Today I’m meeting up with Viktor again and we’re going to leave earlier (as oppossed to our later start yesterday) so we can visit the Tower of London and ride the London Eye. Our plan was to meet at the Churchill statue across from Big Ben. Well, that was the plan. Viktor was able to get there okay on time. Me – I was having to navigate around a closure of the underground line to Westminster. I ended up taking a taxi. On the way, I did go by Buckingham Palace and saw a little of the Changing of the Guard – so not a total miss.
I sometimes get too confident of my navigation abilities. I can usually work around issues, but sometimes this hubris of mine does not work in my favor. Afterwards I try to reflect on what I could have done differently to improve the outcome. Invariably it boils down to the fact that I do not know all the answers. In this case, keeping in mind that I’m in a crowded and big city who is hosting many, many tourists. This ain’t Portland.
Given the number of people who also want to ride the London Eye, I purchased “Fast Track” tickets earlier in the morning – which will get us through the line much quicker. Was not able to get an earlier time and when I met up with Viktor, he was okay with going to the Tower of London first and then the London Eye.
We were able to get to the Tower of London, purchase tickets, and join our tour within an hour. I had been on the tour last year, but there is so much to see, it really is good to go again. The tower was started in 1066 – actually earlier if you count the years the site was used by the Romans. A Beefeater guides the group through the high points of the tower and then releases us to explore on our own. The Beefeaters are comprised of retired military and are excellent hosts, guides, and guards of the Tower of London.
After we finished with the tour we headed towards the Crown Jewels, the most popular exhibit. When you actually see the collection, there is so much “bling” it hardly seems real. (Some have said that the “real” collection is hidden at another location.) The main collection is set up in a long case and you can take a moving path on either side of the display that make sure everyone gets a chance to view all of the sparkling crowns and other regalia. We went down both sides twice. The Imperial Crown (the one the queen wears when opening Parliament) is displayed separately. (Not able to take pictures.)
Next, we walked through the White Tower (built in 1066), which was used in later years for to house the local armory. Quite a display of armor on the main floor. We both agreed that wearing the heavy suits of armor must have been a real test of strength. What would happen if they fell off their horse? We were having too much fun – perhaps because we were hungry and looking forward to having some lunch.
Model of the head of Queen Elizabeth I
We ate there in the tower’s cafe because we wanted so see a little more before leaving. Impressed with the variety of quality of what we were served.
After going through the mint, as we exited, it was starting to rain. We waited in a shelter for the rain to let up, but it never did. It was a good solid rain. We ran down to the gift shop who was in the process of restocking their supply of umbrellas and ponchos. I got the umbrella and Viktor got the poncho.
While we were waiting, a group of guards marched by.
We had just enough time to get to the London Eye. When we got there, even with the rain, the number of people in line was staggering. Those who did not have tickets, or had tickets that were not “Fast Track” were in line for hours. Hours! In the Fast Track line we struck up a conversation with two women from Long Island. Always fun to meet new people. They were good sports about the weather and we joined them in the London Eye pod.
Even through the weather, the views from the London Eye were amazing. You can see Buckingham Palace in the center of the picture.
Westminster Palace (under renovation) pictured below.
After being in the rain for the last few hours, we both wanted to get warm and dry. Viktor led us to a tea room in the Corinthia. Viktor had green tea and I had the house blend of breakfast tea and a club sandwich. We were each given our own large pot of tea. We were there two and a half hours talking and laughing. I’ll have to go back.
The only picture I took of our time at the Corinthia was a picture of the men’s urinals. Who designs these things? (You have to aim over the glass partition.)
It was getting late and we were tired. When I got back to my hotel room it was hard to keep my eyes open. Tomorrow I’ll take a train to Windsor and meet up with Ben.