Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lincoln & The Tower of London

On our first full day in London we started out with the included breakfast. The Hilton Metropole offers a very good breakfast if you can get past the perpetually cold scrambled eggs. Most of the dishes are exactly what you would expect, but the bacon is really sliced ham. Just so you know!

Since the hotel charges an outrageous price equating a dollar a minute, we went down to the pay phones to call up a former coworker who works in London. We told him we were in town and we were coming by. We took the tube to Old Street (nothing touristy about it) and met up with Lincoln. I would like to say he hadn't changed at all in the past six months, but that would be a lie. Lincoln is from Texas, same as me, and attended the University of Texas at Austin. So when I started hearing him use words like "a proper meal" or "have you not heard of the walk-in program?" or "Take your rubbish with you because there are no bins here," well, I'd say the city has begun to sink in.

Of course, Lincoln's not to be blamed, really. London is a monster of a city, with a population of about nine million souls, and almost no one, it seems, is a native Londoner. Why, in one random gift shop the person in queue before us began telling the man at the register how they were from Texas--as were we--as were the two people in line behind us. Small world indeed.

After having fish & chips with Lincoln, Nora and I took the tube down to the Tower of London. I've been before, about five years ago, but it was Nora's first time and I wanted her to see something medieval while we were in London. Though it's called the Tower of London, it's actually a complex of buildings that has been utilized since the time of William the Conqueror (a thousand years, for those of you who might be historically challenged!) It's an imposing place surrounded by modern buildings. Once you exit the tube you see a high castle wall. The moat surrounding the grounds has long since dried up, and grass now grows at the bottom. There are actually a number of towers, and each one has a name: the White Tower, the Bloody Tower, etc. The tower is now used to house the crown jewels, but it the past it was used, among other things, as a place for political prisoners. Over the centuries some seven famous people have been executed here, including Ann Boleyn and Katherine Howard. This is where the two young princes were most foully murdered--some say on the orders of Richard III. There is also a chapel on the grounds, and some of the executed are buried there under the platform. Yeoman Warders, the guards who live there, give tours and keep the peace, throwing out anyone who misbehaves (I saw this happen, and no, I was not involved!)

Maybe it's just because I'm supposed to be related to Ms. Howard, but I found all the cheesy touristy stuff related to the demise of these individuals rather tasteless. They have, for example, a motorzed paper model you can assemble that has an executioner swinging his ax onto the hapless victim, whose head drops into a bucket. The ax, and goulishly, the head, rise back up in sync and the horrid process repeats. You can also buy Wives of Henry Chocolates--each one in the six pack comes wrapped individually with a portrait of the wife. Well. They also sell teddy bears.

The Tower took far more time than we expected, so when we left there it was time to take the tube back to Leicaster Square to meet up with Lincoln for dinner. There was a large crowd gathered to see some celebrities coming for the sneak preview of the movie Robots. We didn't stay because we didn't know who it was or when they would show up. We walked through Soho and Covent Gardens, and as Nora observed, it's easy to believe there are nine million people in London because there were people everywhere.

We found a restaurant and ordered traditional English fare, then Lincoln took us on a snipe hunt through London for the perfect pub. We walked all the way down to Trafalgar Square and then he told us he needed to get home and bailed. Thanks, Lincoln! Great to see ya! Well, only kidding. It was great to chat with him, catch up on things, and hear the perspective of a transplanted American living in London.

Exhausted as we were by the day's walking, we decided to turn in and rode back to the hotel for some sleep.


At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you tell by the pictures I was filling in for the Tower guard while he was on his break? :-P

About Lincoln, that was the night we both "got dumped" by the same guy.


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