Thursday, October 09, 2014

Thursday: Towers and Tombs

I didn't realize Rob was
taking my picture.
Once Rob was feeling better, our trip became all I could have hoped it would be, except for the incredible amount of pain I was in at the end of each day’s walk.  Thursday morning, we woke up to a little rain but I was optimistic because it didn’t look or feel like it would be a lot of rain.  I am happy to say that I was right.  We took the Underground to London Tower, once again able to follow the signs to our destination which was a short walk away.

I won’t bore you with the history of the Tower too much.  Suffice it to say, parts of it are very old while other parts are more contemporary, by which I mean they are still 100s of years old.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the first World War.  Between 5 August and 11 November, there is a special installation that is still growing even as you read this. There are porcelain poppies being planted, one for each British soldier who died in the war.  They are each handmaid, unique as the soldiers who fell somewhere in Europe during the so-called Great War.   You can learn more about it here. Rob and I ordered a one of the poppies as the perfect memento of our visit, something unique, specific to this visit.  Had we gone in July, we wouldn’t have seen this stunning installation.  And a few weeks from now, the flowers will be gone but one will find its way to the United States and we will put it someplace special.

There is a place where you
literally walk under
a wave of poppies.

I’ve said before that our timing has been impeccable and, once again, this held true.  We went to the crown jewels and there were only three other people in the room with us.  We were able to read the detailed information about the crowns and then step on the slow travellator to admire the sparkly prettiness.  There aren’t a lot of crowns but they are not all there is to admire and, because we were alone in the room, we went on the moving floor more than once.  Of course, I had to stop to look at the pretty sword and other things, marveled at the huge salt cellar shaped like a palace, and more.  It’s amazing Rob was able to get me out of there, all things considered. 

We walked all over the Tower, exploring the torture dungeons (although not a lot of tortures occurred there) and the courtyard where three queens were beheaded:  Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard (one of Rob’s ancestors), and Jane Grey.  If you go to the Tower, be prepared to do a lot of walking, up and down narrow steps, along the Tower walls, and more.  Walking through the narrow corridors, exploring the royal armoury, including a quirky dragon made from medieval weapons and armour.  (I loved the dragon.  It was so weird and random.)  There are some interactive features for children which I enjoyed in spite of my age. 

This guy was at least
6 ft tall.
Remember what I said about some of the pigeons being unusually large?  Well, the ravens at the Tower of London were enormous.  There is a legend that, if the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall but that doesn’t explain why they are so huge! 

We left the Tower and decided to have lunch after the next leg on our day.  Before leaving for London, I had found an old cemetery, Tower Hamlets Cemetery, that was originally opened in the 19th century and closed for burials in the 60s.  Rob and I weren’t looking for famous burials so much as a simple cemetery with old tombstones.  The choice was perfect. 

I could not have anticipated the emotional experience of visiting the cemetery.  The gravesites were so tightly packed some of the tombstones that had started falling over would knock another askew.  In some places, the tombstones had toppled onto one another.  Others were overgrown with ivy or covered in moss.  It was all so beautiful but also very sad because I couldn’t help thinking about how 100 or more years ago someone had loved another person enough to have them buried and a tombstone carved yet, over time, the descendants either moved away or forgot about this person’s resting place, leaving it to fall into decay. 

Falling stones.
It was tragic and beautiful, a reminder of the impermanence of life and death.

We headed back  to the hotel, long after I wanted to eat, and dropped off the things I had picked up at the Tower before heading off to Chimes, a wonderful pub where we had our first fully gratifying meal.  Rob had Shepherd’s Pie and I had Bangers and Mash.  We finished it off with a perfect Bread and Butter pudding which we were supposed to share but which Rob practically inhaled.  I highly encourage anyone interested in a lovely pub food experience to go to Chimes. 

Back at the hotel room, I took a nap.  It was such a lovely, full day, I could have stayed in the room and be content but we went out for dinner.  We chose a Turkish restaurant where Rob had some lamb and I had a salmon and pasta dish.  Truth is, we weren’t there for the main course so much as for the dessert because I had been wanting Turkish baklava for decades.  (I am not exaggerating.  I haven’t had any since I was 16 and it was amazing!)  Turkish baklava is made with pistachio nuts and the honey is lighter, more subtle, than in Greek baklava which is made with walnuts.  Rob ordered some baklava for himself to take it back to our room, it was that delicious.

In an odd way, this Thursday was perhaps the best day of our trip.  But it wasn’t our last and there was still fun to be had.  A lot more fun to be had.


  1. The tower was one of my favorites. I was disappointed that I couldn't go there with my son when we went a couple of years ago. We were with a school group and we just got to drive by. My husband and I both enjoyed going there 20 years ago.

    1. Betty, I know how disappointing that must have been because I would have loved to share parts of this trip with my children. The Tower is definitely one place I would want to take everyone I love. Hmmm . . . that sounds wrong, all things considered.

    2. It does sound a little wrong. I think it is just a place with so much history! The class trip was more concerned with a ride on the London Eye. The line was very long so a few of us skipped it and went to some other things in the area.

    3. Betty, that's so funny. According to our initial itinerary, we were supposed to take a car tour and part of that day's tour included a ride on the London Eye but neither Rob nor I wanted to go on it. He took a picture. That was enough for him. And I'm glad my posts about the trip are enjoyable. Not nearly as much fun as I had, obviously, but I know how much fun it can be to live vicariously.

  2. Satia, wonderful photos, again! I'm glad you were able to enjoy some great food, including Turkish baklava.

    1. We actually had great food the next day too. And what you're seeing is not even 1/10 of what we took!

  3. The Tower was another big site we missed, although I did get to see the outside with the poppies on our bus tour. Thanks for sharing your day there!

    1. Weren't the poppies gorgeous? I am still in awe of that installation and think it was a beautiful and appropriate choice.