26 February 2011 (Saturday) - The Tower of London

A very restless night – I woke several times convinced I could hear crashing noises. At one point (5.30am) I think it might have been next door’s dogs having a scrap, but I could have been dreaming. I’m sure that I was dreaming about ‘er indoors TM renting out the back bedroom as a delivery suite to itinerant midwives, and I’m hoping that I was dreaming about ‘er indoors TM swapping the parrot for four assorted mangy mutts, all of which were continually biting me on the chuff.
So when finally got up at 7.30am I was feeling less than refreshed. I quickly checked my emails before the Rear Admiral arrived, and then the two of us set off to the Kiln Café for a spot of fry-up. Very nice!

And then to the train station where we met up with Matt. ‘er indoors TM showed up whilst we were queuing for tickets. You have to admire the staff selling tickets. If you ask for four tickets to London on the high-speed train, that’s what they will sell you. If however you ask for four *saver* tickets to London on the high-speed train, that’s what they will sell you at half the price. They are quite happy to give the discount – they just won’t tell you that it exists. You have to ask for it.
Suitable equipped with half price train tickets we made our way to St Pancreas’ (the patron saint of endocrine glands) station where we went for the underground trains. Lacking any instructions, I made my way to the Northern line because that’s the one I go on the most. Matt then asked if I knew where I was going. My answer was “Yes – the Tower of London”. However Matt had asked the wrong question. He should have asked if I was getting the right underground line to the Tower of London. It didn’t take us long to find we needed the Circle line and despite a pair of mating duckies on the train (how sweet!) we were soon at Tower Bridge station. The Rear Admiral had a fag, I had an ice cream, and we made our way to the ticket office.

There’s money to be saved at the Tower of London’s ticket office too. Read the prices carefully. Then read them again. The prices they were quoting included a “voluntary” donation of £1.70. Once you know that you can opt not to pay it. We did exactly that; not because we begrudged the £1.70, but because we thought it a cheek on their part. Also, if you go to the Tower on the train and wave your train tickets at the staff selling tickets to the Tower of London, they give you half price admission if you ask for it. They won’t offer it or suggest it to you, but if you ask for it, they’ll let you have it.
Having so far saved nearly seventeen quid each, sometimes it pays to be a cheapskate.

And so into the Tower. In many ways it was like any other castle or historic monument. But it was *so* crowded. If it was that busy on a wet day in February, I’d hate to be there in the summer.
First of all we walked around the walls, and popped into various towers on the way. It was relatively interesting, but every step of the way I could imagine the reaction that the place would have evoked from the most recent fruit of my loin (who had chosen to give the day a miss). She wouldn’t have liked it.
As we walked round, I overheard an interesting conversation between two rather dim Americans. They were studying a diagram of the genealogy of the Royal Family. “Hi-ram” was explaining to “Hoi-but” that the forthcoming Royal Wedding wasn’t a Royal Wedding at all, but a ruse by the Middleton family to usurp the Crown. Having gone into detail in outlining his theory to anyone who could hear, “Hi-ram” then announced that he didn’t understand the rules of succession. That didn’t come as a surprise.
We met “Hi-ram” and “Hoi-but” later when they were astonished (and rather offended) to find that a Norman eleventh century map of the known world didn’t have the Americas on it at all. Bless!

We then joined the queue to see the Crown Jewels. Here we exemplified what being British is all about: queuing in the rain for hours without a word of complaint whilst all sorts of foreigners push in front of you. As the queue slowly moved on we saw no end of signs forbidding photography. Why on Earth could we not take photographs? After all, there are pictures of all the stuff freely available in Google images.
We eventually got to see the crowns and orbs and sceptres and the anointing spoon, and whilst they were impressive, I don’t think they were worth the wait. Whilst going past the Imperial State Crown we were moved along on a travelator. I can’t help but think the Tower should have those everywhere – it would certainly chivvy people along.

We then paused to photograph a raven before vooming round the White tower and the Bloody tower. The Bloody tower was rather disappointing. And then we were peckish, so we left the Tower and walked up the road to the nearest Wetherspoons – the “Liberty Bounds” where we met up with Terry and a pint of porter. We chatted over a dinner of meat pudding and another dark beer, and then I made the mistake of having jam roly-poly for dessert. Oh, I felt stuffed. As we all chatted I dozed a bit.

Seeing how our train tickets were also valid on the buses we took a bus to Covent Garden. I shamelessly played tourist, enjoying all the sights. Once at Covent Garden we said goodbye to Terry, and almost immediately bumped into another pair of friends.
We then went to the “colonial shop”: a wonderful place selling stuff from what was once parts of the British Empire. I very nearly bought a box of Fruit Loops – I remembered those from two Canadian holidays. But at over six quid for a box of cereals, I thought better of the idea. I consoled myself with a rather good seasonal fruits ice-cream from the nearby ice-cream shop. We then mooched round Covent Garden for a while before making our way slowly back to St Pancras. On our way we found a very good model shop, and utterly failed to find the Bree Louise (my current favourite London pub).

All things considered we had a very good day in the wicked city. We should do it again….

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