Wednesday, May 2, 2012

England Day Eight

The tube is so wonderful. I love it. Day tickets are cheap...ish. It can get you close to or right across the street from your destination. Cute boys ride the tube. Stylish girls flaunt their cat-eye makeup and ascots on the tube. Everyone wears trench coats of the latest styles. Everyone totes briefcases, or huge purses or just their mobile and a book. The tube is a melting pot of cultures and styles. London is a melting pot of cultures and styles. I wish I were a Londoner. I am getting sidetracked.

Mostly, we spent time in London touring the Tower. First we went to the building that keeps the Crown Jewels, which are fantastically shiny and alluring. We got to see all the crowns from King Charles I to Queen Elizabeth II. My favorite was the crown with a 150 carat diamond and the Black Prince Ruby which was set into a crown that was only worn in India. (Side story: the crown jewels could not ever leave the country so jewelers made separate crowns depending on the country) All of the crowns were made from the best red or purple velvet and satin and they were studded with cut and uncut diamonds of every shape and size. Along with the crown jewels there were scepters and orbs used by the various monarchs. Everything in the Jewel House is called Royal Regalia. That includes the crowns, rings, coronation spoon, scepters, orbs and the golden robe worn by Queen Elizabeth. It weighs 30 pounds.One time, in 1785, Colonel Blood attempted to steal the jewels but he didn't get very far. When we came out of the Jewel House, the guards were changing. It was cool. They were the same kinds of guards that stand outside Buckingham Palace. Yeah, the ones with the fluffy hats, red coats and shiny shoes.
Welcome to the Tower!

The Tower was used as a menagerie, a palace,
a mint, a prison and a house for the Jewels.

The White Tower. Only round tower
out of 20. Also where
Anne Boleyn was imprisoned before her execution.

Changing of the guard at the Jewel House.

We had a tour of the whole Tower given to us by one of the Queen's beefeaters (Yeoman Warder). He was wearing a skirt (giggle) and a top hat. He was a character. His name was Mitch and he told us all about the scary stories and myths. He and some other Yeoman are in charge of feeding the Tower Ravens. The story goes that if the ravens ever leave that the monarchy will fall apart. The Queen is immediately notified if one of the ravens falls sick. If a raven dies, the crown has to pay up to £10,000 for a new one.
He also told us about the Queen's Apartments. These are the rooms that Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn stayed in for two nights before their executions. According to some people, those Queen's still haunt the hallways and rooms.
Mitch, Yeoman Warder.

The Queen's Apartments.
He also told us about the chapel. Recently, the place where the chapel now stands was excavated and found to be a series of graves. They concluded that Queen's Anne Boleyn, Jane Grey and Catharine Howard were all buried there. When building the chapel, they build the altar right above the three graves and placed marble headstones over them. Mitch's daughter walked down the aisle wearing one of the Queen's crowns and was married in front of three Queen's of England.

After we spent about a half day at the Tower, we took a boat up the Thames to Greenwich where we saw the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian. I was in two hemispheres at once!!! I was so excited. My dad was even more excited. He had been waiting to see that for his entire life. 

Olympic countdown.  It's off because it has to
account for the entire world.

What up.

I love PM.

We took the train from Greenwich back to London and went to the Tate Modern Art Museum. Mostly it was bizarre and awkward and not art. But I did get to see a sad Monet.



We walked back to central London on the Millennium Bridge, aka the bridge on which Hagrid handed Harry his ticket to Platform 9 3/4. The sun was setting and it was beautiful to walk over the Thames.

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