The Tower of London

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I can’t believe that I just went from Scotland to Geneva to Milan to Paris (almost) without stopping. Now that my weeks aren’t bookended with travel, I have had much more time to explore London without the semi-frantic finishing of homework and purchasing of travel-sized liquids that took over the past few weeks.

Today I went to the Tower of London, which is pictured above. That picture is kind of a lie, because I took it when Kara was here and the weather was magical. Today, however, it was STORMY looking outside. Before I jump into my day at the Tower, I should let you know that I really do have a normal life here! This is what I’ve been up to lately:

1. Getting caught in blizzards. It’s being doing this thing where it gets really summery and then suddenly it starts to snow/hail for about 5 minutes at time. Normal? I think not.

2. Not celebrating Pi day. The British think it’s quite irrational (ha!) to celebrate Pi day on March 14th. Why? Because July 22, which they would write as 22/7, is the more accurate way to represent Pi than “3.14.” Good call, England. Good call.

3. Seeing plays and not seeing plays. First I saw The Captain of Köpenick at the National Theater with my theater class, which I really enjoyed. Then, on Tuesday, I trekked to a small theater in East London to see Macbeth for class. This was after an already very long day. After an hour on the Tube and many other inconveniences we encountered trying to fit this into our day, we learned that the theater made a mistake and our tickets were actually reserved for Thursday. Some people refused to go back on Thursday, making for a rather empty theater.* I went back, but this time I left from my flat, meaning that it took a full 1 hour and 30 minutes and FOUR train lines to get there. I spent almost 5 hours on the Tube that day…all without a book! Ah! (If you’re wondering how the play was, I really couldn’t tell you. It was confusing and weird and this is a family-friendly blog, so there’s a lot that I am going to choose to not share with you. But do know that there were leotards. On men…)

4. NOW I can tell you all about the Tower of London. It is basically a fortress/castle. It used to be a royal residence, a prison, and a place of execution. Now, it’s open to the public and is also where the Crown Jewels are held, so that part is both functional and museum-y. It was SO COOL and requires subsections, so here goes:

4a. The Crown Jewels were SO SPECTACULAR. It literally hurt my eyes to look at them for too long. Visitors are led through the main room on a conveyor belt (I did it twice), past THE royal crowns, sceptres, orbs, rings and other diamond-encrusted objects used in coronations and other royal ceremonies. The room is actually a vault, and the Regalia (i’m pretty excited that I get to use that word) are taken out on an “as needed” basis, e.g.** Elizabeth II’s coronation…when she opens parliament…etc. Also, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen diamonds of multiple hundreds of carats, but they are very sparkly. Very very sparkly.

Also, yes, that was ORBS that I wrote before. If you look at portraits of Kings/Queens in their coronation garb, they are always holding an orb! It’s basically a gold ball that represents Christ’s dominion over the world. Elizabeth I is on the left with all the same regalia that the current queen, Elizabeth II, has in her picture on the right. Note the orb. I just feel like it’s a widely overlooked piece of Regalia. I know I never noticed it before, and everyone has to love the word “orb.”

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4b. The Tower of London also served as a prison and execution grounds for some of history’s biggest names, including Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Thomas More. These figures were all too special for public executions, so they were executed inside tower walls on a little patch of grass in front of a little chapel, where they were then buried (Anne Boleyn is under the altar, but I think everyone else is deep below the chapel. They liked to hide their traitors.) Any public executions took place outside of the Tower walls on Tower Hill, which is uncomfortably now a Tube stop. The last execution at the Tower was of a German Spy in 1941; please do gasp as the recency.

4c. Medieval torture devices are gross.

4d. There are ravens–with clipped wings–all over the Tower grounds. They are huge and scary but very necessary to the experience.

4e. The guards are called Beefeaters! How great is that! Perhaps an origin of Roald Dahl’s “fleshlumpeaters” in The BFG?

4f. Definitely a history-coming-alive type of experience. I keep saying to myself, “I stood where _______ stood! I am seeing where _____ was beheaded!” I almost feel like these people were too important to have commoners trampling all over their lives. There’s nothing else quite like a bunch of hotdog-eating tourists taking iPhone pictures of the site of your execution, is there?

*More accurately, “basement.”

**If you love grammar too: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ie-eg-oh-my.aspx

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