The highlight of today was the Tower of London! We started with a tour by one of the Yeoman Warders, or ‘Beefeaters’, who actually live at the Tower and know all about it. The tour was very entertaining and he pointed out the many uses this place has served–from the royal mint to a zoo to a palace for the royalty to its most infamous purpose, a prison. He told us a lot of stories about different beheadings and prisoners at the Tower, and managed to make that subject entertaining and informative.
We then explored on our own, seeing the Crown Jewels (there are a lot more than I expected, and for every purpose from the sovereign orb to the coronation spoon used to anoint the new kings or queens). We couldn’t take photographs there, but everything was very beautiful and elaborate. Then we went through the White Tower, which was the original part in the middle built by William the Conqueror in about 1000AD. There they had displays of royal living quarters and armor. We stopped by the memorial to the six executions that took place in private at the Tower (including those of two of Henry VIII’s wives). There is a memorial for those who were beheaded publicly on Tower Hill, where those executions took place.
Next we headed to the “Bloody Tower”, where the Princes in the Tower were suspected to be murdered by Richard the III (their uncle) and onto the exhibit “Torture at the Tower.” In reality, very few people were actually tortured at tower, as it wasn’t very common in England, and so the exhibit was short. It only featured three torture devices–the scavenger’s daughter, the rack, and manacles.
We then proceeded to the walk through the towers and ramparts, which also feature displays about medieval life, such as chapels, living quarters, the exotic animals the rich would give each other, past royal crowns (but with the jewels removed), etc. It was very windy but it was still a very nice walk up on the ramparts. After this we ate and then visited Beauchamp tower, where you can see graffiti on the walls, made by prisoners 500 years ago.
Tower bridge is near the Tower of London, so we took some pictures of it upon leaving, and then got on a boat to go on a Thames River Cruise from near the Tower to near Parliament and Big Ben. The captain of the ship explained what everything we passed by was, and it was a great way to see some parts of the city we hadn’t seen before. We got off and went to Westminster Abbey briefly, but couldn’t go in because Sundays are reserved for worship. Michaela and I plan to go to a service there next Sunday though.
The next stop was the London Bridge Experience, which was…interesting. It was a little bit like a haunted house, and the first part was interesting, because it went through the history of London, from the Roman city of Londinium to the time of Jack the Ripper. I didn’t like the second part so much though, the “London Tombs”, it was basically just a haunted house with nothing historical, just lots of strobe lights and gory props.
Afterwards Mickey and I walked back to the station and saw the London Bridge and The Monument (to the London fire of 1666) on the way. We then grabbed some food and headed back to the hotel, to pack up and get ready for tomorrow–when we go to Edinburgh!