My fifth (and final, *tear) day in London had me seeing some of the oldest sites this beautiful city has to offer. Bonus: the entire day was sunny and didn’t threaten to rain once! While it did cool down at night, it was my own fault for daring to wear shorts.
I started my day at the Tower of London. Besides the Harry Potter tour, this might be the first attraction I’ve paid full price for and had a guide. It was very touristy! But the 17 pounds was definitely worth it!
The Tower of London is HUGE! I thought it would be one big tower but it’s actually a big palace with 20 towers in all (I think it was 20…). I went on a Yeoman Warder guided tour. The Yeoman Warders or Beefeaters are guys who have served in the British forces all their lives, received medals for their service and now, retired, give tours of the Tower. They also live in the Tower which is super cool!
Our guide showed us a couple of the main towers, the Traitors Gate, and walked us through the grounds. He told stories of different prisoners and monarchs who had called the Tower home or had come there to die. We ended the tour in the chapel where Anne Boleyn and a few of Henry VIII’s other wives are buried in the floor.
I explored a few of the other towers (most had full exhibits such as armour, weaponry, torture instruments), took in the views of Tower Bridge and witnessed the Changing of the Guard. Guards are stationed inside the Tower as well because the Queen owns some of the land. It was cool to see them more up close and personal, rather than far away at Buckingham Palace.
Of course, the best part about the Tower of London was seeing the Crown Jewels! Unfortunately, photos were not allowed but they were insanely breathtaking. There’s a couple rooms of lead-up where you can learn the history of the monarchy and cases of expensive gold pieces. And then, you reach the jewels themselves! The crowns and sceptres are absolutely stunning and the gems are so huge they look fake. You pass by them on a movator but I had to take it twice just to take it all in. They were unbelievable!
After spending almost 4 hours (!) at the Tower, I headed back to the Parliament buildings I had walked by on Saturday. I got a pass to go in and see the House of Commons proceedings – for free! There was a lot of intense security (exactly like the airport) before you get to go in. The actual buildings are insanely gorgeous inside, like Westminister Abbey-kind of gorgeous. I was staring at the ceiling and trying to take discreet photos, but the guards with guns scared me off.
Watching an actual debate was really cool! The government’s side were arguing against amendments the opposition had made to their bill to help improve the electoral system. I didn’t follow all of it, but it was really interesting to see them in action. There were only about 25 or so people along the famous green benches. One lady was just chatting away to her seatmate and another guy was texting! But most were pretty into it. One lady got very passionate and had to be warned after she finished her statement with, “…the problem isn’t with what I said. The problem is with your government!” But it’s hard to be too offensive when everyone is addressed as “the honourable gentleman/lady.” The debate ended with the opposition stating they still had concerns while the government answered with a resounding, “No!” that they would not agree to the current amendments.
From there I crossed over the River Thames (via tube, so it wasn’t that exciting) and I had planned to visit Tate Modern (free modern art museum). Unfortunately, Tate Modern closes at 6pm and it was nearly 6 when I got there. Instead, I walked down to the river and found a cool Mediterranean restaurant. I decided to treat myself to my first non-sandwich meal with an actual waiter and enjoy some English beer (I think it was actually Italian but whatever!). It was delicious and I didn’t end up paying that much for it.
And then I went to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for a comedy show! This venue definitely did not disappoint. It was just as incredible as pictures I have seen and still has that old-world feel to it. The seats aren’t the comfiest but I’m glad I bought a ticket instead of the standing room only on ground level.
The show was fantastic! The Comedy Store Players were actually hilarious. At first, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be seeing a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre but I think this was better. They even did a modified Shakespeare improv piece (The Drizzle – the prequel to The Tempest) to end their show. I laughed the entire time, even for some of the English jokes I didn’t exactly get!
Tomorrow I’ll need to carefully repack my bag (all week I’ve just been throwing my stuff into my storage locker) and make my way to King’s Cross Station to catch my train to Paris! I’m really excited for Paris but I’m nervous to leave the ease of the English language and transit system I had actually mastered. I’m also really sad to leave London. It’s become a favourite place for me and I just want to soak up more of it. I assume I won’t be back for a while (despite my desperate Craigslist searching for a job) and I’m not ready to say goodbye 😦