Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tower of London

From crumbling buildings to dazzling jewels the Tower of London has a lot to see... sort of. In actuality, while I am glad I visited it, I would not place it as my favorite place I've visited in London. 

The buildings themselves were really neat to look at. Tower of London consists of several towers both standing and fallen and there are many places where you can see how the place has changed over time, from one tower being built in 1066 onward to the many towered structure present today.
However, while you can see lots of neat exterior, the interior that you are allowed to visit is limited. Probably for your own safety.

For weeks I have seen advertisements for the new armor exhibit 'Fit for a King' which promised 500 years of Royal Armor. A line from the advertisement reads: The skill of the royal armourers was to combine practical protection for tournaments and battle with breathtaking designs and decoration, all Fit for a King.
I was pretty excited about this exhibit. The picture displayed in the advertisements showed fascinating pieces of armor like the one above. When I got to the exhibit, however, I think the ones from the advertisement may have been the only ones there that looked more special than the suits I saw in the V&A and British Museums. So sure it's cool that King Henry the whatever wore it, but don't advertise it as breathtaking design!

The other major exhibit that is labeled a 'must see' of the tower is the crown jewels. What they don't tell you while you wait in a line that wraps down two sides of the tower, is that once you get into the building you will have three rooms of winding lines (like at an amusement park) and then when you finally get to the crowns, you will be placed on a moving walkway so you cannot pause to look at them or see more than one side of them. 

One of the parts of the Tower that I really enjoyed were the tour guides. You can choose to wander up to a group led by an animated Beefeater and he will loudly and theatrically proclaim to you tales of the Tower. I would try to describe a Beefeater to you, but you can't describe them, you have to experience them. If you ever visit, definitely take one of their tours. (Oh and if you do go, take a picture of a Beefeater for me, because I totally forgot to snap a picture of one, thanks)


P.S. A neat fact that I learned while listening to the Beefeater, was that Charles II was told that if the ravens ever leave the Tower that both the Tower and the Kingdom would fall. Superstition has led to these birds being cared for by Tower staff even to this day!

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