Friday, November 21, 2008

Vacation in the UK-9

Several times when we were near the Tower tube station, we saw portions of the original wall built by the Romans. Amazing.

Wednesday we decided to do the London Walk of the Tower of London. So we were back to Tower tube station to meet our guide, Tom. We'd met him before as he was one of the guides on our walk through Westminster Abbey.

Since we did the tour of the Tower with London Walks we didn't actually get inside any of the buildings within the walls until after lunch. But the walk was full of good information about what was inside as we went by the various places.
The moat was filled in and is used for demonstrations of medieval war machines.
Entry to the Tower grounds.

Tom definitely likes to involve his audience and makes a point of asking direct questions. He told us quite a few stories about the Tower (one about the ravens that live within the walls—if the ravens leave, the Tower of London will fall), included a lot of history (the Tower is the site of many executions since the time of William the Conqueror),
(Traitor's Gate)

and ended with Richard III and the deaths of his nephews in the Bloody Tower, another mystery that has never been solved conclusively as to whether he was or wasn’t responsible for their deaths. Probably something else I’ll never write about, but it’s always interesting to speculate. And who knows? One day, I may work the story into one of my books.
Execution site for the men, actually outside the walls of the Tower and across the street near the tube station.
The women's execution site (Anne Boleyn) inside the Tower walls.

We broke up about 12:45 then, and the first building we went through houses the crown jewels. Our guide, Tom, had said that the British in the group would probably tear up when they saw the film of the Elizabeth II’s coronation. Well, I did, too. *smile* The crown jewels are impressive, including the two largest diamonds in the world.

After seeing the crown jewels, we headed for the café inside the walls for lunch. Over lunch we discussed the other buildings in the Tower walls that we wanted to visit.

Then we headed for the White Tower, which is the oldest building within the walls, and the original tower built by William the Conqueror and the living quarters for him and several of his descendants. Today it is a museum of the armoury, with a big display of armour, weapons, even horse armour. We went to the very top of the building. Interesting features included the indoor bathrooms, garderobes, that William installed on the main living level, which is actually about three stories up. He built a set of wooden steps leading up to that level. The idea was that if the Tower was ever under seige, they could burn the stairs, making it almost impossible for anyone to scale the walls to get inside. William I also put in the first fireplaces in England along the walls rather than in the center of the room.

After the White Tower, we went to see the display of torture instruments in the basement of the Bloody Tower where young Edward and Richard were held and evidently killed by their uncle, Richard the III. We visited Edward II’s living quarters on the South wall and finished up with a walk along the top of the outer wall through another couple of towers and ended up on the east wall.

It was 3:00 by the time we finished seeing everything we wanted to see.
(Tower Bridge)

So we descended into the tube station once more and took a fairly long ride with a connection to another long ride to get to Harrod’s, our final touristy thing on our to-do list. When we came up out of the tube station at Knightsbridge, we were about three blocks away from the store. Once inside the store, we toured a couple of perfume and cosmetic salons before finding the food halls. Oh my! Tons of food of everything edible imaginable. And some things not so edible to me. *smile* Some of it was downright tempting . . . but expensive.

We soon made our way downstairs to the gift shop. And what a shop! Goodness, there was everything imaginable. We bought some gifts and souvenirs. Then we went through the Egyptian lobby to find the escalator back up to the ground floor, then tried to find the exit. Well, we found one, but we were all turned around and ended up walking the entire perimeter of the huge building in order to find the underground station again.

When we got to the Old Street tube station, we called Kathy for instructions of the bus stop we were supposed to go to and the bus number and destination that would place us right across the street from her flat. We didn’t realize until later that we were right across the street from John Wesley’s house and a museum that chronicles the rise of Methodism in England. We had a brochure about it, but it was the one thing we just couldn’t squeeze in today. Next time. *smile*

After an early supper with Kathy, we went back to the hotel to get packed and ready to leave the hotel at 5:30 a.m. We had a taxi coming to take us to Heathrow.

The trip fulfilled a lot of my dreams, and much of the time it felt a little surreal—I couldn't quite grasp that I really was seeing the things I'd only heard and read about for so long. I've asked the Lord to allow me at least one trip to Britain for every year Kathy is there. He provided in amazing ways for this year's trip. We'll see what He works out for next year. *smile*

This week, one of my proofreading projects was Stephen Lawhead's latest book, Tuck, the third in his King Raven series, a retelling of the Robin Hood legend. (Excellent series. I've gotten to work on all three books in this series.) These books are set just before 1100, during the time of William II, William the Conqueror's son. This time I noticed several allusions to places we visited, the main one being the White Tower, now known as the Tower of London. Made the whole story come alive in a new way. Definitely another benefit derived from our adventures in Great Britain.

God is good!

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I'd like everyone to note how blue the sky is in those pictures. This is NOT normal for Britain. In fact, I plan to visit the Tower tomorrow but it is going to be raining/snowing, so plans are all up in the air. My parents had amazing weather the whole time they were here...but I can't promise the same for anyone else!