Garden, we took a Harry Potter walking tour, and we stopped by the madness that is Picadilly Circus. We walked across the Millenium Bridge and saw Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and St. Paul’s Cathedral.. but our favorite sights were the two starting with ‘tower…’
Let’s start with the Tower of London.
We figured we would check of the Tower of London, but our hosts really talked it up as being one of their favorite London activities. Per their suggestion, we took the guided Yeoman tour and gotta say.. we loved it. It was funny, quick, and informative and the perfect intro to the day we ended up spending in the tower.
Like a loser.. I always assumed the Tower of London was.. well.. a tower. In fact it is a series of 20 towers inside a massive fortification. It was built by William the Conqueror in 1066, which makes sense because of it’s oppressive looking exterior.
The tower was used for so many things like a royal home, a zoo, an armory, a mint, and most famously.. a jail and house of torture. We heard tales of the good (the actually comfortable way prisoners were treated, with good food and whole apartments for themselves and family members) and the bad (the torture devices and the beheadings, of course.) There is actually an entire area to visit full of torture devices. A littttllleee messed up… but hey, it was interesting.
The tour guides are Yeomans. These public servants are actually ridiculously qualified to give these tours. A pre-requisite to the job is at least 22 honorable years in the military and then you are selected by the Queen to serve at the Tower of London. The tours and public work is a small part of the job. The larger part however is protecting the tower, the Queen when need be, and the Crown Jewels which reside on display at the Tower. (We did go see them, they are very real and very impressive but are not allowed to be photographed.)
There is a residential section of the Tower that still serves as one of the Queen’s four residences. It is still guarded, day and night, and roped off so we can’t get near it.. but I wonder… with all her choices in Palaces and grand homes to live in.. how much time a year she actually spends living in the Queen’s Apartments at the Tower of London…
We also got to see the Queen’s Ravens. Apparently some guy many years ago said something akin to “when the ravens leave the tower’s grounds is when it will fall.” So ever since there have been a little team of Ravens who live on the grounds with clipped wings to ensure.. the Ravens will never leave the grounds. Don’t feel bad for them though. They are some seriously pampered Ravens. They have vet care and comfy homes and fresh meals of nasty blood and animal parts.
There were many plaques about some famous prisoners at the Tower and an interesting display of carvings into cell walls from many people over the years.
Another cool thing about the Tower of London is the fact that you get some KILLER views of Tower Bridge from here! There is a “wall walk” you can do around the walled perimeter of the tower, and you can stop for an amazing shot with the Tower Bridge behind you. They also do little shows and knight demonstrations here for kids. I really can’t recommend the Tower of London enough. It’s fun and you learn a lot and you really could spend an entire day here without getting bored. We spent about 5 hours here ourselves before we were too hungry and had to find a pub!
The other “tower” sight we mentioned is of course the Tower Bridge. They claim it is the most photographed bridge in the world, which I find hard to believe beat out Golden Gate…but hey, I sure took a ton of pictures of it!
The bridge is beautiful and fun to look at, but it was really amazing to walk across it. The giant curved steel above you and the vibrant colors are really unique to walk below.
But hey, why settle for walking under it.. when you can walk above it!?
A newer feature of this tourist attraction is the ability to walk up on the top bridge and onto a glass platform. The glass platform allows you to see down onto the lower bridge, onto the portion that actually opens up for ships to come through.
Did you know that any boat or ship can request to pass underneath Tower Bridge? It’s free, they just have to give 24 hours notice and they will be put on the list. They have an exact time when the bridge will open for them to pass under. Sounds like a cool experience for a boat owner!
Another fun fact, the bridge only opens about 600 times a year. Which is less than two times a day. So it’s not all that often. The amazing part is we timed our trip to the glass platform perfectly and were actually standing on the glass part of the top bridge when the bridge was being opened. It was so cool and unique. We actually sat down on the glass floor and watched the bridge open and the boat pass beneath us!
To be honest, the rest of the exhibition you paid for at Tower Bridge was pretty.. blahhh. Uninteresting. But going up to sit on the glass platform and watch the bridge open up was pretty amazing.
I know you all are missing our pastry photos from France, so I will leave you this one of a yummy English desert, sticky toffee pudding. My stepmother makes a mean STP and spoiled me with such a good version, these others don’t compare. This one, below, I had in London was good.. but not awesome. The English leave a little to be desired when it comes to food. Except for Cadbury. Cadbury is my jam.