28 June 2009

Vacation: London, England Day 2

Day 2 of our time in London began on a bit of a sour note when we discovered that part of the Tube was shut down for weekend maintenance. So, instead of heading directly to the Tower of London, we made our way to St. Paul's Cathedral.

Pictures weren't allowed inside St. Paul's (and the staff made sure people put their cameras in bags), but the cathedral was magnificent. The dome, the memorials on the walls, the statues - all quite stunning. Inside the crypt there were even more graves, including Florence Nightingale. I wish I could have taken a picture of that tomb. She's one of my favorite people.

There was some sort of christening or other ceremony happening in the chapel in the crypt. Because of that, we were unable to see Christopher Wren's tomb.

From St. Paul's, we managed to find a hop-on hop-off tour bus which took us to the Tower of London. This was a highlight for me. I've always wanted to see the Tower. I never really had any interest in seeing the Crown jewels; I was interested in the prison aspect of the Tower's history.

After we walked into the Tower grounds, one of the first things we saw was Traitor's Gate. Amazing!

How many people have come through that gate over the centuries? Can you imagine how terrifying it must have been to see that? To know that you may never walk as a free person again?

The carved graffiti on the walls in some of the prison towers were a powerful reminder of all the people who have been held there over the years. Some prisoners were even able to hire professionals to carve in the plaster for those prisoners - which, admittedly, doesn't seem as though the prisoners were really being punished.

One of the carvings is reputedly that of Lady Jane Grey.

We did go see the Crown jewels, too. They were impressive, but not as impressive as the Romanov jewels I saw several years ago in an exhibit in Houston.

We also saw the famous ravens of the Tower.

And we never had to wait in long lines. We were surprised and thrilled by that.

From the Tower, we went to the dock and rode a tour boat down the Thames to Westminster (included in the bus ticket).

We managed to make it to Westminster just in time to hear Big Ben chime. We called my grandmother, so she could hear the bells, too. Then we went inside Westminster Abbey.

Once again, no photos were allowed inside. And they were having a flower show inside the church - really weird flower displays. Not terribly attractive displays, either.

But Poet's Corner more than made up for the ugly flowers.

After a busy day, we returned to our hotel.

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