(Backdated. Posted 1/10/2017)
Our mission today was to get locked up in the Tower Of London. Oh, sorry, I mean to see the Tower Of London.
We headed on the Tube to the Tower. Tickets booked in advance the night before meant we could bypass at least one of the queues, but it was still pretty busy, and the weather was grey and drizzly from time to time.
Inside the grounds there are plenty of things to see, covering various topics and periods of history. Much of it is on a kind of trail around the perimeter walls, through various individual towers.
The main White Tower dates from 1078, and the others have developed around it over time. To my surprise, the complex was used as a prison as late as 1952.
The legend is that if ravens ever leave the Tower Of London, then the realm will fall. So, it was a relief to see a few.
And then there’s the sparkly stuff, the Crown Jewels. They’re obviously in heavy demand, because there are railings outside the Jewel House showing where you queue (so at least you can try and time it when the queue is shorter, which we did), but much of the route inside the Jewel House is in fact more queuing, but just more elaborate, showing you various displays along the way.
By the time you get to the Jewels themselves, you’re actually on a travelator so you can’t linger looking at them for too long and hold up the crowd behind you (though you can swap back and have another pass if you want). They are spectacular – but photos are banned, so you’ll have to go and see them for yourself.
After the jewels it was drizzling a bit, so we went to the restaurant and found some lunch.
I’d checked the times for Tower Bridge lifting to let tall boats through. They happen about 5-10 times a day, and one was imminent, so we found a good vantage point to watch it.
Apparently shipping has absolute priority, so if a vessel is on time, and has booked the bridge lift, it will happen no matter what – this once managed to disrupt President Bill Clinton’s motorcade during a state visit.
Likewise, the Tower Bridge web page “politely asks” that no lifts be requested during specific times due to public events, but it seems that’s all they can do – ask.
After we were Tower Of Londoned out, we exited and walked across Tower Bridge for a better look. It’s in pretty good nick for an 1890s bridge, though it had a renovation that was completed just five years ago.
Tower Bridge is a bascule bridge, meaning the drawbridges are hinged, with a counterweight. Wikipedia has this amazing page of animations of the different types of moveable bridges. Some of them, like the Curling Bridge, look slightly ridiculous.
From here the plan was to walk along the south side of the river. Shad Thames is adjacent to the bridge, and is a historic riverside area, once neglected but now re-developed and thriving. I&J were particularly interested to see if they could spot any Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks sights.
For all the horror just weeks before, the market seemed to be thriving, which was good to see. I was wishing we hadn’t already had lunch, as some of the food stalls looked terrific.
(The day before I posted this, a Good Weekend article had Englishman Geoff Ho’s account of the attack, and the efforts of his friend Isabelle Oderberg to locate him in the confusion afterwards. It’s a great read.)
We passed Shakespeare’s Globe, which opened in 1997, a re-creation of the original Globe (1599-1644), then we got to the Tate Modern and had a look around inside. It’s a massive gallery built in an old power station, and holds modern art from around the world.
After a good look around, and a stop in the Tate cafe for a drink, we headed further along the river to the London Eye. Pre-booked tickets can let you bypass one queue, but you’ll still end up in an epic queue that takes quite some time from the ticket pickup to the point where you can actually enter the Eye.
London Eye tickets aren’t cheap at £23.45. If you’re willing to shell out even more money, you can get priority entry for £40.00 a pop. Yeah I thought thanks but no thanks… though all told, we ended up being in the various queues for almost an hour, so I can understand why some people would pay the extra.
But when you eventually get aboard, are the views worth it? Just about. It’s pretty spectacular up there, with a great view over central London, including many iconic buildings including the Houses Of Parliament and Big Ben, the Shard, and yes, trust me to notice the numerous railway stations.
After a full 30 minute circuit, they let us out, tried to sell us photos for even more money (yeah no thanks), and we headed up to nearby Westminster Bridge to catch a bus. I’d arranged to meet friends R+V in nearby Peckham.
Peak hour, so the bus was busy but not overcrowded. I noticed a jogger on the footpath alongside us. As the bus drove along, we’d overtake him, then at bus stops, he’d overtake us again. So it might have been just as quick to run… if we’d had the energy.
Our directions included watching out for a Princess Leia mural, which despite accidentally getting off one bus stop early, we found okay.
R&V got married last year. R is from Britain, V from Australia. Both being blokes, they couldn’t get married in Australia, but did so in Britain. We went out for dinner and had a great evening of good food and conversation – topics ranged from the ridiculous to the deadly serious, such as the ongoing and tragic case of Charlie Gard.
After a great night, we headed back to Chiswick via bus/tube/tube. Quick and easy. It had been a good day.