Day 4 (December 3, 2009)   London: Tower and Tower Bridge


After the changing of the guard – if we don’t see it the previous day – we would go to London Bridge subway station where we will walk between HMS Belfast cruiser and the City Hall to the Tower Bridge, which we will visit among of the Tower of London, which is just after crossing it.

   After lunching, we would go to Trafalgar Square, where there is scheduled the ceremony of Christmas tree lightning for this day, where will be the Mayors of London and Oslo, who brings the tree, for a tradition since decades.

Map of London zone 2

The points marked at map are:

1- St. Paul's Cathedral
2- Tower Bridge
3- Tower of London
4- Shakespeare's Globe
5- HFS Belfast


Buckingham Palace      After a good breakfast, a bus ride a train to Victoria and a short walk from it we’re in Buckingham Palace. Everything looks like yesterday, even the sky: cloudy, but in front of the palace is the main difference: today it is crowded. But while waiting for the changing of the guard we start hearing rumors about it has been suspended. Then a man with his daughters asking to a guard through the grill if is going to be changing of the guard and I can join to hear the clear answer: it has been postponed because of the weather for tomorrow. Well, if they always postpone it when is cloudy… in England!!

    Anyway, we will come back tomorrow. We’ve lost 30 minutes here but we go back to the station to take the subway from “Victoria” to “London Bridge” station, changing lines in “Monument”. The subway here is fast, well signed and with high frequency of trains in a way that, if you just see the back of a car leaving the next is about to come in from the other side. All are looking the same regardless of the line: so tubular as per being the source of its nick name: “the tube”.
El Metro de Londres
   A voice is constantly saying “Mind the gap, mind the gap” here, recalling there is a short space between the car and the platform.

   The exit from “London Bridge” underground station is in a shopping mall which is looking today full of Christmas decoration. We can see Thames river through the exit at the end of a big hall and go to there. We access to the riverside then, where we can see closely the cruiser HFS Belfast and, at right, the majestic view of the Tower Bridge with its neat blue lines over the stone.

   I must say the ship and the bridge, both of them, have a main part covered because of improvement works, with scaffolds. This cannot be a coincidence and I’m thinking now it’s due to the Olympics games will happen here next year, which makes they’re working on giving the best of the looks to the city iconic places. Somehow, that is not explai9ning why Salisbury Cathedral and the Sights Bridge in Oxford are in this group too.

   The view of the bridge is calling us for a closer look, and soon, in our approach, appears the modern building of the City Hall.

HFS BelfastLondon City Hall with the Tower Bridge

   We pass through an area with modern buildings of glass full of offices where we use a public toilette and go on to the Tower Bridge with the idea of, not only going across the river, but exploring the bridge with detail, as we’ve brought the coupons for it. In the riverside in front we can see the Tower of London, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral and that replica of the Agbar Tower in Barcelona – or is the replica the one in Barcelona?

Walking through the Tower BridgeTower Bridge

   The two stone towers in the bridge are spectacular and this is a design unique in the world. In one side of one of the towers we can find the small entrance, where we get two tickets by 6 each. With the help of the 2x1 we’re bringing the four of us are in with this.

   It is a simple itinerary inside: you go upstairs from one tower, walk through the platform, covered and transparent, between the two towers and go downstairs by the other one. Somehow, as the entrance allows access to the engines of the bridge, which makes the road through this bridge can be broken and raised, we will need to come back to the beginning as there is where the engines are. Therefore, we end crossing the bridge several times, through down and up ways.

In the Tower BridgeTower Bridge's detail

   Thames views from the upper platform are unbeatable. Well, maybe by changing this grey sky… We can see too the whole castle they call – and who knows why – Tower of London. The dome from St. Paul’s Cathedral can be seen from here too. It is well known, and not only by being based on St. Peter’s in Vatican City, but by being the opening image of British series as “The Roper”, “Benny Hill”,… with an eight-noted melody we can play in mind now.

Thames views from Tower Bridge

   The tour by the engines makes me think it is not real, just because we’re used to active machinery not being the clean, nice and colorful.

London Tower from Tower BridgeEngines of Tower Bridge

   Once in the other riverside, we pass along the walls of the Tower of London with big doubts about when lunching today, as it’s 2 PM now. We have not so much time for this visit but we need to eat, so we leave the entrance with the beefeaters behind and keep going up, along the ticket boxes at our left, and go across the street. We’re going directly to a pub we already know:: Liberty bounds. Salmon with salad, chicken, two burgers, three beers and one big water bottle: 32.72 in total. It’s less than 9€ per person.

London TowerEntrance to London Tower

   When coming back to the tower we can see an ice rink along one of its walls. We go to the ticket boxes and use the printed coupons for being able to accessing all four by paying two tickets, at 17 each. This is the most expensive visit in this travel.

Tower of London

   We show our tickets to beefeaters, which is the name the guards of the Tower of London have got. They’re wearing a special uniform and yes, they look exactly like the guy in the label of a bottle of Beefeter.

   Inside we feel traveling to the past, walking between ancient walls, over stoned paths and there are even torches ready to be put in fire for the night. This castle is not looking as changing a lot lately.

Walking through Tower of LondonWalking through Tower of London

   There are a lot of places to visit here, and we can see in them exhibitions of armors – for humans and horses -, canyons, clothes, objects and portraits from the old kings, but the crowning jewel here is… well, the crowning jewel. This is the only place in the world the expression is redundant. The Crown Jewels are the most popular of this place, ravens and beefeaters would complete the top 3.

   The place where they are is the most signed and guarded. The door is below an old clock.

Entrance to Crown Jewels homeSome of the Crown Jewels

   The picture above at right is “stolen” from the aisle driving to the crowns. Photos are forbidden and if in the aisle I could take one, in the crown chamber is impossible. We reach this hall after passing through rooms with objects and videos in display. It has the jewels exhibit in the middle of the chamber and two flat escalators, as the ones in the airports, at both says of them, in the way you won’t get tired of watching at the jewels, but won’t be able of stopping too much time for a specific one either. The gems are huge. There are some diamonds fetching official records in here.

Tower of London at duskTower of London at dusk

   We’ve spend one hour and ten minutes in visiting the Tower of London, used intensely. When we leave, because they’re closing, it’s 4:30 PM and it is already dark and we can then enjoy the view of the Tower Bridge and the buildings in the Thames Southern riverside in lights.

Tower Bridge by nightTower of London by night

Thames Southern riverside by night
   It seems late, but it is really early for our plans as the Christmas tree lighting ceremony starts at 6 PM. We take the tube from “Monument” to “Picadilly Circus”, changing line in “Oxford Circus”.

   Picadilly Circus is a tiny version of New York’s Times Square. The comparison is entirely ours. It is a corner full of bright advertisement lights but I don’t know if the advertising is here because it is a crowded street crossing or it is crowded because of the attraction of the lights, as we have come for.

Picadilly CircusPicadilly Circus

   Once visited we walk Haymarket St. down until Pall Mall St. and then reaching Trafalgar Square, which looks full of people when is still one hour for the event. It’s a pity the National Gallery is closed now as we could spend that hour in there, we will have to come back tomorrow.

   We look for a space for watching the ceremony the best as possible and wait.

   And we wait, even more than expected, because at 6 PM it has not started yet. Somehow, a TV reporter is interviewing the people around and makes some questions just to the woman beside my mother.
Christmas ceremony in Trafalgar Square   And then the Major of London appears dressed as majors would already dress 200 years ago, and Major of Oslo appears too and exchange nice words and press one button and the lights of the tree get on and then the ceremony is over. There is a chorus singing every when and then, but ceremony is basically that. It has started at 6:15 PM and it ended around 6:30 PM.

   Well, as we don’t want to walk more we take “Charing Cross” underground station in the same square to Victoria, changing lines in “Enbankment”. From there we take the train and then the bus to reach our rooms tired, a few minutes before 8 PM.