Friday, April 07, 2006

Tower of London

I've been remiss in updating this blog. Mainly because of all the mayhem happening in my life offline. I thought being out of job would give me more time to do more leisurely things and be in a more relaxed pace. How wrong I was!

Anyway, early this week me and the kids had a chance to see the Tower of London ... well where else but in London. It was built by William the Conqueror in 1066 originally as a fortress and castle to defend the city. Subsequent sovereigns expanded and modified it. Hence, its use extended to become a palace, prison, execution place, a mint and an arsenal among others.

I've been here with my older kids about 6-7 years ago but they couldn't remember much from the event. We were prompted on this visit by our youngest who wanted to see castles and palaces in London for her classroom assignment of "defending London". It's their 2-week term break and I was not doing much that day so off we went on a trek to the Tower.

Tower of London view from Tower Hill tube stationThis is the view of the castle as you emerge from the Tower Hill tube station (click on the pictures for a bigger view).

This beautiful building facing the Tower of London is, I think, of the National Maritime.

Entrance gate to the Tower. Fees are now a whopping £15 per adult and £9.50 per child (5-16 yo). Good thing we had that 2for1 ticket promotion of the National Rail where we get a free ticket for every full paying adult as long as you present a train ticket on that day. It saved me a lot!


Of course there were loads of things to see and explore within the thick stone walls of the castle. Above you can see the Traitor's Gate where Elizabeth I (she was not yet queen) famously entered the fortress when she was accused of treason.

You can see above the central building in a castle called the 'keep'. Here in the Tower of London, this particular building is named the White Tower. Currently it houses a gallery of armories, cannons, swords, body armours, etc. The entrance via a wooden staircase can be seen outside the building. Access between floors once inside is via a series of winding stone staircases.

The first room you encounter upon entering is this small chapel.

Most of the display room were dark and lit by tiny recessed lights. I got a nice shot of one of the rooms. Don't you think it patently looks ghostly?

The kids were particularly impressed with the knights' metal armours - even the rude one of Henry VIII. There were lots of medieval armaments like swords, cannons, jousting sticks, etc.


Narrow passage ways abound as well as winding stone staircases typical of medieval castles.

More of the relatively contemporary armouries dislayed. The last one being a gaily painted cannon outside the White Tower itself.

I saw this gorgeous gold Lion of St.Mark standing near the exit by a Tower gift shop - you know the kind of shop that is strategically poised to squeeze the most money out of you.


As soon as we got out of the White Tower, we proceeded to the Jewel Tower just opposite it (see pix on left). The Jewel Tower is precisely that, it houses the Crown Jewels of the Queen. We were led along this winding queue lines which thankfully were not too crowded. Then we entered a large room with formidable looking very thick steel vault doors. Some other lesser important crowns and a gold robe were at the foyer of the room. As you turn left you will see a long glass encased display of the Crown Jewels flanked on either side by moving conveyor belts where people step on and pass by and ogle (maybe even drool) at the seriously big glittering rocks on the Queen's crown and in the scepter. We were all in awe. I've never seen such huge gems in my life. The picture by the way on the right is the Fussilier's Museum. We didn't get a chance to see it. The kids were complaining that they're already tired and hungry.

As we wound our day to a close in the castle, I couldn't resist admiring the beautiful setting of this venerable place. It was a perfect spring day, sunny, not too cold, the grass green, the daffodils out - really nice.

Just outside the castle is another famous London icon spanning the Thames river - the Tower Bridge.

A more proper view of the bridge from the promenade outside the castle walls. Now I know most people outside of the UK know this bridge as London bridge probably because of the children's song. Just to confirm this is called Tower Bridge and *not* London bridge. There is indeed a bridge called London bridge which is just within sight of Tower Bridge but it's not half as beautiful as the latter.

We walked on the north bank promenade of the Thames river where I took this picture. We continued all the way on foot to London bridge, crossed it and took a train home from the London bridge train station. I was knackered after all the walking and going up and down staircases. It would have been nothing had I not been wearing a suit and leather boots. Reason being, I had an interview earlier in the morning. Despite that we made sure to enjoy ourselves in this day out.

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