Today was a long and exciting day full of A LOT of walking. Sitting down to write this blog feels fantastic. I get to tell you about our morning adventure of visiting the Tower of London and Christina will post about our adventures at the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery. We started off our day with hot english breakfasts again! I never thought I would get used to eating baked beans for breakfast, but I definitely missed it while we were in Bath. So we left our hostel (which is right across the street from St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is one of the largest church buildings in England) and hopped on the bus toward the Tower of London!
We got there before it opened to the public, so we had time to wander the area and check out the views. The tower is right by the River Thames and the Tower Bridge. I saw so many landmarks of London today that I have only ever seen on TV and in movies, it was quite exciting.
We also saw this logo ALL over the tower and on the uniforms of the beefeaters, which are the guards of the tower with funny uniforms on. They are nicknamed beefeaters because part of their payment for work in the 16th and 17th centuries was a lot of meat, which was very expensive at the time. Anyway, the logo above stands for “the reign of Elizabeth II” who is obviously the current leader of the British Monarchy.
The Tower of London has been around for over 900 years. There has been different buildings built and destroyed during this time, but the tower has always been right by the river, which was originally built as a defense for the city. So it isn’t exactly a single tower, as I was thinking it was, but actually multiple building that have served as living quarters, menageries, prisons, and MANY other things!
Courtney was our tour guide for the tower and told us all about the history of the tower. She informed us that before Word War II, only 7 people were actually beheaded there, one of which includes Anne Boleyn. She was King Henry VIII 2nd wife and he basically falsified charges to have her killed so he could marry another woman (and another and another….). A few of the shops at the tower had an ornament set you could buy that had Henry VIII and his SIX wives as a single pack. I found that type of souvenir VERY bizarre.
Also, there are multiple ravens that live within the walls. It is said that if the ravens leave the walls of the tower, it will mean the end of England. So, of course, to avoid this all the ravens have clipped wings. I feel bad for them, but it is also a little amusing to see these big ravens hopping around the grounds inside the walls.
After Courtney’s presentation about the tower and the poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt, a man who loved Anne Boleyn and witnessed her death while he was imprisoned in the tower, we had a couple hours to explore on our own! I spent that entire time going through galleries and even seeing the crown jewels. The craziest thing I saw in the crown jewels area? A GOLD punch bowl over 3 feet wide and so large that it can fit 144 bottles of wine in it! I can’t even picture owning 144 bottles of wine, let alone pouring all of them into one giant bowl.
Another place I enjoyed looking through was the Royal Armoury. It was in the White Tower of the grounds and it was massive. The building was full of weapons that have been used throughout the course of British history and the history of the Tower of London. There were A LOT of weapons around and also a lot of suits of armor. It was a lot of fun to see and explore that place.
After the morning at the Tower, we were ready to move on to other exciting adventures. Christina will let you know all about them in her post!