Friday, July 3, 2015

London Day 3: The Tower of London, St. Paul's, olde pubs and Rumbelow’s Ripper

England Day 8

London Day 3:  On today’s agenda:  The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, a pub crawl in the City. 

We deliberately got an early start today.  We arrived at the Tower before the ticket offices even opened.  It was only 5 minutes, but still that’s pretty good on vacation!  We used our 2 4 1 and saved 20GBP.  

I hustled husband and nephew to the Crown Jewels.  There were some 10 people ahead of us.  This display is now sponsored by DeBeers and was redone for the Queen’s last Jubilee.  It’s very nicely done.  The history fit right into what we’d learned at Windsor Castle.  The Jewels are magnificent.  We were able to see them unobstructed and at leisure for the first two passes.  I was the last person on one moving walkway that had just ceased moving so I could take my time looking at the Jewels.  Unbelievably beautiful pieces. 

Entrance to the Crown Jewels

We finished looking at the ceremonial tableware and were amazed at the size of the punch bowl.  Then back out into the yard.  We saw the guards doing a bit of a march, took some photos, and headed to the Yeoman Warder Tour.  

The crowd really grew in the 10 minutes we waited for it to start.  It was a good (not great) tour.  It was very crowded which wasn’t really a problem as I kept to the front.  Less entertaining were the Warder’s  jokes about how un-engaged the crowd was which mostly fell flat (he wasn’t hilarious).  It was slightly off-putting and needy on his behalf.  He shone, however, in the Chapel, which can only be seen on a Warder tour.  So for that it was definitely worth doing the Warder tour. 

It was now around 11am and we were hungry so we grabbed snacks in the café and relaxed for a bit.  The next order of business was the White Tower.  Lots of climbing to very interesting sights.  I liked the horses and armor display.  It was crowded but not unbearably so.  An hour max inside.  Well worth the time. 

The White Tower 
Not so great photo of Tower Bridge
We took the exit nearest the Tower Bridge and had our photo ops.  Nephew and husband didn’t to cross it or do the Experience.  I had originally wanted to cross and walk on the Southside to Borough Market, Southwark Cathedral, on our way to the Millennium Bridge to get to St. Paul’s Cathedral.   Instead, we decided to catch the bus to St. Paul’s.  As we walked to the nearest bus stop (hoping to catch an old Routemaster), I noticed restaurants and shops on the right.  We walked through a modern building’s pretty lobby and came out to wharves, docked boats, restaurants and loads of people enjoying the sun.   That’s when I realized we were at St. Katherine Docks.  We’d certainly like to spend more time there on a subsequent trip.  

While waiting for the bus we could see we’d just missed a Routemaster since it was stuck in traffic.  The traffic was really not moving so we took the tube to St. Paul’s and I’m sure got there faster than that snarl.  It seemed like all the City workers were on their lunch breaks and sunning themselves in the courtyards and on the steps at St. Paul’s.  It was actually hard to find a path through the crowds to get inside the Cathedral!

We paid our entrance fee (using the 2 4 1 again) and signed up for the 2pm tour.  We had maybe 20 minutes to wait so nephew napped while husband and I walked around with the audio guide.  At 2pm, the tour guides broke those of us waiting into two groups and off we went with Linda.  This was our second time at St. Paul’s but our first tour.  Linda was charming and the tour was fantastic.  We started at the geometric staircase, which you can only see on a tour, and ended in the crypt by the Churchill monument.  We found the stained glass window representing the state of Louisiana in the American Chapel.  Linda was intrigued by the pelican feeding her three young and said it was a Christian symbol.   Husband pointed out the statues of Sir. Edward Pakenham and Samuel Gibbs who died at the Battle of New Orleans.  Linda said she’d passed those statues numerous times and now was motivated to learn more about them.  It was an interesting and comprehensive tour which helped me appreciate this magnificent Cathedral so much more. 

We decided against climbing to the Whispering Gallery so went ahead and spent some money in the gift shop.  It was closing time at St. Paul’s and time for our pub tour! 

This was one of husband’s few requests.  He told me he wanted to visit some of the old historic pubs in the City of London and mentioned the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.  I did a google maps search and came up with 6 pubs close to each other starting from St. Paul’s: The Old Bell Tavern, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, The Old Bank of England, Ye Olde Mitre Pub, Cittie of York and The Princess Louise.  We started at the cozy Old Bell Tavern and were served our beers by Al Murray.  We didn’t know who he was (googled him later) but everyone in the pub was snapping pictures with him.  We watched some tennis and nephew got a burger and fries.  We liked this pub. 

Old Bell Tavern history
Al Murray served us beers
Pretty Old Bank of England pub
Next stop was Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.  We walked in, looked around and decided not to stay; I can’t remember why.  We then went to the Old Bank of England and I really liked how open and expansive this space was.  It was pretty crowded but we stayed for a drink because they were serving Pimm’s Cups.  While here we decided we’d go on the 730pm London Walks Jack-the-Ripper tour which started back at Tower Hill tube station.  It was still early so we went to our next pub, Ye Olde Mitre.   

The Ye Olde Mitre was not as hard to find as I had expected.  It was very crowded in the alley but inside we were able to grab a table.  It was another cozy old pub.  We liked it a lot.  Unfortunately they didn’t serve food (husband and I were getting hungry) but we did enjoy our beers and the atmosphere.   

We left and headed out to find the nearest tube station and with the help of locals and their smartphones, made it to Tower Hill for the tour about 15 minutes early.  I was excited to see that it was Mr. Donald Rumbelow who would be leading the tour!  We had a little time so went to the Liberty Bounds Pub to use the facilities.  Nephew and husband lingered to watch the end of a tennis match, I think it was Federer.   When we got back to Tower Hill station, there were many more people gathered for the tour.  Mr. Rumbelow was signing his book and, of course, we bought one too. 

The tour was excellent.  No frills, just great descriptions of what occurred.  Mr. Rumbelow painted excellent pictures of the time period, particularly the people and how they lived, the compartmentalized police forces and how that allowed the killer to escape detection and capture; and the theories of who Jack might have been (some very outlandish!).  We hit all the major spots, he stood on a stool and talked.  It was a great way to spend two hours.  I think this tour would be even better in twilight or dark conditions.
Husband and nephew paying attention

Mr. Rumbelow lecturing
We ended close to Liverpool station and decided to head back to the apartment (nephew was done at this point).  We left him to relax and went back to Maverick Pizza and Cocktails for dinner.  It was good again.   

Since we had not walked enough this day, lol, we went looking for Westminster Arms pub which had been our “local” in 2011.  We didn’t have a map but thought we could get there.  After about 30 minutes walking in what we thought was the right direction, we decided to turn back.  We passed a couple of neat looking pubs not far from the St. James tube station but just went back to the apartment for a good night’s sleep.  We were tired but happy from another fabulous day in London! 

Next:  No goes, Parliament, Sekara again

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