Day 13: Take Them To The TOWER!!!
Last night I had a sex dream, possibly due to our kinky neighbors last night. This morning we decided that since our hostel had a disappointing breakfast, we’d eat elsewhere. We met Josh and found a French café, which it turned out the guy just microwaved the waffles and charged 5 pounds for it. I had a fresher breakfast with my Nutella and banana crepe, so that was made to order, but the guy forgot the bananas and brought them a few minutes later.
After breakfast, we once again split with Josh as he was meeting more friends. We took the bus to visit the Tower of London, Once again we pulled the con of using our student IDs to save some money, one day someone will call me out on it, but until then: money saved.
Our guided tour by a Beefeater began shortly after our arrival. Our guide Shady was a delight as he took us though the main portions of the Tower. The fun began early as many beheading jokes were worked in. I found it fitting that a crow was squawking during our first stop on the tour. Back in the day, this place was probably covered in crows. Shady led us to both The Bloody Tower and Traitor’s Gate and pointed out Tower Hill, where most of the public executions were carried out. He gave us details on how these were handled: the prisoner would be beheaded after they say their final words and prayer, then the head would be held up high for the cheering crowd, then placed on a pike and paraded all the way to London Bridge, where it would be hung as a warning to all criminals and traitors. Pretty gruesome stuff!
Marching through the gateway of Bloody Tower, Shady asked if any of us “saw that very historically accurate movie Braveheart featuring the Ausie in the kilt” and described about how it had a scene where William Wallace lifted an iron gate to a castle and let some of his men crawl under it, then explained how the gate weighs over a ton! So needless to say unless William Wallace was secretly Superman, it wouldn’t happen in real life.
Another fun part of the tour involved the Tower’s ravens. Legend dictates that as long as the Ravens are at the Tower, the Crown will never fall. So naturally, the ravens are still there. Traditionally they would keep 6 Ravens at a time, but after 2 were injured in WWII and had to be euthanized, now they’ve bumped it up to 8 so they have some “bench players.”
Our final stop on the Beefeater tour was the St Peter chapel which was adjacent to a spot where private executions were carried out for people such as Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey (who was only Queen for 9 days before being beheaded.) Inside the church we got to see where they were buried and were told at one time that the foundation of the church was very uneven due to the sheer number of bodies of those executed were buried underneath. Shady ended his tour by talking a bit about the Beefeaters and how it required 20 plus years in the military anywhere that the Queen is the head of state for and hold a medal for long service and good conduct. Once a Beefeater, they get to live in retirement at the Tower with their families. He also explained some of the theories of the name Beefeater and made it clear that they weren’t associated with the gin that had their namesake nor do they get paid for their likeness. Shady ended by thanking us and reminded us of his name and said that if we hated the tour remember that his name is Bruce!
After the Beefeater tour we toured the White Tower, which once was the Fortress of William the Conqueror. Inside were several suits of armor belonging to kings such as Henry VIII. Realizing there was a lot more to the Tower than first realized, we decided to break for a snack in the café since we had plans elsewhere for lunch.
After our snack break, we visited the crown jewels, which was cool but I found the story of the one attempt to ever steal them more fascinating. A man named Thomas Blood tried stealing them after knocking out the 77 year old master of the jewel house and making off with some of the jewels. One point he was stopped by a guard who said “Halt, who goes there? Friend or Foe?” Naturally, he answered that he was a friend, but was told to come into the light where he could be seen, at this point some of the jewels fell out of his shirt. I imagined it looked like this
Amazingly, he managed to convince King Charles I to give him a pardon and 500 pounds, but was told not to be seen again. So this was the one time that crime *DID* pay!
While I was listening to the story about the heist, Stephanie and Stacey managed to find a cat, which like “Abbey Kitty,” “Tower Kitty” was a very nice cat. Of course I took a photo:
“Tower Kitty” (I think he’ll look cool in a Beefeater hat)
We saw a few more things like a room featuring the royal beasts and the horrible, unhealthy things they fed them, such as iron based on the belief that is what Ostriches liked to eat…Stacey didn’t approve of the diets of the animals. I also found a pikesman helmet, which weighed a helluva lot and caused my head to hurt after wearing it after a few moments, I can’t imagine running around with it bouncing around on my head. The last portion was the various torture devices that were used in the Tower. “The Rack” obviously was the worst of the lot but the “Scavenger’s Daughter” didn’t look fun either which looked like this:
Having spent the better portion of the day in the tower, we finally finished late in the afternoon. We spent some time on the wharf near Tower Bridge and I promptly took more “Dinosaur Desmond” photos and passing Brits thought it was funny. I’m glad these photos are a “hit” over here as it should hopefully be funny in America.
We made our way to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese , which is the oldest pub that survived the Great London Fire of 1666. Once, Charles Dickens frequented this pub as did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr Samuel Johnson. Today, we are drinking in the old beer cask cellar. Having probably no further chance to do so, I ordered a shepherd’s pie (here billed as Cottage pie, but the same thing more or less.)
Next, we headed to the Covent Gardens. Once a royal hunting ground of Henry VIII, today it’s a busy shopping district. So despite the cool name, it wasn’t a pretty flowery meadow. It did have an Apple store, which we went in to use the internet to message Josh for dinner plans.
We met Josh and his friend, who was an American from Washington that was here for school. We went to a place called Dovetail, which specialized in Belgian beers that Josh found. Having only eaten 3 to 4 hours prior, Stacey and I shared a bowl of mussels. The Bartender was new but managed OK despite some confusion, also he sounded like Broyles on the show Fringe. Being that Belgian beers are 2-3 times stronger than normal beers like Coors or Budweiser, it didn’t take much to get tipsy and I had 2 kinds. First I had one that was 8% abv called Kwak, which was served in a tall test tube-esque glass. The 2nd was one of my favorite Belgian beers called Gulden Draak, which means “The Golden Dragon,” I like to also say it’s name in a Count Dracula voice (it’s fun try it, really drawl out the “Draaaaak”), plus the 9.5% abv is nice too.
We made our way back to the hostel and settled in. Tomorrow will be our final day in the UK!