Day Two – London

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Tower Bridge on a Sunny Friday Morning

 

 

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The Shard
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Another portion of the old London Wall
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You can walk the outline of where the London Wall used to stand and see parts and pieces of it. I was going to walk an hour’s worth at the end of my trip but I was just too worn out.

Growing up in the country, I have never been used the sounds of the city and wasn’t all that sure how I’d do sleeping in London. But I slept like a log, and the first thing I noticed when I woke up was, not the sound of traffic, horns, voices, subways, or sirens, but the chorus of birdsong filling the air with their sweet voices.

 

After a quick breakfast at the hotel, I made my way to a little shop that sold Scandinavian food. It has now been 17 years since the last time I was in Norway, but looking at the brand names and types of food took me right back. It was very tempting to buy a tin of leverpostej or kaviar, but I knew I couldn’t eat them all in one setting and didn’t have any way to keep them cold and couldn’t bear the thought of throwing it away half-eaten. I did find a treasure-trove of salty licorice though and bought a couple of my favourites.

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ScandiKitchen – Café and groceries

 

Then it was on to the Tower of London. I had an hour to explore before there was a tour lead by a Yeoman Warder (aka Beefeater) and managed to make my way through most of the towers of the outside wall area. Each area was set up in either different eras or to show a different part or aspect of the Tower’s history. I was quickly realizing the 3 hours recommended for the site was not going to cover everything! I would catch the highlights, though. I made my way through the medieval palace that was once residence to Kings and learned about what life was like then, through some of the places prisoners were kept awaiting their execution and why they were held there, what the guards wore and how they defended the Tower and from whom, the Royal Beasts – a sort of zoo that was kept there of strange and exotic animals from around the world given by dignitaries over 600 years, life during WWI, the chapel, and the crown jewels. The Yeoman Warder tour was very enjoyable – he kept everyone laughing and made history come alive. I found everything was well done to keep the interest for the young and old alike.

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Prisoners of the tower would carve things into the wall – either their defense, their devotion, or simply their initials. In the lower right side you can see the year 1630

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Half-timbered housing made up some of the palace residence
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I loved all these old doors

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This was the medieval St Thomas Tower built under Edward I in the late 1200’s. This was the King’s Hall

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Some interesting brickwork in between the timbers.
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A reconstruction of Edward I’s chambers.  Henry VIII had the tower updated and it would later become a home for the soldiers and later the Deputy Governor.

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The chapel off of the King’s chamber
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Wakefield Tower – Henry III’s palace from 1220

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The small chapel where Henry VI was murdered during the War of the Roses

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The White Tower, and down in the bottom you will see the homes of the famous Tower Ravens. There have been a group of ravens here since before history is recorded and it is said that if the ravens left the Tower would fall.
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View of The Gherkin from the Tower wall

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So this is what chain mail is like! I’ve always wondered what it felt like and how it moved with the person wearing it, and how heavy it was.
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Part of the courtyard within the Tower walls. Some of these houses were where the Queens awaited their executions. Theirs were usually a more private affair within the courtyard instead of a public one outside the walls on the hillside so everyone could attend.
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The Yeoman Warder spinning his tales. Yeoman Warders are ceremonial guardians of the tower and need to have had at least 22 years of service with the armed services and had good conduct during that time. They are known as beefeaters because during the lean years when the regular population didn’t have much to eat, the guards were always ensured a portion of meat.
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Guarding the Crown Jewels
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About to enter in, and time to shut off the camera as no photography is allowed inside. I guess you’ll have to see this portion for yourself in person!

 

After leaving the Tower, I grabbed a lunch from a nearby Pret A Manger (a healthy fast food chain with sandwiches, wraps, and snacks available, some of which are dairy-free) and made my way down the street to The Monument to the Great Fire of 1666.

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Between the mile-long line and the 311 steps one way, I wasn’t going to enjoy the views from the top, but I bet they would have been excellent on a day like to day.
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The Monument marks the place where the fire broke out on Pudding Street. It burned for 3 days and destroyed much of the city within the walls, including the original St. Paul’s. Many of the churches, and this monument as well, were rebuilt by the designs of Christopher Wren.

 

I caught the bus to the house of Charles Dickens and enjoyed a self-guided tour there. I had never stopped to think about the man behind the words much, and this gave great insight as to who he was as a person. His younger years were fairly idyllic in Kent, but when he was 11 his family’s fortunes declined and his father was thrown into debtor’s prison. Charles began working at the age of 12 under harsh conditions and 10 hour days pasting labels on jars of boot blacking. His family’s situation improved and he was able to return to school eventually, but this traumatic time always remained with him even though he never revealed this portion of his past to anyone save his wife and 1 close friend. In his adulthood he loved to entertain company and his writings were well-received during his lifetime.

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The dining room – I thought this curved wall neat.

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They had the overmantle that Catherine Dickens was embroidering in this portrait on display there.
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Kitchen in the basement
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Laundry drying
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Charles Dickens’ library
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Can’t you picture him labouring over his writing here?

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From there I caught another bus on to Hampstead Heath to the house in which John Keats boarded.

St. Pancras Train Station, and beautiful Hampstead Heath

In contrast to Dickens seeing the fruits of his labour, John Keats felt he was a failure in his work, and it wasn’t until after his death at age 25 that his poetry became well-known and he is now considered one of the finest poets in history. He had trained to be a physician but poetry was his real passion. Most of his writings took place while he was at this house, and it was here that he met and fell in love with Fanny Brawne. Unable to make a living from his work, he felt unworthy to marry her and tragically died from tuberculosis at a young age.

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From this view he could watch Fanny working in the garden

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“To Autumn” – one of my favourites
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The house that was rented out was divided into 2 parts. The Brawnes lived in one half, and Charles Brown and John Keats in the other. This was Fanny’s room.

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Back view of the house. The 1 storey portion with the solarium was added later in the 1800’s
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More of Hampstead Heath. I think out of any of the boroughs I visited, this was my favourite part of London.

 

After pausing in a secret garden for an espresso and slice of dairy-free banana bread, I continued down to Camden Town and stopped at the market there. It was bustling with people in its warren of tunnels and alleys and I saw some interesting things. One of the buildings used to be horse stables and had some pretty neat carving. My main objective was to find Cookies and Scream – a vegan (and therefore dairy-free) shop known for their cookie ice-cream sandwiches and milkshakes.

Friday nights the Victoria and Albert Museum is open late so I headed there next. I only had opportunity to visit the Medieval and Renaissance collection and the Fashion collection as it would take several days to have seen it all.  Here are a few highlights:

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The exterior of the museum

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Ceremonial armour

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Regency era clothing
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Edwardian era clothing
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Pre-Norman era buckle
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1350 Missal from the Abbey of Saint-Denis in Paris.

 

I enjoyed supper at a nearby Leon – another healthy “fast food” chain that specializes in different dietary requirements. And that is the end of another day.

2 thoughts on “Day Two – London

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