Let’s start with torture, and even before we got to the Tower of London! Last night we were collectively beaten up until the not-so-early hours of the morning by the rhythmic beat(ing) that came from the pub music directly under our hostel beds! Most of the adults found sleep hard to come by until some time after 2 am when the pub finally closed its doors. Then we had to contend with the rubbish collection truck at 5am! Yes, saving a few (actually, many!) pounds by booking into the cheapest possible hostel does have its drawbacks – the Dover Castle Hostel’s main issue is the pub located on the ground floor, and British licensing laws appear to allow free flowing spirits until 2am Monday through Sunday! Actually, the pub-goers were not the issue, it was just the music that went on relentlessly into the wee hours that caused loss of sleep. I even had a little grizzle to the management about booking a family into the room above the pub, and requested a change of room – all to no avail. All they could do was help me search fruitlessly online for another hostel with eleven free beds to move to… but it appears we are required to put up with the noise for the week here. The free breakfast and wifi will help!
Treasure comes next, and we were truly awestruck by the Crown Jewels which are securely housed in an impressive-looking secure vault within the Tower of London. The opulence of the jewels is magnificent – crowns, sceptres, swords, goblets, maces, orbs, “punch bowls”….. however, the Royal Sceptre with its 530 carat diamond was so fascinating that it required us to jump back on the travelator that moves you slowly past the display of crowns and sceptres at least half a dozen times so we could take it all in. No pictures were allowed, nor would they do this display any justice – but if you ever get the chance DO check the Royal Jewels out! They SPARKLE.
We had started our visit to the Tower of London by taking a guided tour with one of the yeomen warders – aka a “beef-eater”. Our yeoman had served 23 years in the armed service before becoming a yeoman and was immensely proud of the tradition and heritage he was part of. He was also very witty and humorous and kept us all entertained and informed. The little children particularly enjoyed his style of unfolding the stories of the Tower and some of the history of the English kings and queens. The Tower certainly does have a gruesome and bloody history in parts; perhaps that was part of the fascination for the children!
We attended several “tours” and authentically-costumed and well-acted dramas, which were all fantastic. ERgirl6 even got to take part in one re-enactment of the escape of the Bishop of Durham from the Tower – stealing a purse of money with another young “thief” from the sleeping guards! Lboy11 was chosen to carry a sack of cabbages and all of us had to march and jeer and chant and get into the spirit of events of 1101 and 1588. We enjoyed the range of displays and informative presentations throughout the day and learnt learnt learnt so much…..stories of how executions occurred, details of how chimneys worked, toileting procedures, architecture info, how the rack and Scavenger’s Daughter worked, head preservation techniques, who lives in the tower today, how thick the walls are and how to become a yeoman…….legend has it that if the resident ravens leave the Tower, the monarchy will fall. Regardless of the accuracy of this superstition, today six ravens are carefully bred and housed at the Tower to squawk at the visitors.
Another favourite from the day was the Royal Armoury display. Fabulous suits of armour from as early as the 1500s, rows of matchlock and flintlock rifles, canons and archery sets filled room after room. There was also a wide range of informative and interactive displays that interested everyone from the youngest to the oldest – a memorable day that everyone enjoyed.
PS On the way to the Tower we zipped past Christopher Wren’s “The Monument”, a fantastic tower commemorating the fire of 1666. Pudding Lane, the site of the first spark from the baker’s shop was another must-see for us, but perhaps predictably, there is nothing more than a plaque on a wall now. Somewhat surreal to be here seeing the history we have read about come alive – that’s a treasure, not one bit torture and not a word of treason either. Now all we need is a good night’s sleep…
Tags: 2012, postcard: Spain