Friday! Our week here is winding down. Today we woke up “early” to get to the Tower of London before the hoards of tourists (there were never “hoards of tourists” but I could never seem to shake my assumption that there would be!). We did need to top up our pre purchased Oyster Travel Card today but I loved, loved, loved having those cards mailed to me in the States so they were ready to use immediately on landing at Gatwick.
I also purchased The London Pass prior to the trip. It offers admission to many attractions in and around London. Visit their website here. You will have to decide for yourself if you think you can get your monies worth, I will tell you that without question, I did. In addition, we went to several attractions that we never would have with out the pass, but since they were free, we wandered in and loved them! Two of them this day alone. We had planned on several hours at the Tower of London, and then the Tower Bridge. We ended up doing so much more, all because of the Pass.
Upon arrival at the Tower of London, we stopped at the cafe to get some traditional scones with clotted cream and jam. Also coffee. And coffee.
Clotted cream is one of those things that you can only really get in the UK, and ever since I tasted it for the first time on a Virgin Atlantic Airline trip, I dream about it. I know that there are places in the U.S. that sell it, but somehow its just not the same.
We then wandered around the Tower of London. We had, of course, just missed the Yeoman Warder tour so we decided to just wing it with the map we had been given at admission. If you can swing it, the Warder tours are supposed to be amazing!
We saw everything on the map. There were no crowds, the weather was nice enough for January and we were on no schedule so we really just wandered from place to place. This was the first time I had seen the Crown Jewels as when I had been here before, the line to get into that particular area was unbelievable and we decided against it. No pictures allowed there, but we took plenty of the rest of the Tower.
The White Tower
We did eventually find a Yeoman! OD thinks that they are sharp dressers and is still bugging me to get a cape and hat!
It was drizzly a little but not super cold so we took our time wandering the grounds of the Tower. When we had seen it all, we headed out and towards the Tower Bridge to cross the River Thames. Our London Pass cards granted us “Fast Track Entry” access to the Tower Bridge Exhibition which was a bonus as there was actually a line at the entrance…like ten people long, but still a line, and I got to skip right by!!
We headed up in the elevator and landed in a room with a movie playing the history of the Bridge, kind of interesting, but its on a loop so if you don’t catch it at the beginning, you sit through it all then have to watch the beginning over again. So we skipped it, mostly.
We walked across the new glass floor, looking down at the River Thames 138 feet below us.
We were able to look out over London from atop the Bridge, but it was kind of overcast so no really good pictures. I really enjoyed the display along both sides of the Bridge, “Great Bridges of the World,” 40 of the most amazing bridges in the world…really cool even if you are not huge into engineering. We then went down under the Bridge to view the original bridge lifting machinery. Again, cool even for non-gearheads!
Then, after a quick stop at Starbucks for wifi, we decided to walk over to the Shakespeare Museum and see if we could get in a tour there before dinner…this was again something that was included in our London Pass.
On our way over, we saw a banner for something called the London Bridge Experience, the London Tombs.
It was a small door under an overpass so even the entrance looked spooky, but since we had no real time schedule and it was included in our London Pass, we decided to check it out. There is no photography allowed inside and truth be told, I wouldn’t post any pictures regardless! It was kind of scary! The history provided by the cast members is fantastic and overall I loved that we did this, but if you have young children it might not be for you. My 13 year old would have been fine, but my 4 year old would probably be scarred for life! This was really more of what I remembered The London Dungeon to be like…more on how its changed (and my opinion on that) on Sunday’s tour. Still, it was free and a fun little history lesson on the darker side of London’s past.
From there, walking to the Globe theater we saw some pretty cool little churches, pirate ships, prisons, all sorts of stuff! That walk through Southwark is really cool!
But we finally made it to the original site of the Globe Theater, which is now a parking lot…
…but we continued on to the museum and got signed up for the next available tour. We met our tour guide and we immediately loved him. This is one of those places where a good group and a talented guide can really make a difference and with our guide being top notch, this ended up being one of our favorite stops of the trip!
First you wander through some history of the Theater. They have models of what London looked like at the time, and what the actual Theater looked like, they also have costume and prop rooms set up to see what the actors would be wearing/using on stage. Then we get to the stage and the seats.
There were no sets, the actors had to create the scene just with costume and word. The roof is open and since there was no electricity in Shakespeare’s day, that meant that all shows were performed in the daytime, rain or shine. In the rain, only those seated under the roof would stay dry, if you were a groundling (the cheapest admission, no seating, you just stood in that big area in front of the stage) you got wet. Audience participation was expected, boos, cheers, cat calls, etc. were all par for the course. After our tour, we crossed back over the Thames on the Millennium Bridge, a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians. London sure is pretty at sunset!
So that was our day, courtesy of the London Pass. On Saturday, we have just one thing on the agenda…Premier League Football!!! West Ham vs. Manchester City to be exact. This is Soccer Mom Travels after all! No pictures or cool stories, although we had an absolute blast!! We will start back up on Sunday, our final day in London and another super busy day: London Dungeon, London Aquarium and the London Eye!