19 July 2011

knitting and knights

On Saturday I went on my own day out. The knitting part you can read all about over at my other blog. I'd had my fill there by 2pm and since my bus wasn't leaving until 7pm I opted to check off one of the things on my London to-do list. So I caught the underground and went to the Tower of London. Now I had close to three hours here but I recommend you allow more than that as there's heaps to see. I bought my ticket and waited just inside the first wall with quite a crowd for the next Yeoman Warder tour.
This grassy area (which is at least twice the width you can see or more) was originally the moat. It served the city well for centuries until London grew and the sewerage system set up ran into it. Then it was turned into grass. The Yeoman Warder tour guide was fantastic. A real character cracking jokes and getting away with sly comments. Very entertaining. Did you know that people still live in the houses within in the Tower of London? Me neither.
Here's some of the houses that are rented out. Except the one with the guard at the door. That's the queen's house. Here is where the tour ended half an hour short. Unfortunately for us tourist someone was getting married shortly in the chapel there so we couldn't have the full tour. And there's me outside the Waterloo block where the crown jewels are kept. I did go through but you can't take photos in there. Guess that makes sense since you have to enter and exit the volt through massive doors. They were interesting to see. Quite extravagant and quite a lot there. More than I had expected. I guess each royalty had their own crown made for their coronation. Anyway, the line was massive once the tour was over so I went into the White Tower first.
Lots to see in there. It's full of armoury mostly. Look, even a toddler sized suit. And check out the sword. It's huge. I keep thinking it would be interesting to put a suit on to see what it felt like. Some suits were complete cover and others were just the major areas with leather for the less vital areas.
This dragon was pretty cool. You walk up some stairs to the next level and it's the first thing you see. Made of armoury pieces and such. They had a section that was hands on. This display you put your face in a helmet shape hole and they had a war playing on a tv screen behind it so you could experience how much a knights sight was impaired. You really can't see a lot through two small splits. I'd never thought about that before.
These here are old time mortar shells. They would be filled with tar and gunpowder and stuff, even greased rags for the horses' hooves, and then wrapped in linen to be catapulted into the gathered enemy. And there's me outside the White Tower. I decided to then go see the crown jewels because the line wasn't so packed and I really did want to see them. I got in and through in plenty of time before the tower closed. In fact, I still had some time to wander a section of the wall.
Inside the towers along the walls there were more displays. It would have been good to explore properly. Here's an old time crossbow in one. The writing on the walls were written like you were reading the latest news which made it feel like you were a part of the adventure. In one of the towers they had some crowns that had been stripped of their jewels. I only got this photo coz I hadn't seen any sign saying I couldn't. But I got told off for taking it so perhaps I just missed the sign.
And then I got to christen my new umbrella. It was raining on and off all day, even pouring at times. But it wasn't until just as the Tower of London was closing for the day that I was actually outside in it. I was happy to be though just so I could use my umbrella. On my way out of the White Tower I went through a gift shop. It had some great stuff in there as far as gift shops go. I was heavily drawn to the calligraphy pen set that had a lovely wooden pen with two nibs and about 6 pots of different colours. But in the end I opted for the fantastical quill with a pot of red ink for half the price of the other. How fun is it!?

I may just have to go back again some day and see the rest of it. I did come across the Tower of Torture as I was heading out which had already closed for the day. That would have been interesting...? I did see one display of a chopping block and whilst there overheard a guide telling a story. A beheading that needed a fill-in executioner so they called on the butcher. (If you're a easily quesy you may want to skip over this paragraph.) Now he said that people would often pay quite a chunk of money to the executioner to make sure the job was done well. If it was it was painless aparantly. He did comment executioners being quite well off because of these tips. But this butcher, well he hadn't chopped human before and he was nervous. First swing and he missed only scratching the neck. The one on the chopping block apparently made some comment--something like "Is that the best you've got?". I think the second swing was similar. Third swing got half the neck at which point the nervous, sweating butcher pulled out his butcher's knife and hacked the rest off to finish the job. Shockingly gross, I know. No wonder people paid the executioner for a good clean lop.

We were also told on our tour that during the time of the Tower of London there were a LOT of beheadings but most happened outside on Tower Hill. There were only a few beheadings inside the Tower of London. The Yeoman Warder said you had to be a "friend" of the king to be beheaded within the walls. It was a bit strange to walk around a place with so much history in it.

So that was my day out in London.

1 comment:

Tab said...

That sounds like so much fun, you must be buzzing! I was waiting for some big revelation like "knights invented knitting" or "knights knitted their own socks" but that was all just as interesting - if not a bit gross :)