Friday 28/06: Tower of London, Docklands, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Southbank Walkway (Globe Theatre, London Bridge)
The morning started off with a fresh fruit salad and toast for breakfast, and we set off for the Tower of London. We took the underground straight to the Tower Hill station, transferring once at King’s Cross station. From there, it was a short walk through the light drizzle to the Tower of London. As we had pre-booked our tickets, we skipped the long queue of people waiting in the rain and made our way into the castle.
Previously, we were going to do the free tour (as recommended by Andrew), but the rain combined with heaps of pointy umbrellas and people led us to not do the tour. Instead we toured the castle ourselves. We began with a quick visit to the coin exhibit, displaying variations in the currencies used during different reigns, because the tower used to be England’s mint. We then started walking through all of the towers along the outer wall of the castle. We saw the throne room, the king’s chambers, as well as some of the prison towers.
After leaving the wall of the castle, we made our way through the middle of the grounds to stand in line to see the crown jewels. Though we were not part of a tour at this point, there was a group of Americans standing behind us in line with a private tour guide, so we heard the entire story of the crown jewels (and more!) from him during the 20 minute wait. The Jewels were spectacular, of course, and it was most fascinating to see the doors leading into the vault, as they were at least 50cm thick and made of solid steel. We then went into the Bloody tower, where various instruments of torture were on display (although by this stage I was thinking that England’s gloomy weather should have been torturous enough!).
Pictures from left to right: Entering the Crown Jewels (no pics allowed inside), a torture device called the Rack where they stretch the prisoner until confession, another device where they squeeze the prisoner in the iron bars.
We made our way to the Overground where we took the DLR (Docklands Light Rail, similar to a monorail but unmanned) around the commercial area of Docklands, populated by large skyscrapers and modern looking shops and hotels. In fact, it did not feel like we were in London at all, but were instead transported to somewhere along the likes of New York. It was great to see this side of London, and we were not expecting to see such a modern area without a trace of any older buildings.
By this stage the weather had cleared up (stopped raining) so we went back on the underground to St Paul’s Cathedral, taking a few pictures before heading across the Millennium Bridge towards the Tate Modern. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to go in, although this is a possibility for when we return to London. We walked down the Southbank Walkway past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. We almost missed it as we couldn’t believe that the small, modest building was the Theatre, although the posters advertising upcoming plays (Othello, Midsummer Night’s Dream and more) confirmed that this was the place.
Pictures: St Paul’s cathedral (top left), man making huge bubbles outside the Tate Modern (top right), looking back at St. Paul’s Cathedral across the Milennium bridge (bottom left), Shakespeare’s Globe theatre (bottom right).
We then continued walking along the Thames occasionally diverting through small, quaint alleyways situated next to trendy restaurants and cafes. We reached London Bridge (the original was replaced by a ‘new’ bridge) where we took the Underground back to Highgate and walked to Andrew’s place.