Travelog 5

Given the way College Student has mocked me for all the pictures I’mtaking, he sure is worried I’m going to accidentally delete some! He’s caught me deleting bad pictures three times now and he’s gotten mad at me every time. “If you’re not careful you’re going to delete them ALL!” In what universe does he think I’m not being careful??? I don’t want to lose these pictures any more than he wants me to lose them…but to make him feel better, I switched cards today to make sure we don’t lose any from the first few days.

We went to the Tower of London today. And I didn’t hear a single complaint about the number of pictures I took! In fact, College Student even took the camera from me so he could take MORE pictures. He wants to “model” part of the Tower of London on the computer…so he needs LOTS of detailed pictures.

The Tower of London was so cool! (We didn’t have to go through security to get in there, but I did have to open my bag for the guard to check.) I was a little reluctant to join the Yeoman Warder’s tour (we generally prefer to go through things on our own), but “Kenny” was so entertaining we just had to join his group. This kind of tour isn’t anything like the pre-packaged tours I hate so much…Kenny lives and works at the Tower; he’s not trying to rush us to the next attraction…he was great! He pretty much walked us around inside the gate, showed us where things were and entertained us. The only building he actually took us inside was the chapel. I loved how he referred to cell phones as “instruments of the Devil” (i.e. “No instruments of the Devil allowed in the chapel)…and the gift shop as a “torture chamber.” I think the biggest laugh he got was when he said to the Americans in the group, “if you’d only paid your taxes, this history could’ve been YOURS!”

While we were at the tower, a couple of military helicopters hovered overhead…we never did figure out what that was all about.

The crown jewels are housed at the Tower of London. It’s about the only place in/around the Tower that you’re not allowed to photograph (the other place is the chapel). In fact, they give you this list of things you can’t do in there — eat, drink, smoke, talk on your cell phone…and then the guard said, “the only thing you can do in here is breathe…and even then you must pause between breaths.” You get in line and snake through a couple of rooms where you see first a list of all the monarchs, then displays of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953. The guy who was in line ahead of us was British…he turned to us and told us he was 20 years old when Elizabeth II was crowned. We were watching the monitor in color, but he said it was broadcast in black and white that day. He clearly remembered that day with great pride.

It’s very dark in the building where the jewels are…and you go into this huge vault when you get to them…there’s an armed guard at the door…and you step on this moving walkway. They don’t let you linger there.

College Student and I spent most of the day (though, not ALL of it!) wandering in and out of towers, climbing narrow spiral staircases, following walkways, reading about various methods of torture that were used there, reading/hearing about some of the people who lived there, and taking lots of pictures. I think what was most interesting to me was all the graffiti inside the tower walls! There was one in particular that really struck me…the guy used really neat script…he even carved shallow lines for himself to write on…clearly it was important to him that his message look nice…he even took great pains to center his name at the bottom. He had carved another message into the wall near this one, but that other message wasn’t nearly as neat. Clearly this was the one that was really important…these were his words of wisdom that he wanted the world to remember him by.

There are also six live ravens at the Tower. Legend has it if the ravens ever leave, the Tower will fall!

We could easily have spent the entire day here…we arrived before they opened at 10:00 and took some pictures…we skipped the museum and again walked quickly past the more modern stuff…that was how we managed to finish by 4:00. Then we walked over to the Tower Bridge so we could take a few more pictures…we decided to skip the exhibit because we only had time for that or the Dali museum and College Student really wanted to do the Dali museum (who knew he had any interest in art whatsoever??? See…this was a good thing to do, taking just one of my kids on a trip, just the two of us…I think we’ve learned some things about each other).

Anyway…when you first go into the Dali museum, you walk down this black hallway that’s lined with photographs and Dali quotes. I really liked the first one: “What is important is to spread confusion, not eliminate it.” Yeah…that fits! I love some of his stuff (the melting clocks!)…some of it is a little disturbing (I guess it’s meant to be)…but some of it is really cool. I also liked the Alice in Wonderland paintings and his furniture.

After the Dali museum, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe to get my brother his collectible shot glass…which turned out to be more trouble than I expected it to be because we started out down the wrong street and this area is really loud and there’s no place to get across the street…but we got there eventually (I guess it was less trouble for US to get him a shot glass from the London Hard Rock than it is for HIM). We’d considered eating there, but it was pretty expensive and there was a long wait. So we took the train back to the Victoria Station area (near Little Ben and near where WICKED was showing)…there were several restaurants that looked good when we were there last night.

College Student said he wanted “anything that wasn’t Italian”…Italian food is VERY easy to find in London…so we went with Garfunkel’s. I just realized I’ve had very “British” meals today. At breakfast I ordered the “bubble and squeak,” which comes with the “English breakfast,” but not the Continental breakfast. I don’t like eggs, so I don’t usually order the English breakfast…but College Student ordered it one day. Besides eggs, you get sausage and tomato and pepper and something called bubble and squeak, which is a fried patty made up of mashed potatoes, cabbage and onion. I was intrigued (okay, I just liked the name!), so I decided to try it today.

For lunch we finally got the traditional fish and chips…yes, we’ve been here almost a week and still hadn’t had fish and chips. We got it from the little vendor right outside the Tower. It was good…greasy (I don’t eat a lot of greasy food), but good.

And then tonight I ordered the cottage pie at Garfunkels…which was mashed potatoes, beef, carrots and peas baked in a dish. I’m not a pea person, but I liked it!

It’s hard to believe tomorrow is our last day here. Our time has gone so fast!

We thought we had everything all planned out for our last day…we were going to start by checking out the inside of the Houses of Parliament…we still hadn’t done that…and unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to do it tomorrow because they’re on holiday the whole week. We knew we couldn’t get a tour (you can only do that during the summer recess), but we thought we could go inside and see the library/see Parliament in session anytime. If only we’d done that last Thursday or Friday! But I guess that frees up a little more time…

We also haven’t seen the changing of the guard yet. That’s at 11:30, so we’ll be there for that. Then we’re going to try and squeeze both Westminster Abbey and the Churchill underground bunker museum in in the afternoon. That’s the plan, anyway…