Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 1: London

Cazy (my brother) and I arrived in London after a ridiculously long flight from Sydney via Dubai. The plane got to Heathrow late at 7:20am and we decided to use the bathroom. We came across so many pianos on our way to passport control which was weird - some pianos you could play, others played themselves. The passport line was ludicrous, even for us faux Brits. We called the pre-booked “taxi” to make sure he was still there. After retrieving our bags, we found the card with my name on it. 

Traffic was horrendous - rain and police, etc. We later found out it was because of a “passenger under train”. After 90 minutes, we reached the hotel in Southwark and left our luggage. The rain eased and we had trouble locating London Bridge station but got to see the nearby markets. The train system was complicated but Cazy seemed to understand. 

The underground train was very rickety and rattled like a rollercoaster. I held on for dear life while the other passengers merely looked bored. We departed at Bank and walked to Monument - I didn’t realise they were next to each other! - before exiting at Tower Hill. The Tower of London is more than one building - it’s huge! And it's positioned beside Tower Bridge. We took photos as we walked to get our tickets.

The Tower of London

Upon entering, my bag was searched and then we discovered that a Yeoman tour was due to start at 11:30am (ten minutes away). We passed the time by taking more photos. The Yeoman was a great entertainer in his blue/red outfit - he cracked lots of jokes about poo, for example. We heard about the Tower then followed him inside the outer wall, pausing beside Traitor’s Gate where prisoners were brought in from the Thames. Any coins thrown there (it’s gated off) are donated to a Poppy Foundation.

Traitor's Gate

The Yeoman told us that his job lets him live in as a reward for 20+ years of service.

We walked under the Bloody Tower up to near where Anne Boleyn lost her head. The Yeoman delighted in telling us how her lips still moved after she was beheaded. He informed us that the White Tower was the first building on the site - care of William the Conquerer. It was a royal residence that just so happened to fit a lot of prisoners!

Our Yeoman seemed doubtful about Richard III killing his nephews - instead he painted a picture of Richard claiming they were illegitimate in order to protect them from being targets. Next we went into the chapel built by Henry VIII - Spanish wood formed the ceiling for Catherine of Aragorn. Very cosy and ornate. A different Yeoman was there and seemed keen on hitting on everyone.

Cazy and I left there (looking over at the house built for Anne Boleyn - it was finished after her death) and viewed the Crown Jewels. Sparkly! Purple velvet! A bit overboard, if I'm honest. The gift shop stung us on the way out.

Next we explored the White Tower. Very old. Very cold! It smelled of cheap new wood. Suits of armour and other armoury items shone in the flashes from our cameras. Cazy posed on one of the Tower's toilets.

The White Tower

Tiny narrow stairs took us down to yet another gift shop (kaching!). We took more photos of the Tower of London as we left (the portcullis, etc) and then of the Tower Bridge when we were outside.

Tower Bridge

We took the Thames Clipper to Bankside. By then, it had started to get very cold. We checked into our room, napped for a while, then had dinner at a nearby Nando's. Still great food even if we were given much smaller portions than we get at home. The Nando's was in an old warehouse underneath a train bridge - very cool.

We adjourned back to our room. Now attempting to get into bed - very tired!

PS: discovered the reconstructed Globe on way home. 

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