UK Trip: Day 3 and 4, Exploring London & Nottingham
Tower of London
Thursday was our only free day in London so we explored the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. This was the third time I've been to London, but since I stayed with friends the last two times, I never really did many tourist-y things. Both the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey were right at the top of my must-see list. In the morning we grabbed breakfast at Pret, which Luke is a huge fan of. We have Pret in some major cities here in the US, but the ones in the UK have a huge vegetarian-oriented menu which I love!
After our quick bite to eat we took the tube to Tower Hill and walked to the Tower of London, we got there around opening time which I highly recommend as it gets quite busy in the afternoons. Right inside of the gates you can join a free Beefeater tour, which we didn't do but I wish we would have. The Tower of London was founded in 1066, and the White Tower (pictured below) was built by William the Conqueror in the early 1080's. Inside the grounds are many buildings of different ages, and this is also where the Crown Jewels are kept. I wasn't very interested in them, but many people are and I'd recommend seeing them first as it's the busiest part of the Tower. Throughout the Tower you can find wire statues of exotic animals, which commemorate the animals that were given as gifts to the Royals by other Royals over the centuries. A polar bear once living at the tower was chained but allowed to wade into the River to catch fish, and other animals at the Tower included lions, monkeys, a leopard, zebra, and an elephant. In the 18th century the price of admission to see the animals was 3 half-pence, or you could bring a cat or a dog to be used as food for the animals (which tore my heart out when I found out). Eventually the animals were moved to what is now the London Zoo, or they were sold off. It's definitely an interesting part of the Tower of London's history that I had never known before.
The White Tower is the oldest part of the complex and it houses the Royal Armories collection. Inside we were able to see a very small armor set dating back to 1610, belonging to either a child or a little person. Right beside it stood a set of armor that looked like it belonged to a giant, which is believed to be from the mid 1500's. This part of the Tower has been a museum for a very long time, and a lot of the armor housed here has been on display for hundreds of years. One of the most popular pieces is King Henry VIII's armor c. 1540 which included a special piece to protect his man parts (and by it's size, I think he had also hoped to impress the ladies with it). We spent a couple of hours exploring the grounds and learning about what the buildings were used for. We even visited the part of the tower where two young princes were kept by their uncle, who ultimately took the throne for himself. The princes disappeared, and it's likely that they were murdered here. The Tower of London is a must see if you're visiting the area, you can spend hours exploring and learning about the centuries worth of history that was made here.
The second half of our day was spent at Westminster Abbey. After hearing my aunt talk about it on her recent trip, I couldn't wait to go and I wasn't disappointed! The present church dates back to 1245, but there was another church on this site since the 7th century. Many coronations, Royal weddings, and burials have taken place here. There were so many monuments inside that I couldn't even look at half of them! They're everywhere - on the floor, the walls, everywhere you look. Among the first graves that we noticed were Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. We spotted the tomb of The Unknown Warrior, who was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1920. His is the only grave you're not allowed to walk on. Geoffrey Chaucer is buried next to the Poets Corner, where many famous poets and writers are memorialized. We stood next to where Mary Queen of Scots was laid to rest, which is close by to where her hater cousin, Elizabeth I is buried. Inside of the Abbey there is what's thought to be the oldest door in all of the UK, c. 1050 (pictured below on the left)! It amazes me that something so old is still around, and that I was able to see it in person - even something as common as a door. I'm a huge history lover, I even majored in history for a short period of time before I left college.
On Friday morning we had breakfast and then packed as it was our last day in London. Our Airbnb checkout was easy, and we headed to the train station to catch a train to Nottingham to visit a friend. I met Twikki (or George) on Tumblr 7 years ago, and he has visited us once before back in the states. We weren't able to do much because we had a train to Edinburgh to catch, but we stopped at a pub that claims to be the oldest in England, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. It rests against Castle Rock, where Nottingham Castle is located. Luke and Twikki had a drink while we chatted, and we eventually made our way up the hill to look at the Castle, which was closed. We had an early dinner at Whetherspoons and said our goodbyes at the train station.
UK Trip Posts
* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.