Right round round round – Monument and the Tower of London

June 23, 2007 at 9:09 pm | Posted in London, Out and About, photos, Tower of London, Travel, UK | 2 Comments
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My first official tourist activity (a month late) in London sees me walking down to the Thames to check out Monument and the Tower of London. I only realised just before leaving the house that last Saturday was the Queen’s birthday and much pomp and pageantry was going on at the Mall. Unfortunately it would be over by the time I got there so I opted for the original plan. Similarly Sunday marked the anniversary of the Falklands War and I also didn’t know about it till too late. I really need to sign up for some What’s On style newsletters.

Still onto my first tower of the day, Monument, built near the site where the Great Fire of London in 1666 began. For only 2 pounds you get a mini workout (or greater incentive to join the gym as you huff an puff all 311 steps) and a panoramic view of the city. In my case it was the approaching storm and the Queen’s birthday fly overs. A cheap and probably overlooked way of seeing the city.

Looking up…
London 025

Looking down…
London 027

View of the upcoming rain.
London 038

Queen’s birthday fly past.
London 033

A quick walk from Monument and I arrive at the Tower of London. I paid for my ticket and gaudy guide book and walked through the crowds to the entrance and happened to arrive at the beginning of one of the famed Beefeater tours. This particular guide had a mass of people around him and while he projected his voice well I wasn’t in the mood to share or be slowed down by a bunch of people. I do feel remiss for skipping this tour but I counter that I heard (although do not remember) it from when I came here as a child. That counts right?

Beefeater/crowd marshaller.
Tower of London (1)

White Tower
Tower of London (10)

Queen’s Garden
Tower of London (13)

Where the Crown Jewels are housed.
Tower of London (28)

Instead I opt for the audio tour and while not as fashionable as my ipod it is sufficient. So after getting my tour I stop, listen and walk around its route.:

          Traitors gate where so many political prisoners arrived

          The Bloody Tower and the murder of the two Princes

          Queen’s Square and its Tudor buildings where Rudolf Hess was kept in WWII

          Beauchamp and its inscriptions of various prisoners.

          An overview of the Crown Jewels and White Tower Buildings

          A history of the ravens – although it omitted the fact that the legend has been debunked.

          Anecdotes from some of the smaller towers, such as attempted escapes and torture devices.

 

The Jewel House and White Tower do not have an audio track for their interiors. You have to rely on your ability to read or some such to get by.

The crown jewels take a while to get to as the line alternately shuffles and goes at pace through the introductory/keep the masses occupied so they forget this is a line section, with videos of the pomp and ceremony associated with the jewels. Once through the vault with its highly impressive doors you can view several pieces before coming to the most popular crowns. These are in a line in the centre of the room with 2 travellators on either side to speed up the viewing process. A very efficient idea. After which you can check out more gold plates. The overall set up was much better than I remembered but I also remember being awed by them when I was a child. The naivety of youth? Am I no longer distracted by bright shiny things

The White Tower saw me climbing up and down lots of spiral staircases to go through each of the levels. All reasonably interesting but nothing extraordinary. I don’t know why I keep expecting to see or hear something different when I come to a museum or display but it is consistent yearning. A Gen Y thing? (Shut up, I am – barely) A life long learning thing? A need to be challenged? Who knows. At any rate that aside looking through the Tower’s armour and weapons collections was worthwhile to see the variations in style and uses. And of course at the end there is a gift shop.

The audio tour did not include 2 towers that included a few opportunities to walk on the walls. In 1 there were a few more medieval graffiti pieces to look at before climbing up more stairs, along the walls to a tower near the jewel house showcasing some other jewels. Despite signs saying these were replicas I still overhead people talking and taking photos (despite more signs against that) as if these were genuine. Illiterate? Stupid?

The other tower near the entrance at Traitor’s Gate featured a partial recreation of the royal suite and is limited in its appeal given the partial nature of the display. This tower leads up yet more stairs to another section of wall overlooking the Thames and with views of Tower Bridge.

The final building to not get a mention in the audio tour was the Fusiliers’ museum and costs £1 for entry. There is a substantial amount of text and honestly by that point I was in no mood to read a lot or even a little. I thought it was interesting but found that finding the correct chronological path to take through their displays a challenge. Perhaps now I am the one who is illiterate and stupid? While I found the approach to their involvement in the American Revolution interesting I was also impressed that they acknowledge they’ve had a less than glorious history. While they’ve no doubt glossed over some parts I do appreciate that there is a level of honesty.

The Tower also has in addition to its Beefeaters and ravens numerous actors performing ‘real life’ scenes to add some ‘realism’ to the experience. My overall experience was a good one, I was getting pretty tired by the end of it but enjoyed my time. After all before I knew it I had spent over 2 hours here. Some of which was in line and/or taking cover from a sudden downpour but on the whole the Tower kept my interest and it is clear why it is one of London’s top attractions.

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge (1)

Outside of the Tower I made my way to Tower Bridge but I’ll go to it’s museum another day and instead opted to walk home. Near the entrance to the Tower is a fairly impressive building (no not the Gherkin on the left) and I walked towards it to see if there was any information.

Gherkin
 

Before I could reach it I heard raucous laugher and it was creepy.
London 122
The man on the right kept laughing at the man on the left and occasionally running to the phone booth to laugh some more. At first I thought he was being mean to the man on the left but when Lefty hailed a cab, said something, cab drove off without Lefty; leaving Righty to laugh again made me think maybe they’re both weird/crazy/ on a candid camera show. Not wanting to falsely assert something you understand.

Crossing the street I enter the Tower Hill Memorial for seamen who have lost their lives during World War I.
Tower Hill Memorial (10)

And finally I was in front of the mysterious building. Ten Trinity Square.
Tower Hill Memorial (11)
Tower Hill Memorial (9)

And with that first clue and now this answer in hand I walked home.

On my route I saw:

Building being demolished from the bottom up
London 131

Lloyds post industrial construction
London 133

Travelodge in a nice looking building
London 140

Fort/castle thing in the middle of the street (I think if I ever become blasé to the sight of a historic building it is time to leave London).
London 141

More photos of Monument, Tower of London and the City are on Flickr.

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2 Comments »

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  1. […] on a cloudy day it’s not bad and certainly it’s good exercise! Just as much fun as the Monument in […]

  2. […] the city with its name. Not very original obviously. Granted it’s no Edinburgh Castle or Tower of London but the castle has seen the Normans, civil war and Scottish invasion before being left in disrepair […]


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