29 November, 2010
London in October 2010, Part 3: The Tower of London, London Bridge City, Soho, and Notting HillPosted in : Dining in London - UK, Travel, Travel Guide for London, UK on by : The Gourmez
For our final day in London, we visited my favorite part of all: the Tower of London. I seriously had no idea before this trip that the tower is actually a large fort. I really thought it was simply a tower, or maybe a pair of towers, where prisoners were held. Nope; it was much, much larger than what I imagined. The site was first built on by the Romans. The oldest surviving building is the White Tower, dating back to the 11th century. The royalty of England used parts of the fort for years as a palace, and other parts for very secure storage of the nation’s riches. It’s a fantasist’s playground! For Ben, though, it held little appeal. Seriously, I think something might be wrong with my husband. The Tower was awesome!
As soon as we exited the Tower Hill station, a giant sundial greeted us and a very pretty building with the less pretty name of the Port of London Authority.
Ben soon found his favorite building of the trip, also romantically named.
It’s the round one in the center, though I’ve since learned it’s actually more of a collapsed sphere, if you’re looking at it from another angle. For me, however, round buildings could never be as cool as old-school, stone forts.
The Yeoman Warders, otherwise known as the Beefeaters, are the old sect of Tower guardians, who know serve as tour guides. My guide was pretty awesome, but our group was so large that I couldn’t hear him half the time and had to give up. Instead, I dragged Ben around for a few hours to see various sights of note.
That might be my favorite picture of the whole trip. It’s a hole for shooting arrows in one of the towers. Can you see Ben’s favorite building in my sights?
Inside the White Tower, the former home of some of England’s earliest monarchs, is an exhibition of many royal suits of armor, which is also a dream for a fantasist to view. Here are a few of my favorites;
After the armor display, we walked through the main living area of the castle and St. John’s Chapel, a gorgeous little chapel.
And what would a castle visit be without gold? What would a blog on London by me be without gold? Here is some for you, along with a few other items from the royal gifts collection.
After leaving the White Tower, I decided seeing the crown jewels was a must, so we jumped in line for that after taking a few more pictures of the grounds.
Waiting in line to see the jewels was much like waiting in line for a ride at Disneyland. It was hilarious how much it reminded me of that, but I also have to admit, the footage of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation kind of gave me the chills. After you wind your way through that room, the next attractions are zoomed-in films of the crowns, scepters, etc., with way too majestic music playing. Then, you finally reach the collection and wander past many of the implements. A conveyor belt takes you past the various crowns. They were absolutely gorgeous, but the most exciting object, by far, was a gigantic, golden punch bowl. People and symbols are shaped or engraved into it, and it’s quite the sight. Much like the Westminster Abbey, however, no photos are allowed.
We met up with Scott and crew shortly after exiting the Tower, and then my next fascination took over: the Tower Bridge.
We then strolled along in London Bridge City. I don’t know why it was named that as it’s the area along the Shad Thames and Butler’s Wharf directly on the south side of the Tower, not London, Bridge. No matter, though. It was a pretty area for making our way to the Design Museum.
The Design Museum only had one exhibition open, on the art and architecture of John Pawson. It mainly consisted of models of his buildings and explorations by video of them: lots of open spaces, simple yet curvy lines, and sunshine.
After the museum, we headed back over the bridge toward the station, giving me one more chance to get the Tower and Bridge in my lens.
We then went on a mission to Forbidden Planet, a speculative fiction store full of lots of goodies for fans of sci fi and fantasy, from books to television shows. I ended up going home with a TARDIS for my dash, which I love. Here are some shots of the Soho and Notting Hill neighborhoods we wandered on the way there and to dinner after.
Dinner was at Alounak, an Iranian restaurant in Notting Hill. It was probably the least exciting of the places we tried only because it was basically just kebobs—good kebabs, but I feel like those aren’t so hard to come by. The atmosphere was definitely up my alley, though, and who can complain about a place with a clay oven at the entrance, constantly making fresh bread?
After dinner, we decided to hit up a couple more pubs for our last pints of the trip, and last chances to chat with Zahir and Scott.
Scott was, of course, wonderful company, and it was great to have both a food guide and old friend on the trip. I’m lucky to be surrounded with lots of fellow world-travellers in North Carolina, but it’s rare that I manage to see high school friends with similar viewpoints on the world, politics, and good places for dinner. In other words, London was awesome, and I could easily imagine myself jumping over for a weekend trip as easily as heading to DC or NYC if I’m in the mood for a big city escape. Unfortunately, it costs a bit more to fly 8 hours than to drive them. Sigh.
If these three blogs full of London photos weren’t enough for you, view the whole set at our photo website.