We started off today with our first official “class” time, held at a place called Vincent House. We were supposed to have our own conference room-type set up, but they had our reservation mixed up so we just sat in the lounge area for today. We used these few hours to write about yesterday’s tour of the Museum of London. You can read the post I collaborated on here.
The street Vincent House is on has beautiful flats that are very obviously for the wealthier part of society. Their facade had that gorgeous white, cream, and faint yellow coloring, with cute little balconies, trim, and foliage. I’ve decided when I move to London, I’ll live here.
After class we picked up some lunch. I forgot to take a picture of the sandwich I got yesterday from Pret A Manger (pronounced pret-uh-mahn-zhay), a popular pre-made sandwich shop, but it was pretty darn good. Another sandwich shop, Eat, is in competition with Pret, so I tried a sandwich from them today. It was really good, too. Now I’ll have to make my own sandwich and really see which is the best.
We ate lunch once we got to the Tower of London. I’ve toured this one before, too, but it still doesn’t cease to amaze me how there’s this old stone fortress in the middle of a modern business district, and how millions of people from all over the world come to walk around in the same place that British royalty, prisoners, and long-dead soldiers once lived in. Does that not blow your mind?
The moat was drained and filled quite a while ago, and in it today they were preparing for a jousting tourament this weekend, the first one at the Tower in 8 years. I don’t know if it’s possible to go, but I’ll be looking into it tonight.
Once inside, we joined one of the warders for a tour. I couldn’t tell if our guide was the same I had last time or not, but he was pretty funny, too. Yelling at everyone, making fun of the French, making history jokes…. I heard that the warders don’t just protect the Tower, but they actually live there. Wouldn’t that be a great job? Of course, you’d have to serve at least twenty-or-so years in the military in order to qualify, and I’m sure repeating the same stories and jokes to a crowd of unpredictable people might get old. But compared to a boring office job? Yeah, it’d be great.
The end part of the tour landed us in St. Peter Church, a small little chapel with quite a history. The remains of Henry VIII’s two executed wives lie buried beneath it, and several other notable people were laid to rest in the adjoining cript. The ceiling had been made for Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, out of wood from Spain so that she could pray to God under trees from her home land.
After the tour, Faith and I ended up doing our own thing again, choosing to first go through the White Tower.
In the past this was used as living quarters for the royal family and other nobility, as well as a prison for traitors to the crown (or people who just said something the king didn’t like). For the past couple hundred years-or-so now, it has housed the “Line of Kings” exhibition. Bascially a display of armor worn by past kings and their horses. It was interesting to see how certain pieces were once mislabeled in order to sound more impressive, or because the records and technology weren’t available to correctly identify them until recently.
We were also able to go below ground in what used to be wine cellars and dungeons. It’s now a gift shop.
We also looked at the big attraction: the Crown Jewels. There was quite a lot of bling in this exhibit, from golden maces back in Charles II’s time to golden plates used for special feasts to the bedazzled crown of Queen Elizabeth II herself. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside, so you’ll just have to come and see them yourself some day.
We wandered around the Tower until closing time, learning about how it was once a zoo, spotting the infamous giant ravens, and taking pictures of prisoner graffiti on the walls. By the time we made it back to our flat (after half an hour of searching in vain for a pastry shop), my legs were on fire and my feet about ready to fall off. When exactly am I supposed to be used to this?
Some little cultural things I’ve noticed so far that I feel compelled to mention… First, the fashion. In the touristy areas of the Tower and Trafalger Square it might not be so noticable. But in other areas and districts, you can tell what’s “in” among Londoners. Apart from the business-wear that’s also very common, men tend to wear really tight pants with button-down shirts and nice shoes. Women usually have an all-black look going on with ankle boots or flats. I’ve also noticed this thing with striped shirts; it seems popular among the Asian tourists as well.
Speaking of Asian tourists, I noticed several groups of Korean school kids about. One group had badges over their necks that said something like “Western Culture Trip.” Why is this not a thing in America, I ask you? Why can’t we have Asian Culture Trips, or European Culture Trips for our youth? I’m sorry, but Korea gets more cool points from me on this one.
Final thought: my snot is black. Maybe you didn’t want to hear about that, but I feel like it’s important to know. It’s not something you would expect or think about, but it is what it is. You spend enough time in a city and taking trains underground, your snot is going to be tarnished with smog and soot. And probably second-hand smoke, too, because like the rest of Europe, Brits love to have a smoke. So now you know and won’t be freaked out when it happens to you.