I read a lot of historical fiction.
If that fiction involves England and/or monarchs, so much the better. The Tower of London was something I knew I had to see, and we heard the same from several friends who had been there. That was our first stop on our first full day in London.
We woke up and went straight to the Tube station to go to the Tower. We thought it would be pretty interesting and a good experience to see it. David has read a lot about Henry VIII and his wives in his studies of Anglicanism, so he was excited to see some of it in person. It ended up being one of our favorite sites on the whole trip.
We got to the Tower just as it opened to the public and made a beeline to the Crown Jewels. We read somewhere that the line to see them gets quite long during the day, and like a popular ride at Disney World, its best to go straight there before the crowds arrive. There were already quite a lot of people in there, but we didn’t have to wait long. Photography was not allowed, but I don’t think our phones would have done it justice anyway. It was such a cool experience to see the actual crowns and scepters and orbs that have been used by English monarchs for centuries. When you get to that part with the crowns, you step on a little moving sidewalk that carries you down the line, I assume to prevent people from crowding around the displays. Since we got there early, we were able to walk back and ride past the crowns a couple times to see them better. There are all kinds of other things in the display, including items used at banquets, coronations, and baptisms. We saw the Lily Font that has been used at the baptisms of (almost) all of Queen Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren. There were a few things missing from the display because they were currently in use.
Once we had gawked to our (my) hearts’ content, we headed back to the moat area to take a tour led by one of the guards at the Tower, known as Yeoman Warders or Beefeaters. I’m glad someone recommended this to us, because there were so many people gathered to take the tour we probably would have skipped it otherwise. We were in a huge group, but the man who led our tour was exceptional. If you ever go, please do the tour. It’s included with the price of admission and you learn so much about the history of it, plus they’re all very funny. The tour ended in the chapel where both Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey are buried. We had a snack in the cafe there and then explored some more. We were able to go in the White Tower, originally built in the late 11th century, and see lots of interesting displays. It was such a surreal feeling to walk in a building that people have been walking in for nearly a thousand years. One of my favorite things was St. John’s Chapel. We also walked through the battlements. We kept seeing huge ravens everywhere, and it increased the feeling of being in a storybook. We learned during the tour that ravens are purposely kept there to guard the Crown and Tower, and it is believed that if they leave the Crown will fall, and Britain with it.
When we were through with exploring the Tower, we headed to the St. Katharine Docks. We had lunch and coffee at a very cute little place called White Mulberries with a view of the boats. Tower Bridge is right there, so we walked across it, down along the banks of the Thames a bit, and back across London Bridge. Our Yeoman Warder made a big deal during our tour of the difference between Tower Bridge and London Bridge. Since Tower Bridge is the more impressive one and London Bridge is more famous, people get them mixed up quite often.
Once we crossed back over the river, we wandered a bit, poking our heads into interesting looking buildings and generally just getting to know the city. We headed toward St. Paul’s cathedral and were shocked by how spectacular it was. It was far bigger and grander than what we expected. It cost 18 pounds each just to get in and look, so we decided to forgo that option and just go into a side chapel that was open for prayer.
After that, we walked to a nearby Underground station and went to the Westminster station. It’s close to lots of famous sites, so we walked around to see Westminster Abbey, the Parliament buildings, and Big Ben, which unfortunately was under construction and not really visible. We continued our walk through St. James’s Park to Buckingham Palace, then through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens back to our little square of the city. The gardens were all quite impressive. We were shocked at how much green space there was in such a huge metropolitan area. We stopped for some ice cream and watched the cygnets for a while. In Hyde Park, we walked through a beautiful rose garden and stopped for a while so David could take some pictures. We found one spot where you can see Kensington Palace from all the way across the gardens. There were lots of lovely spots to rest and look around.
We were right back by our AirBnb, so we stopped at Moor & Hitch for dinner. We were the only ones in the restaurant, which was surprising because it was really good. David had a burger and I had fish and chips, and both were great. It was probably my fifth time eating fish and chips that week, and I finally reached my limit. After our full day of exploring, we were both pretty exhausted and we went home and went to bed.