Thursday, November 04, 2010

London: Part III

Day 3 was another touring day in London. I had originally planned to do the Tower of London in the second week of our trip, but instead I put it in the first week so that the half term crowds would not be there. That did not work out so well as instead, the school crowds were there!
In fact, some of the schools were from places like France- and I have to say the children there were VERY rude- we hardly had a chance to let our kids use any of the interactive things set up in the White Tower because the school children just pushed their way in front of them!

The day started off well though. We stopped by Primark to pick up some earmuff that DD had been promised for being good. Since they only cost £2, it was not a particularly unreasonable decision.  By the way, clicking on any of the pictures in these posts should make them considerably larger ;)
DD inside the Tower, sulking in her earmuffs :)
The tube to the Tower was directly down the District line, so we got on and just sat there for a while. I always enjoyed those tube journeys because the people you see are very interesting. Any number of activities might be happening on the tube- from people taking luggage places to women putting on makeup, to actors practising their lines, to businessmen/women working, to people reading, to parents taking their kids to the park.... the list goes on. 

A nice large map of the tube if you are trying to figure it out ;)
We got used to the tube rapidly, it being the most efficient way to get around London and the Greater London area. It was because of this that we got ourselves a London Pass with Travel. I don't think we used the London Pass enough, BUT the travel part we used incessantly, and teamed with our Britrail passes, this made travel around our little area of England quite delightful. I would highly recommend both of these things, because it did mean we had very little worry about how we might get some place!

So we take the tube to Tower Hill- by far the nearest exit to the Tower- there is even a subway (an underground walkway) from the station to the Tower itself.
DD and myself, standing on the cobblestones outside the Tower.  The Tower would be to the left of the picture :)
 Our London passes allowed us to bypass the ticket lines and head straight into the Tower itself.
 We cross over the old moat, now a beautiful lawn.  You can see them busily cleaning the Tower in time for the 2012 Olympics- which will be held in London.

An array of reproduction mediaeval siege and war weapons were on display around the castle.  This one is a Trebuchet.  Alas they were not firing it- something that always gives the kids a thrill!

You cross the (now) permanent drawbridge into the castle- passing through the old gates with all the rest of the world!  It is always busy there- but that is good as the money pays for its upkeep!

The old walls tower above you.  The Tower is a mishmash of eras- with buildings ranging from early Norman times to much more modern ones.  I am not sure just how modern though ;)

The old streets are cobbled and old, surrounded by high walls...

In which, if you look closely, you might see an old guard or watchman's shelter.  The kids wanted to go in there as soon as we saw it of course- but it was not in the areas we could get in!

The traitor's gate, shown here, was where Queen Elizabeth I was brought into the tower, by "Bloody Mary".  It used to open out onto the river, and there is still a place on the riverside where you can see it was bricked up.  They bricked it up to block up the moat, because the wet was eroding the foundations of the Tower.  There is always a little water in this spot though- and you can see the steps by which the traitors were brought up into the tower.

Above the traitor's gate is a beautiful Elizabethan building.  Inside are some rooms you can see, I think they depict one of the Tudor King's spaces, but I forget who!

In the passageways, be sure to look up- because often the ceilings are JUST as beautiful!

They are currently cleaning the "Bloody" or White Tower.  Half of it has been done, the other half was still being worked on.

You can see the bottom of a portcullis in this gateway!

The Yeoman Warders (commonly known as Beefeaters) are always around.  They give tours and are willing to talk to you.  They have a chapel and rooms at the Tower too.

This building houses the Crown Jewels.  In a huge labyrinthine walk, you are taken through the building seeing videos and portraits and Coronation Finery, before finally seeing the Crown Jewels.  They are quite spectacular- and the lines seem to move fairly quickly!

Here is the White Tower from the clean side.  You can see the raven cages there too...

where the Ravens live.  There is a legend that says if the Ravens ever leave the Tower, then England will fall.  They are cared for by the ravenmaster Yeoman Warder- you can read more about them in the leaflet you download from the link above :)

I love this photo.  The tower is so pretty here!  The angle gives you a good idea of how majestic it seems from the ground.  Inside it, are housed arms and armour- as seen below ;)

The lighting in the Armoury is not bad for photography.  Large screens now sit behind most of the best armour, allowing you to leave off the flash.  That being said, I did not always manage to get the best angle because of the school kids and other tourists!

You can see that armour consists of different pieces here...

and these two photos of Henry VIII's armour (with famous codpiece) show how the backing screens change colour :)  Same armour, same position, different effect.

Some pieces of armour are incredibly elaborate.  This one, for instance, if you look closer, it looks almost embroidered!

Other pieces come with all sorts of add-ons!

This is a garderobe.  That is to say a toilet :)  There are holes on the outside of the Tower where they used to empty.  I can only imagine the smell...

There are ceremonial swords- huge things.  I wonder if people actually carried these...

There are some record breaking armours in the Tower.  This is a very small suit of armour made for a boy.  It was long thought to have belonged to a dwarf... because the Victorians liked that story better!

This is the biggest suit of armour on show, ever.  They call it a giant suit- and you can see it there next to the little one.  It was so big I could barely get the whole thing into the picture!

One thing we noticed at the castles are the beautiful gargoyles.  Here are a couple at the Tower- there are many more!

The executioner's block.  What more can I say?

A ceremonial headdress given by the Americans to the crown.

The family in the tower ;)  I believe this is in the area above the Traitor's gate.

A small chapel/prayer area re-created.

A stunning view of Tower Bridge from the walls...

which house more reproduction weaponry!

A modern London skyline.  All these things are pretty new- the round one on the left is the new City Hall.  The tall thing on the right is the 'Shard' which aims to be completed in a couple of years, and will be the tallest building in the EU.

The walks along the walls are quite lovely, even this late in the year.  In fact, autumn held off until after my sister's wedding, when all the leaves turned and fell! In case you wonder, this was October 21st ;)

Since November 5th is Bonfire Night or "Guy Fawkes" in England, guess who was doing a little presentation in one of the towers there?  This small, elementary aged group had obviously been learning all about him.  They certainly knew more than me ;)  One of their teachers kindly invited DD to sit with them.  She didn't want to leave...

All over the tower are delightful small living areas.  I think certain members of staff get to live here, but I am not sure.

We loved the bright doors on these buildings.

This tower, was a prison.  It held a number of prisoners over the centuries- many of whom were gifted graffiti artists!  You have never seen graffiti like this:

Not all of the graffiti was completed- as the prisoner was led away for execution. 

Having toured the Tower, we took the opportunity to go up onto Tower Bridge- conveniently right next to it :)

First we had to go under the Bridge...

Before we could go up onto the bridge.

The views from the bridge are quite spectacular- here is the shard again, on the left...

And on the right- the Tower.  Or, the "Bloody Tower, hidden by the Bloody trees" as the riverboatmen like to say ;)

The kids stand on the 'crack' of Tower Bridge.  This was a hard shot because of all the people passing by- but you can see the crack under DD's feet ;)

Past and present collide- the Tower, and the Gherkin!

After the Tower, we were heading home, when DH noticed something in the distance.
"What's that?"  He asked me.
"It's the monument," I replied.  So we stopped there on the way back.

This is the site that greets you as you come out of the Monument tube station.  This marks, very nearly, the spot on Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire of London in 1666 started.  It began in a bakers shop- the distance from the Monument to the spot is the exact length of the Tower.  You can actually go up inside it- but we decided not to.  (Apart from a fear of heights, my feet were killing me by this point).

Here is a nice long view of it, from right next to the actual site of the start of the great fire!
At this point, we clambered back down into the Tube station, and went back to the hotel, thoroughly exhausted.  We had decided on an early night because the following day we were heading over to Mum and Dad's for pre-wedding stuff- but more on that tomorrow :)


  1. Love your pictures! I don't remember seeing the armor when I went there 18 years ago. Too funny with Henry VIII!

    I let my daughter look at your entry, as she saw different areas of the tower when she went. She thinks the king whose rooms were above Traitor's Gate might be Edward the Confessor.

    Peace and Laughter,

  2. I am glad the post was interesting for you :) The Tower seems to constantly change! The armour has definitely been there for a while- but often gets put away for cleaning or special displays or other things :)
    We spent almost a whole day there because I wanted to see everything- I think we managed to accomplish that!

    As to the King- I had to look it up, but I think your daughter was half right- it was Edward I :) I knew it was an Edward, and it appears 'Longshanks' built the outer walls and they have restored the 'Medieval Palace' to look like it would have during his time :)

  3. The monuments are lovely...but so are you in your boots!


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