Today started as classic, tacky tourist day! We started off with a Hop On/Hop Off Bus Sightseeing Tour. As much as we make fun of it we really loved it. It took us on a whole loop of all of the sights and we learned some really interesting facts about both historic and modern London. We drove over all of the important bridges and by a lot of old buildings. We say where famous people lived and where the Great Fire Started and heard facts about a whole lot of dead people!
It was rainy and cold. Not really cold, but the kind of cold that comes with an overcast rainy day. We had to wear actual pants 😦 Anyway, it was fun to get to break out our umbrellas and Kristin was happy to wear her hood as she feels the hood on her LuLu Hoodie is “magical”!
This afternoon we visited the Tower of London. Built in 1066 by William the Conquerer, the Tower still stands in the middle of London along the Thames. That makes that structure almost a thousand years old…in case you didn’t know, a thousand years is a really long time! We caught the second half of the main tour of the castle (and it showed us everything we wanted to see). Our guide was the most wonderful old man! The Tower of London was the home of prisoners for centuries and the spot of numerous executions. The tour took us the the spot where Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard lost their heads, with the building they were held as prisoners in the background. We ended in the Chapel where the are buried. And by buried we mean tossed into an unmarked hole under the tile in the floor by the altar. This was what we were most excited for at the Tower (as Anne makes both of or Top 5 Historical Figures List). This is a photo of the beheading site with the Chapel in the background.
The other highlight of the Tower was the Crown Jewels. There are some big ass diamonds in that collection. We’re talking huge! The 2 largest diamonds in the world are set into two of the queens crowns. There were also some really pretty crowns that were about 200 years old and all of the bling used in a coronation ceremony. We even saw the crown that Kate will get. The most ridiculous part though, was all of the solid gold dishes that are displayed there. What are those even for? We finished up our time at the Tower with a walk along the outer wall (we mastered the art of opening and closing our umbrellas between all the towers). The original White Tower stood out in the middle and the grounds which used to be the moat surrounded the castle. We saw the Traitors Gate where prisoners (like Anne Boleyn) rode down the river from Hampton Court right through the wall into the castle.
Right beside the Tower is Tower Bridge (totally the bridge you think about when you think of London). As it was raining and we had already rode across it with our tour we just snapped a picture. We call this photo “1-2-3…Move umbrellas!”
We tried to get to Kensington Palace, but we didn’t really know where it was and got a little lost. It was only for a couple of confused minutes, however a couple of minutes was all we needed to miss the last entry time. So to make a long story short: we’re going back there tomorrow. We contented ourselves today with taking a walk through Kensington Gardens and what we thought at the time was Hyde Park. It turns out it was still more of Kensington Gardens. In the end we did manage to get to Hyde Park and see the Marble Arches at Speakers Corner.
After super we visited the National Potrait Gallery. It is basically a gallery of portraits of everyone important in British History, from the Tutor era (like Henry VIII) until the present (like David Beckham). There were very informative cards by each painting to tell you who the person was and about them…often with interesting little tidbits about their lives or about the painting itself. It’s amazing what they can do with technology now. They can tell if something was changed from the original picture or who the portrait is of by matching jewelry from other paintings.
Random Observations of the Day:
– Londoners are not even phased by rain. Umbrella are out in about half a second. Seriously they don’t even miss a beat.
– At least half of the vehicles driving in London are buses and taxis…apparently no one drives here, it’s all about the underground and bikes!
– Kris: This is dedicated to my daddy: The traffics lights work like at the drag races. They don’t just change from red to green, they hit yellow in-between like a warning it’s time to start.
What we learned today:
– Big Ben is not in fact the name of the clock tower. That is Westminster Tower and the bell contained within it is named Big Ben.
– You can get Timmys in London if you know where to look…
– When hangings used to take place thousands of people would come out to watch. They often made quite the event of it, drinking & overindulging. As you can imagine (or have experienced) this doesn’t always leave you feeling the best the next day…and that is the origin of the term “hangover”.
Highlights of the Day:
1. The Chapel of the Tower of London
2. Feeling like masters of the Underground!
3. Breaking out of our law-abiding ways and finally getting the hang of just crossing the road without a walk sign. (No Jay Walking Tickets here!)
Tonight we are having a free pint in the pub under the hostel while writing. This is after we had a very good stretch in our room. It seems our bodies aren’t used to 3 days straight of walking and it’s taking a little bit of a toll on us at the moment. But don’t worry, we’ll still be going strong tomorrow!
Love, Luck & Loss of Heads,
PS Can you guess who our Top 5 Historical Figures are? Points for any correct answers…prizes for people with the most points when we return!
PPS Who are your Favorite Top Historical Figures?