Tuesday, April 3, 2001. Day 5 of 12. TOWER OF LONDON, TOWER BRIDGE, ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL.

9:03 AM. We've had our breakfast, geared up for the day and we're are on the tube, stopped a few stations before our Tower Hill exit, at Moorgate. There is a lady dozing, and Sharon is wondering how she knows when to get off. The door is open, everybody has exited. Suddenly she wakes up, looks up, gets a disgusted look on her face, runs off the train and down the platform. We figure she missed her stop and has to backtrack, and I think that it's not the first time it's happened to her.

We exit at the Tower Hill Station, with the Tower of London directly below us. The long, snaking line we saw here to buy tickets on Sunday is gone. But to avoid this possibility we bought our tickets in advance anyway. A guard protects the entrance to the inner yard as a RAVEN flies above. Then we see several more on the bright sunlit grass, next to a set of large bird cages. Legend has it that Charles II was warned that should the Ravens leave the Tower, the monarchy would fall. So he ordered a that a small population should always remain.

The first item on the agenda is the Crown Jewel display, and a real guard is on his post here. While we are waiting, I admire a corner of the White Tower, the center and main part of the Tower of London. A pair of Beefeaters patrols the grounds, answering questions and giving directions. They call themselves Yeoman Warders. The Union Jack looks brilliant against the bright blue sky.

The Crown Jewels are unbelievable in their quantity and quality and are spectacularly lit, in display cases. Nancy and Sharon go around three times to imprint them on their memories. Photos and videos are forbidden, and I only sneak only one short video of one of the crowns while no one is looking. Of course, I'm sure some hidden camera records me doing this.

We exit the jewel display and I see some kind of a falcon overhead. At first I think it's a Peregrine, but then we decide that it's a KESTREL flying over, based on the rusty back Sharon sees.

After the Crown Jewels, we tour the White Tower, and see models and artists drawings of what the Tower of London looked like in its seven or so different views over the years. In the armanent rooms, there is a great display of pistols, twisting around a column, and another of them mounted on a wall, around the head of a lion. They look for all the world like fine art. We see a list of the names of the keeper of the armanent over the centuries.

1103 Nancy reaches in to try to touch one of the pistols. It is alarmed and a loud whistle goes off. I don't see this as I've already moved to the next room, but I do hear the whistle, and at the time, I wonder what the heck it is. Soon I learn, but no one has come to take her away, and I'm guessing this happens a lot.

We come to the armor room, and a display shows armor for a six foot nine inch fellow as well as one for a three foot dwarf of the time. We exit the White Tower, noticing a very casual Beefeater, relaxing, and next visit a room decorated in the theme at some particular point in the past. An actress tells me that she would have been dressed like this at the time.

We are starved and next head for the New Armouries Restaurant, originally an arms storehouse. I like the rust color of this old armouries building in the scheme of things. I have a prepared sandwich, Sharon has soup and Nancy has a salad. It feels SO good to sit down.

We exit the Tower of London, but not before a picture of Nancy and Sharon, standing under an arch of the Tower.

Next on the day is a tour of the Tower Bridge. We learn that it is a Bascule bridge, the key word meaning seesaw in French. There are people and Disneyland-like animated models that tell us the story of the bridge through its concept and building. We see London from a new angle, including St. Paul's Cathedral, and it is really fun to see the city from this new angle.

During the tour, we are told that it will be raised for a ship to pass through about five till six this evening. We quickly plan the rest of the day so we'll be back for it. Then it's off to St. Paul's Cathedral.

We take a taxi from the entrance to the Tower Bridge and enter St. Paul's at 2:35 PM, but Nancy has to use the bathroom, which is outside. I do too, and we both locate the johns. When I exit, she has already gone back into the cathedral, so I make my way to the far side of the building. There is a scaffolding on this side of the dome, and I don't want that in my picture. I see a nice view of St. Paul's dome, then go inside to join Sharon and Nancy.

No photos are allowed in St. Paul's, so we store the views in our minds. In the basement is the Crypt Cafe, beyond the burial location of many famous Englishmen. We also do some shopping at the store, in the basement.

After our self-guided tour, we take the tube back over to Tower Bridge. A Hagen Daaz store shelters us from the cold wind downstream from the bridge, and we take advantage in an anti-weight watcher's kind of way.

At about ten till six, we are back outside, on the shore downstream of the bridge, with our cameras lined up on the bridge center, wherre it will split. I am the first to spot the ship coming downriver from the other side. Sharon starts the video camera and Nancy and I line up for our still shots. The bridge begins to raise. The road splits in half as the two bascules do their thing. I might have called this a drawbridge before I heard about the bascule.

A ship that seems quite small, but with a huge, tall mast comes through, and the instant it passes through, the roadways begin to rotate back down into position. I think it takes 90 seconds for full movement. We have captured an event that must be scheduled 24 hours ahead of time.

I like the Tower Bridge.

We head for home on the tube. It is full of going-home commuters. The train has a lot of squeaks as we review the day. As we finish retelling the Nancy-touch-the-pistol story, a low-life looking fellow across the car gets a big grin and says to us, "Typical Americans."

He is missing the right-hand 40% of teeth on the upper jaw, and about half that many on the lower jaw. I had heard that dentistry in the UK is poor, whether from poor dentists or because of prohibitive expense, I'm not sure. But my "Oh yeah?" side comes out, and I think, but don't yell back at him, "Typical Brit."

Basking in my fake superiority at not responding, I enjoy the rest of the tube ride. We make it home, unload our stuff from the day, go out for dinner, then back to the Kingsway Hotel, Room 7 for the nightly digital and video review and a warm, comfortable room and bed.

Speaking of basking, there are signs in the tube that say "No busking. 200 pound penalty," and upon inquiry, Sharon learns that busking means no playing music for money.

And finally, Twelve O'Clock and all is well.

Previous Report (No. 2)
Next Report (No. 4)

Back to London Trip Reports
Back to Birding Trips