I weighed what I wanted to do today carefully; I only have one more off day before I return. I considered the British Museum, but decided instead to see the Tower of London and Kensington Garden.
I really enjoyed the tour of the London Tower. William the Conqueror built the original section, the White Tower, about 950 years ago, and it’s been added onto bit by bit over the centuries. There are still a lot of places where you can see the original Norman construction, but there are also a lot of places where it’s changed.
I started off with a “Yeoman Warder’s” tour, given by Sergeant Simon in a navy and red Beefeater uniform. He was both funny and informative, giving us the history of the complex, and how it grew and changed over time. He told us that he actually lived in the Tower, and told us about some off the prisoners of the tower. He ended on a serious note, mentioning how Rudolph Hess had been held there briefly. He then went on to say that he had guarded Hess himself earlier in his career, and knew that he never regretted his Nazism. Paraphrasing, he said,
I know, because I talked to the gentleman. He was very well spoken. But because I was educated, I knew my history, and I knew some things he didn’t know. Nowadays, people want to forget their history, because they find that historical figures don’t live up to their current ideals. But I’m human, and historical people were human too, and had their failings. But it doesn’t mean we want to forget about them, and not learn from history, because sometime in the future, someone even more evil will come along, and we won’t recognize it.
After the tour ended, he showed us where the Crown Jewels and Royal Regalia was, and we were on our own. It was fascinating — you could actually see the crowns worn by the British monarchs. (it was also interesting that the areas in front of the crowns used a moving sidewalk to keep people moving). Photography wasn’t allowed in that building, but it was everywhere else. The original White Tower is surrounded by two additional sets of walls that were added in the middle ages, and you can walk along the inner ramparts and look both inside the complex, and back out at the outside wall.
I spent a fair amount of time inside the White Tower itself. Originally the home of he very early Norman kings, it gradually became an armory, and they have a very large exhibition of armor on display there, most of it from the 16th and 17th centuries, when it had been on display as part of a display of Kings.
The self guided tour ends at the Bloody Tower, where Richard III was supposed to have had his two nephews murdered. Did he? We don’t know for sure. We do know a couple of child skeletons were found a couple of centuries later walled up inside a passageway.
From the Tower, I headed towards the Tower Bridge. The day was getting on, so I didn’t tour the bridge; I just wanted to walk partway across it and take some pictures.
The second part of my plan for the day was to visit Kensington Gardens. It’s actually a huge park. It’s grassy, with trees that are just starting to turn colors, and there’s a big pond in the center, By this point, it was getting late in the day, and it’s was dark and overcast.
I hadn’t planned to visit it, but it turns out Kensington Palace is right next to the Garden, and it’s partly open to the public (and partly private living quarters) I was able to quickly tour George II’s rooms, those of his Queen, Caroline, as well as Queen Anne, Queen Mary and Queen Victoria’s quarters. It was interesting to contrast the relative modernity of Kensington Palace with the London Tower I’d just seen.
By the time I finished the Palace, it was around 5:30, and i was both hungry and in pain; my feet are not my friends at the moment. So I had dinner, then headed back to the apartment to catch up. Overall, I feel better about today than I did about yesterday; I got to see what I intended to. I expect to be busy with work this week, and I don’t know what I’ll be able to do after work. I believe we’re going out one night, and I have to do laundry one night. That leaves next Saturday as my last day to see stuff.