AbigailBeates' Travel Journals



My whirlwind tour of London

Tower of London and everything else.....

United Kingdom London, United Kingdom  |  Jun 10, 2009
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 Unfortunately for us, the tube strike in London put a damper on our easy travel. 

Wednesday June 10, 2009

                This morning we had some breakfast at the hostel and then attempted to go the Tower of London. Unfortunately for us, the tube strike in London put a damper on our easy travel. We tried to get buses to where we wanted to go, but because there were millions of other people trying to get places as well, all the buses were incredibly packed full. I ended up in a group of about 6 people and we walked to another bus stop (or what we thought was going to be another bus stop). There was no bus, so we kept trudging along in the rain towards the Tower of London, stopping at every stop to see if Bus #15 stopped at that particular one, and if so, if it had room for 6 people. We finally were able to pick up on bus and gradually made our way across town towards the Tower.

                When we got there, almost everyone else was already there, so we got our tickets and headed into the Tower. The Tower of London is the palace and fortress of the Queen and is now a historic monument. It’s on the river Thames and houses the crown jewels. When we went, there was an exhibit on King Henry VIII which was really interesting. They had a huge amount of his armor and even his horse’s armor. I wish we had had more time there, because the exhibit on King Henry was huge and there was so much to see. The crown jewels were stunning as I knew they would be. There were crowns and scepters in that building that have been worn and held by all the rulers of England.

                We had lunch at the Tower and then left to go and buy tickets for the Lion King on stage! I was so excited about being able to see this musical. We got a great rate for being students and we even got ten seats together which was great! The musical was awesome; everything about it was great. The music, the costumes, the actors, everything! It was definitely a night to remember. We had a great time, and after the show was over, we walked around London humming to each other the songs from our childhood that we reconnected with that night.

                We took a walk down the Victoria Embankment, and this was really pretty at night. The London Eye was all lit up as well as the buildings on the other side of the shore (I’m pretty sure that it was the Dali Museum). We saw Big Ben and Parliament at night which was neat. We then wound our way back around to Trafalgar Square which was the major central spot where we could find our way back to our hostel. This was a great day overall.

Thursday June 11, 2009

                Today we did another whirlwind tour of London. We knew that tomorrow we would be going to Oxford, so we tried to squeeze as much in today as possible. We started off the day with going to Westminster Abbey. There was an awesome audio tour for this Abbey and it was beautiful inside! I really wish I had more time inside, because although I feel like I saw the whole thing, I would have loved to have spent more time looking at everything. Westminster is the burial ground for so many famous people, it’s amazing! There was an entire section in the abbey that was commemorating authors and poets, some of whom are buried at the Abbey. People like Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, Tennyson, Robert Browning, Charles Dickens are all buried there, and there were memorials dedicated to other authors like John Milton, John Keats, William Blake, Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, Sir Walter Scott, and so many more.  Handel is also buried at the abbey.

                After exploring the abbey, we quickly made our way over to Buckingham to see the changing of the guard. We got there 45 minutes before it was supposed to happen, but there was already a large crowd there. We were still able to get a pretty spot up against the fence. Unfortunately, we chose the wrong section of the fence to stand by, so we really couldn’t see much going on, but we could at least hear the band that was playing. They played an entire concert, including a lot of George William’s works like the themes from Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and E.T. They played some of Andrew Lloyd Webber as well with the Phantom of the Opera theme. It was fun to watch all the horses and guards come marching by in perfect synchronization.

                We stayed at Buckingham for at least an hour, and then we went and found lunch before going to the Churchill Cabinet War Rooms which was one of the coolest museums I think we went into the whole time! It may be because I love WWII history, but this was one of the coolest experiences. The war rooms were underground and were discovered after the wars had ended, fully furnished. The men who had spent so much time in this little “city” underground had left everything. As soon as the war was over, they just split. Leaving behind a huge amount of history for people today to experience themselves. I call it a “city”, but it reminded me more of a big ship from the military, where there is everything you could possibly need there. There were kitchens, bedrooms, offices, everything. Churchill would make phone calls to America from a secret room that looked like an occupied bathroom from the outside. There was a museum connected to the war rooms that was dedicated to Churchill and his life. For a history fan like me, this was well worth the admission price.

                We made our way back to Trafalgar Square and decided to go into the National Gallery of Art because we had about two hours before we had to start making our way over to the Globe. This was one museum that I could have spent an entire day in, but not having a whole day, I made sure to go around and see the big items. I saw Van Gogh and Monet! I saw Rembrandt and Botticelli and Van Duhr! This museum houses so many pieces, it’s really amazing! Being an artist of sorts, I was like a little kid in a candy shop—every room I went into I would gaze at the amazing pieces on the walls, and just think that everyone of those brushstrokes were made by men (and some women) who have changed the course of art history. Wow. It was hard to fathom some of it.

                We left the museum (way to early) and caught a bus over to St. Paul’s Cathedral which is right across the river from the Globe Theatre. We saw the play As You Like It and it was great! It’s a comedy by Shakespeare and the actors and actresses did a great job in my opinion. I’m not much of a connoisseur for acting, but I enjoyed it! We got to stand in the “peasant” section which is in the pit in front of the stage. It was really cool to be right there next to the stage having actors run up and through the crowd. At one point, one of the actors was sitting the audience and when he started his monologue, we all had to look around and find where he was. They really included the audience in the play which made it that much more enjoyable. At one point, there was a fight scene that occurred in the pit; we all had to move out of the way a little for the actors to have room. We sure were front and center.

                After the play ended, we got to see a beautiful view of St. Paul’s at night. It was across the river from us and just gorgeous. The architecture of domes amazes me. To think of the people who built them makes me really respect its beauty. It reminded me a little of the Duomo in Florence, Italy. Both are gorgeous churches with prominent domes that make them recognizable from all other.

                Tonight was the last night of the trip for many of the students, so it was a bittersweet night. We said goodbyes and wished them all well. Because I wasn’t leaving Europe, Michael, Leah and I enjoyed our last night in London together walking around the city, watching all the people.

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