Getting off the train at Euston we (Lady Hughes and myself) jumped a tube on the Northern Line to Bank Station, planning to walk the rest of the way to the Tower of London. Climbing the stairs from Bank underground station into the bright sunlight, we found ourselves in the heart of London’s financial district just next to the Bank of England in fact. Surrounded by the powerhouses of the British economy I had only one thought – I need to pee.
I really need to pee.
My mission became a frantic quest for a toilet and to my dismay and desperation, here in the centre of London there was nothing. You see it’s Saturday and this part of London apparently shuts down on a Saturday. Every Starbucks and Costa Coffee we found was shut, there were no public toilets and the one coffee shop we did find open, didn’t have any loos – lying %@&#’s!
In the end we sprinted all the way to Liverpool Street station where we found a McDonalds – aaaah, that’s better.
Finally relieved, we set off on foot for the Tower of London.
Situated by the Thames just next to Tower Bridge, the Tower of London was started by the conquering Normans and has been expanded and developed through the centuries to work as a fortress, palace, prison, royal mint, barracks, armoury and even a zoo!
At present it is, of course, the world’s oldest tourist attraction – apparently.
We decided to go down because Clare had never been and I hadn’t been since I was a child. Also there’s a special exhibition on, to commemorate the centenary of the start of World War One, which has a porcelain poppy for every British soldier killed, planted in the moat, surrounding the whole site. The poppies are still being planted but there are already thousands of them spilling out from a window and reaching up over the entrance like a huge red wave.
Fighting our way through the crowds we made our way into the grounds and almost immediately spotted someone we recognised. Bill Callaghan is one of the Yeoman of the Guard, or Beefeaters as they’re known. I know him from his brilliant YouTube clip where he gives a more entertaining introduction to the history of the Tower as well as frightening all the children present and putting a group of unruly Aussie kids in their place. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the link, it’s brilliant.
Billy posed for a picture and told us all about the video and what happened on the day. He was charming and entertaining and it was a real treat to meet him – the man’s a star!
I won’t bore you with all the things to see at the Tower but it really is a full day and great if, like me, you love a bit of history – especially if it involves gruesome recollections of various tortures and executions.
Highlights for us were the Chapel Royal (Where Anne Boleyn is buried – another highly entertaining tour, by Beefeater ‘Shady’ this time), Scaffold Site, Medieval Palace, Beauchamp Tower and the Crown Jewels of course. Those were our favourites but there’s much more.
The only irritation was shuffling round various exhibits being knocked around by various children and people with no knowledge of the gentle art of queuing. At times I wondered if some people thought the aim was to get round everything as fast as possible like some sort of mini grand prix. This was, however, to be expected I suppose and we managed to avoid the worst of the queues so all went well. My tip – get there early and get into the crown jewels first, as that queue seemed to get longer throughout the day.
All in all, a great day out and a lovely ride back to Manchester on the Virgin Pendalino train – quick plug there in case Richard Branson gets this and fancies giving me a few freebies.