"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Blues

After a couple hours at the Tower of London it was now in the early afternoon of Day One of me being in London.  (Jon had been there several days for work reasons before I arrived.)
I was on day two in the same clothes and was starting to feel a little sick to my stomach.
Like I mentioned in my post about getting there, I did get some sleep on the overnight flight but it wasn't quality rest.  A cold sweaty fatigue was setting in.

We took the DLR- Docklands Light Rail - to our hotel and quickly slipped into a nice deep sleep nap for a couple hours.

--As a side note, I was a little disappointed at first when I heard the location of the hotel.  Plans had changed a bit for work and it ended up being farther out than the more central hotel we had previously booked.  It ended up giving me a broader picture of greater London, though.  
As a "Call the Midwife" fan, I was happy to see the Poplar train stop and see first-hand how the area had been redeveloped.--

Back on the train and 20 minutes later we were at St. Paul's Cathedral.  

The present church dates back to the late 17th Century and is dedicated to the Apostle Paul, as was the original church founded on this site in AD 604.

Six - Zero - Four, people.  Just three numbers.  
Man this city is old.

**I never got a great shot of the exterior, so here's one I'm borrowing from the internet.**

The church was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the renowned architect who painted London's skyline with spires from the dozens of churches and buildings he designed and rebuilt.

**Photography indoors was not allowed so both of the following photos were borrowed as well.**

Maybe you recognize this from watching Princess Diana and Prince Charles' wedding?
Funeral services for Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill were also held here.

We climbed 4,263 (ok not really) spiraling steps into the dome but the view was worth it. (Again, not our view per se but cameras were a no-no.)

St. Paul's cathedral was not draped in darkening stained glass but instead was bright and light.  The science of the architecture during the Age of Enlightenment was beautifully reflected in the columns and arches. A couple hundred years after the cathedral was built, Queen Victoria, who wasn't a fan of Wren and preferred a more ornate style, requested some gold and stained glass.  So one wing is pretty blingy, you could say.

After we descended all the way to the crypt -- a large floor that included the tomb of London's naval hero Sir Nelson, we decided to climb more steps.  This time they were on the outside of the dome.

100% WORTH IT.


The time for tours ended so we decided to have dinner and then come back for the evensong service in the cathedral.

We had a delightful meal at Strada, an Italian restaurant right across the road. Our wine, a salice, was a refreshing discovery and service was excellent.

After staying a while for the boys choir and evensong service, we started back toward the train and enjoyed our surroundings.

Check out the names of these establishments:

We walked along the Thames toward the Tower Bridge so we could get more up close and personal with it.  The view that morning from the Tower of London was great, but there was more to see.

The blue is killing me.
Like the blue doors in the Tower, the blue beams of the bridge were such an joyful surprise.

Look at the archway!  This is the architectural equivalent of polka-dotted underpants under a sophisticated dress.
"I see London, I see France. I see Bridgie's underpants!"
(I miiight have stayed up a little too late writing this post...)

Even this humble fishing boat was painted in the happy blue.  (Carolina blue? Nah...)

After over 10 miles on our feet, Day One of our Anniversary Trip to London came to a close. 
I know I didn't do it justice, but some things in life just aren't meant to described.  

Experiencing London is an event in life that I know I'm fortunate to have had, though, so I want to bring everyone along with me as I go back on this trip in my memory.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tower of London

Upon exiting the tube stop for Tower Hill, this was the first thing I saw: the Tower of London.
William the Conquerer began building "The White Tower" in the 1070's.

(The best way to view these photos is to click on one and then move through them in while they are in a larger size.)

The crosses in the wall you see are called arrow-slits, thin apertures in the wall through which archers can shoot arrows.  

The grassy area is what was once the moat. When the tower was built, there were no skyscrapers or tall bridges.  It was meant to be an intimidating presence perched right on the banks of the Thames.
It's said that you could smell the tower before you could see it, though.  Moats didn't hold the freshest of water!

Starting the trip at the tower was a perfect introduction to London.  There was no build-up, only immediate immersion.

The Tower Bridge is just beyond the fortress.

I'll share more about the bridge another time, but it's quite impressive, is it not?

It is 800 years younger than the Tower of London, by the way.  
Hardly what we think of as a modern structure, but age is relative.

The contrasts that seem to flow flawlessly throughout the landscape of London is part of what makes experiencing the city stay fresh and interesting.

Before London was the city it is today, it had to become the world force that it was.
The Tower is home to countless suits of armor for horses and men, weaponry, and cannons.

Armor of Henry VIII (The one with all the wives, many of whom he had murdered.)

Armor of Henry, Prince of Wales, around age 13.

The Tower was home to the National Mint and of course held prisoners, some of whom were grotesquely tortured.  

It was sometimes difficult to take photos inside the buildings because the castle wasn't exactly light and airy.  (This winding staircase contained windows.) 
Also, there were times when photography was either not permitted or felt disrespectful.

Check out the hands on the spokes of the wheel of this ceremonial cannon.

 This tower contains the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

Photos were strictly prohibited but here's a glimpse of the interior.  I liked this area way more than Jonathan did.  The opposite was true for viewing rows and rows of cannons, though.

Members of the Royal Guard are stationed at the Tower of London and live and work inside it's gates.

Some areas, like this beautiful row of administrative offices, are restricted to government officials and employees only.

I loved the bright blue doors and red geraniums against the old brick.

I'm not going to do an exhaustive post on the history of the Tower of London (there are videos on Netflix if you're interested), but another fact I'll mention is that it was also home to a zoo for many years.
When foreign dignitaries visited, they often brought exotic animals as gifts.  They had lions, elephants, eagles, and many, many more.
Officials decided to create a menagerie for the Tower's visitors to enjoy.  In leu of an admission fee, visitors could bring a dog to feed the animals.

The polar bear was tied to a rope and let loose to swim in the Thames and hunt for fish!

 They eventually closed the menagerie because the animals were expensive, a nuisance to the fortress, and you know, kept getting loose and killing people.

The Tower of London has evolved countless times over the years, yet still remains timeless.
Although it is no longer the imposing force that it once was, its importance in Western history can never be erased.

(Walking along the Thames by the Tower)

For a city of people still surrounded by their past, it's abundantly clear that Londoners are not scared to blaze new futures.