My apologies for this delayed blog entry. I already wrote it once and it simply disappeared on me. From now on, I'll do my write-ups in Word and then paste them in my blog.
I didn't get up quite as early this morning as I had planned. It was kind of a rainy morning so it was hard to get motivated. I ended up partaking of the continental breakfast offered by my hotel. They have cereal, yogurt, fruit, toast, boiled eggs, mini croissants, cheese & deli ham. There is also fruit juice and a machine that makes coffee, tea, cappuccino, café mocha and the like. And, there is butter, jellies and honey for the breads. I don't really think it was worth £6, though.
After breakfast I was able to get online briefly but just to check e-mail. The hotel's free wi-fi is still out. Last night they started offering their paid wi-fi to guests for one free hour. That was still in effect as of this morning but was soon changed to one hour for £1.
After bundling up as best I could, I set out for the Bayswater tube station which is a short 3 blocks or so away. This station is on what is called the Circle Line, which basically makes a loop around the city, hitting some of the major tourist attractions. I didn't know if I should take the one going north or south as they would both go east to Tower Hill. I ended up taking the northbound tube but didn't realize there was a terminus a couple stops away. I had to get off the train and transfer to another. No big deal. Still got to where I was going.
Upon arriving at Tower Hill station, you walk outside and are greeted by a view of the Tower of London. I took a couple pictures from the hill then made my way down to the ticket area. After buying my ticket & tour book, I decided to use the restroom before going in. Well, it was a pay toilet. It cost 50p to get in. It was a pretty nice toilet, though!
I then went inside the gate where a guided tour had just finished their intro segment and were about to move on. I decided to wait for the next guided tour which started at noon. So, I had about 20 minutes to kill. I took some pictures and did some people-watching. At noon, a Yeoman Warder, also known as a Beefeater, began the tour introduction. He was very informative and entertaining. It took about 10 minutes and I was able to capture most of it on video. Uploading it may be a different matter, though, as video seems to take forever to upload.
He guided us through the gates and pointed out what each building was used for. He also gave us some history lessons. We also learned that Yeoman Warders have to have at least 22 years' service in the British Armed Forces and have to have achieved a certain rank. They also must have spotless records. They all live within the Tower grounds with their families.
We also learned that private beheadings took place on the Tower Green, whereas public beheadings took place on Tower Hill.
If you're part of a guided tour, you get to go inside the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside. It was beautiful. Also, unfortunately, the altar area was roped off. That is where Anne Boleyn is buried beneath the floor. Actually, there are many bodies buried beneath the floor.
The chapel was the last part of the guided tour and we were on our own to explore the buildings and grounds after that. As I was making my way to the Crown Jewels, I realized I had left my tour book in the chapel. I turned around to go back and had to ask one of the Beefeaters if I could go back in. Once inside, however, I found that someone had swiped my tour book. Not happy. I also didn't think to take advantage of the opportunity to snap a few pictures when no one was watching!
Anyway, I went on to view the Crown Jewels. Before seeing them there is a short, looping video of Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953. So, it was interesting to see the actual pieces in the jewel room and to realize she will be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee (with much fanfare) the week after next. There were several crowns on display in addition to the orb, scepters, rings, the coronation robe and other Royal regalia. There was also on display an assortment of gold pieces used for Royal functions. I think my favorite of these pieces was the Exeter Salt. It was a tall, ornate, gold salt holder but also had secret compartments containing spices. You can Google it for a pic and more info. Yes, once again, we were not allowed to take pictures in there.
I picked up a couple of souvies for my mom & sister in the gift shop then made my way to the White Tower where it felt like I spent hours.
There was so much to see. There was a great deal of armor on display—even that belonging to Henry VIII. There was armor for adults and armor made for children and horses. It was very interesting to see it up close. There was also weaponry on display. It was interesting to see some of the architectural features inside the building. There were toilets, accessed via short, narrow, winding staircases then just a wooden slab with a hole in the middle. These were called garderobes. There were also primitive fireplaces before chimneys were even invented. Smoke simply escaped through holes in the wall.
Then there were some hands-on exhibits where you could feel the weight of some weaponry, try your skill at archery & firing a virtual cannon. There were also examples of primitively minted coins and displays on how they were made.
All these rooms and displays covered four floors and there were very narrow winding staircases throughout. Lots of stairs to climb!
Over the centuries, the Tower complex has served many purposes—royal residence, prison, menagerie, mint, arsenal, record storage and more.
I was ready to leave at 5:00 and as I was walking outside it started to pour down rain. The wind caught my umbrella and blew it inside out but I got it corrected. It was so cold! It even began to hail a little. There was thunder & lightning, too. I made my way back to the front gate where I was sheltered from the rain until it let up a bit. I took a couple more pictures of Tower Bridge since I was right there on the Thames River. I started to make my way back to the subway station but stopped instead in a little tourist mall to get out of the rain. I was hungry and I found a place that had chicken pot pie soup. I ordered a small cup but it was too hot to eat. I had to let it cool down for quite awhile. I eventually got back to the tube station and made my way back to Bayswater.
Most stations are below ground and some are above ground. At one station, the sun was shining. When I exited Bayswater station, it was pouring rain again and very windy. I was shivering & wet when I got back to the hotel. I packed up my computer and headed for the nearest Starbucks and ordered a nice, hot café mocha. Spent the rest of the evening there until my computer battery ran down.
Some observations for today:
· Not all tube stations are created equal—some are really nice and some are rather dank
· Apparently, the Tower of London is a popular field trip idea for hordes of schoolchildren—some of whom must have come over from France for the day?
· Most people on the tube, especially during rush hour, are looking at their phones, their iPads, their Kindles or a newspaper. They don't really pay attention to anyone else.
Not sure yet what I'll do tomorrow (Wednesday). The current plan is to try to go to Windsor Castle. I'll need to brush up on all the details from the brochure before I go to bed. It's supposed to be clear in the morning (after being frosty) but might cloud up later in the day. I may have to try to find gloves and a hoodie somewhere! Scarves, on the other hand, are everywhere!
When I got back to room tonight, I pulled my sweatpants out of the wardrobe since I was so cold. The refrigerator in the wardrobe gives off a lot of heat, so they were nice and warm! I don't know if Londoners wear sweatpants. I haven't seen any. I saw several women today walking around in short skirts and tights or leggings. I know they must have been freezing. If it's still this cold tomorrow I might wear them anyway!
I hope you are all well. I'm enjoying your comments & messages!
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Read much more about England on the KILROY travels website