Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is a castle, a huge fortress in the middle of the modern city of London. Political prisoners were frequently held in the Tower of London (though their confinement was often reasonably comfortable). The infamous Traitors' Gate could take them directly from the river Thames into the Tower. It is hard to image this cold, stone citadel being comfortable for anyone. But it is a very impressive place to visit.

The Tower of London is often on the Top Ten list for London sightseeing and it is well worth the better part of a day it takes to see everything there is to see. No London tour would be complete without stopping at the Tower and seeing the Royal Jewels and the Royal Ravens.

At the moment the Tower of London tickets for adults cost 15 pounds, which equals about 30 US dollars. Children cost 9 pounds, about 18 dollars. It that seems to be pretty close to what I paid the last time I was a London traveler. There is a long chain maze outside The Tower, just like the ones you find in amusement parks for the popular rides. But my London trip was in a chilly April and there were no ques at all. You can see London without seeing the Tower of London.

There are a lot of swords and cannons and armour in the Tower of London. One of the more impressive sights is the huge suit of armour worn by Henry The VII. Henry's armour shows that Henry was a big man, and had a very large codpiece.

There were a lot of Beefeaters acting as guides and standing about looking serious. There were plenty of more modern guards as well, especially around the Royal Jewels. There is a conveyor belt in front of the Royal Jewels so that, on busy days, mobs don't crowd the cases and cause a traffic jam. These people movers were on the day we were there, though there was no crowd to speak of. So we just stepped on the moving sidewalk and looked at the Crown Jewels at our leisure. These diamonds, rubies, silver and gold are amazingly beautiful and huge beyond belief. But the other London tourists didn't seem that impressed, they just rode the conveyor belt by and walked out the end of the room. True the Jewels are near the end of the Tower of London tour, but for crying out loud, these are The Royal Jewels! Take a minute or two if you can and give them a good look.

As a photographer I found the Tower of London both amazing and frustrating. You can take photos of the outsides of the buildings all you want, turrets and cannons and stone walls I have photos of galore. But you were not allowed to take photos inside, as The Tower of London is part of the Queens property, or something like that. There were people that took photos anyway and the guards asked them nicely not to do so again. But if you want photos, there are a ton of books for sale with photos of everything in the Tower of London, from the Ravens to the White Tower to the Royal Jewels. Of course, the Royal Raven are outside, so you can take photos of them. There was a cat on top of one of the birdhouses when we where there. That was pretty funny.

Once we were done with The Tower, we walked toward Tower Bridge, which is a very lovely Victorian structure. Just outside the Tower was a KFC that seated two hundred. We went next door instead and I ordered a Root Beer to go with my sandwich. They handed me a tall frosty glass of beer. No, I wanted a Root Beer. Don't ask me why I thought anyone in London would know what a root beer was. The man with a thick Persian accent said, Root Beer? I never heard of a Root Beer. I settled for a Coke, though I did find a Dr Pepper in a convenience store later. From the window of the restaurant you could see the Thames and the walls of the Tower of London.

Who could ask for anything more? Hmm, there is now a Krispy Kreme just a couple of miles from The Tower of London. There's something not quiet right about that. Oh, well, London is always changing.

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