After arriving in London and visiting the statue of Paddington Bear, the first of several literary inspired destinations, we took the Underground to our AirBnb where we showered, changed, and finally headed out to begin our London sightseeing! Discovering that our apartment was within reasonable walking distance to the Tower of London, we decided to walk and find a bakery for breakfast on the way. (We hadn’t eaten since leaving the plane!) After crossing the Millennium Bridge (fondly known by locals as “Wobbly Bridge”), we stopped at the Paul Bakery in the shadow of the steps of St. Paul Cathedral.
After brunch we continued our walk to the Tower of London. As it came into view my excitement grew. Morning seemed to be a good time to visit the tower. There was no line for tickets and we were able to join the next Yeoman Warder (“Beef eater”) tour easily and only with a 10 minute wait.
While we waited I spotted the metal animal statues I had learned about in a documentary I found on Netflix about the Tower of London. These statues represented the menagerie of animals once kept at the castle, mostly foreign animals given as gifts to the King by visiting dignitaries. At one time a polar bear swam in the Thames River.
Our tour guide was very entertaining, although the tour group was so big that it was occasionally hard to hear him. You’ll want to squeeze toward the front of your group if you want to see and hear everything. This being my second time on this tour, however, I let others scoot to the front.
The tour took us as far as the chapel of St. Peter where Henry VIII’s two wives Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, and one other former queen of England were among the many souls surrounding us as we sat respectfully quiet in the chapel. I couldn’t help thinking how young these women had been when they held such power. Anne had helped bring about a break in the power of the Church of England as a young woman in her late 20’s, and what have I done? The tour left us here to continue on our own. Outside the chapel I paused at the monument that commemorates those who lost their heads on the Tower green. This was new since my last visit.
Perhaps I’m glad I don’t have the power these young queens had, they had much more to lose. We continued on our own to visit the Crown Jewels exhibit and the Hall of Kings armor exhibition in the White Tower. The jewels exhibit thankfully has several moving sidewalks to keep tourists moving. We noticed that where there were no moving tracks the other tourists tended to camp out in front of display cases for frustratingly long periods of time. So we moved on to the White Tower. The Hall of Kings exhibit was less crowded. (Besides small boys running from case to case wide eyed at all the armor and weapons!)
By this time jet lag was catching up with us and we were falling asleep standing, so we headed back to our flat where we promptly fell asleep for a few hours and then woke for just enough time to go out and find dinner.