Hi readers! Tony here! I’m guest blogging again because I know you just can’t get enough of me. Plus also Min is making sausage rolls out of leftovers (with just three sleeps to go until we start our journey home again, we’re eating down the fridge…)
When we first arrived, we had three days in London. On our first full day here, we had grand plans that were rudely interrupted, which meant that I didn’t manage to show Toby a couple of things I really thought he’d enjoy. So today we decided to make the most of our dwindling time here in the UK, and that he and I would head up to London for the day. Our original plan was to get there bright and early, catching a 7.45 train to get into town at 8.50, so that we could be at our first destination when it opened at 9.00. With this in mind, I duly hauled my sleep loving son out of bed at 6.30 this morning and we fed, clothed, got packed and rugged up, and walked up the hill to the station.
Where we discovered that a return peak hour ticket for the day would set us back 99 POUNDS! Or we could wait until 9.00 and pay half that much.
So after a false start (walk back down hill, make tea for Imogen, feed Millie…) we finally got up to London quite a bit later than we’d hoped.
That was fine, though, because on the tube we took selfies. Which Toby took great delight in ‘enhancing’
It wasn’t a problem, though, because we weren’t on the tube for very long before we arrived at our first destination: The Bloody Tower!
I first visited the Tower of London about 20 years ago, on my first visit to London. I remember it being a fantastic experience, partly because it was the dead of winter, pouring with rain, and as a consequence there were only about 5 people in our tour group. Today wasn’t quite so apocalyptic, but it was nevertheless a fairly grey day, and there were no queues or enormous crowds. In fact, the biggest groups getting in the way were school excursions.
We started off doing the tour directed by one of the Yeoman Guards. These are rightly renowned for being highly devoted to providing entertainment as well as informative value. The guardsmen themselves are all former servicemen, have all received military honours for their service, and – having been continuously in service since 1485 are one of the oldest continuous corps of servicemen. The tour was fantastic, though Toby did have to get his head around the whole concept of beheading (which, let’s face it, is a fairly major theme in the history of the tower). Luckily he was assisted by our Yeoman Warder, who ended each section of the tour as follows:
Yeoman: Are you all still happy to keep going with the tour?
Yeoman: Excellent. Then let’s be-heading up (these stairs/this passage etc…)
Seriously, that joke just never got old.
After the tour, we took a look at the crown jewels, which we both enjoyed (but which can’t be photographed, so no pics, sorry.) THen took a walk around the tower grounds and along the walls, stopping only a few times for Toby to shoot imaginary arrows from the battlements.
Other highlights included watching the Welsh guard marching up and down the square:
And having a go in the guardbox ourselves, trying to stand to attention and ignore all distractions*:
Then, thanks to our later-than-planned start, it was time to get moving again. We took a quick stroll across Tower Bridge (which, thankfully, had survived Toby’s imaginary onslaught from a few minutes earlier)…
To our next destination, the HMS Belfast museum.
The Belfast is a retired battle cruiser from WW2 and the Korean War. Launched in 1938, she saw a lot of active service in the second world war, was refurbished somewhat for the Korean war, and was then retired to the Thames, where she’s now one of the most amazing museums that I’ve ever visited. The first time I went over her, again back during my first trip to London in my mid 20’s, I remember being amazed at how open the whole ship was. It’s still pretty much the same… you can explore every little nook and cranny from the Admiral’s sea cabin, through the enormous cannons, which could shoot a shell 25 miles (they’re currently trained on a service area beside the M1, a little over 24.5 miles outside London)
and right down to the magazine and boiler rooms in the very bottom of the ship.
There’s an audio guide but, to be honest, it’s more fun just wandering and imagining what life would have been like for the almost 1000 men who lived and worked aboard her for months at a time. It wouldn’t have been pleasant. The officers all got rudimentary sea bunks, but most of the ratings lived in hammocks slung in just about every corner of the fo’castle.
They’ve done an amazing job of keeping the ship ‘as is’, and you really get a strong sense of it as a working, fighting vessel, and of just what life was like for the sailors:
After almost two hours crawling over the ship, we realised that we were about to run out of ‘off peak’ time on our train tickets, and so had to head for home, pausing only for Toby to work his modelling career:
We did some schoolwork on the train, and got home as the sun went down, tired but happy. We didn’t manage our third goal, which was the Globe Theatre, but it’s good to save something for next time.
*Toby managed just a little under 3 seconds, which doesn’t sound like much but, to be honest, was better than I was expecting…