Monday, April 11, 2011
Travelogue: Tower of London
Posted by JaneGS
I first visited the Tower of London about 20 years ago during a business trip in which I had a weekend in London. The business colleague with whom I visited the Tower wasn't particularly interested in English history and was depending on me to pick the most interesting things for us to do that weekend. I felt rushed, stressed to make sure she didn't feel bored (I was 20 years younger then and still felt responsible for other people's good time, I guess!), and self-conscious. So, this time around, visiting the Tower at leisure and with family members who fully appreciate and somewhat share my interest in English history was a number 1 priority for the trip in March that I have already blogged about a bit here.
To prep for the visit, I reread Edward Rutherford's wonderful London, reread the history of the Tower books that I had picked up during my visit in 1991, and studied the maps and diagrams of the buildings. Somehow it was important to me to be able to know that names of the various towers and walls and which monarch was responsible for the building of each. Another one of those nerdtastic activities that my daughter likes to tease me about! I tell her she's inherited those nerdtastic genes...
On to the Tower... We arrived by boat, having taken one of those river cruises with tour guide from Westminster Pier. It was wonderful.
We arrived early afternoon on Sunday and looked for the cafeteria immediately as we were hungry for lunch. The only negative about the visit to the Tower was the food--it was all really bland and very pedestrian. Should have probably figured out a better place to have lunch than on the grounds, but I can't think of everything. Anyway, lunch out of the way, we did the audio tour, which was just great.
My favorite building was by far the White Tower. I liked the exhibits of armour and especially the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist. By some stroke of luck, I was in there by myself for a few minutes, and the sun was streaming through the windows, and it was transporting.
I also loved seeing the guarderobe in the White Tower and enjoyed remembering the scene in Rutherford's London when Osric gets his revenge on Ralph Silversleeves for the years of torment Ralph inflicted on Osric during the building of the Tower. In this case, revenge wasn't so much sweet as satisfying.
My kids enjoyed the Crown Jewels more than I did. Not that the videos of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation weren't interesting, and the jewels themselves beautiful...but I'm just not that much of a gems person. I like architecture better. My princess is a gems person.
Tower Green, were Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard and a few others were executed, was relatively peaceful. Sadly the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, where Anne is buried, was not open the afternoon we were there. I asked one of the guards why and was told it is often closed due to private parties touring it. So, it look like I will have to make a third visit to the Tower to visit this chapel.
I absolutely loved seeing the remains of the Roman wall. There are a couple of places outside the Tower where it crops up as well. It's very moving to see a trace of life from 2000 years ago that isn't behind a glass case in a museum exhibit.
Love the trebuchet. Must get one for the yard.