Friday, August 9, 2013

The London Trip

I am a casual history buff with an odd collection of books, mostly morbid compendiums, memoirs, and period anthologies. Sometimes I foray into documentaries or even made-for-tv dramas on the History Channel. All the while I keep in mind that the history I can know about is only what survived and is hardly more than whispers of what might have actually happened. Which is why I love to travel and see for myself the lands, what is left of man’s architectural feats and creative constructions, and the artifacts spit up by the ghosts of long lost people.

On May 27th I flew to London to visit a best friend who is working there for a couple years. Her apartment is on the edge of Greenwich and that is where we started out. The world’s time line is there, up on the hill at the Royal Observatory. I adore timepieces and globes, so a visit inside was mandatory.

Outside the observatory

The 24 hour clock.

In Central London we did the Hop On/Hop Off tour which I recommend if you don’t mind being a total touristy tourist. We stopped at the London Eye and Big Ben and wandered around. We wasted a couple hours in the London Dungeon (a must skip attraction) and then hopped on/off near the Tower Bridge and had dinner. That bridge is stunning, probably the prettiest bridge I can ever remember crossing. When I first saw it, I assumed it was the infamous London bridge but no, London bridge (now in its 3rd? iteration) is not nearly as lovely.

Walking across the Tower bridge.

The next day we continued our tour with a boat ride up the Thames from Greenwich to the Tower. The history of the Thames and its bridges was fascinating, and somewhat sad.

Tower bridge from the Thames.

Then we spent the rest of the day, a rare sunny day, at the Tower of London, the first major castle built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. Of course it has been added to several times through the centuries. It is famous for its prison which housed Anne Boleyn until her execution, and then later her daughter Elizabeth for a while (before she was crowned QE1).

The Tower of London from the Thames.

The sun really did shine the day I visited the Tower.

There is so much to see inside the Tower, like the crown jewels—the most stunning collection of gems and gold I have ever seen—or the collections of armor, weapons, coins, clothes, etc. housed in the original white castle building. But, the most interesting things were those that charged my imagination with connections to individuals whose lives were separated from mine only by time as I occupied the same spaces they had.

Someone stood in this window with a crossbow and defended against the men who manned this catapult...



A prisoner locked away in a high up tower etched this into the stone wall. I tried to imagine having that much lonely time on hands and why this image over any other:



I wondered about the beating hearts on either side of this portcullis as it lowered between them offering perhaps protection, or grief.


I really enjoyed London and would have loved a few more days there. The hard ciders were delicious, the fish -n- chips were as tasty as I had always heard they were, and the croissants were reminiscent of France. I did not get a few more days in London though... because I spent them in Ireland instead but that is a post for another day.

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