Monday, February 08, 2016

London Pass - Day 1 - Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms, Kensington Palace

This post should likely be broken up, but by keeping it together, I hope to emphasize just how much you can see and do with the London Pass in a single day.

KLS in her infinite wheeling and dealing ways bought us a 2 day London Pass to see almost every major tourist site in London. You easily come out ahead IF you are willing to cram a lot into a single day. KLS should taken me to dinner with the savings too!

Tower of London

Built over a 300 year time period, the Tower of London was built to awe by a new conqueror and it still does. It is one of the most iconic sights in London. Throughout is history, it has seen extensive bloodshed between royal squabbles, removing political and religious dissidents, and getting rid on unwanted queens. Today, it is just a major tourist attraction and the permanent home of the crown jewels and the beefeaters that look after them.

The south wall of the Tower of London.

A bit of old with a bit of new.

The White Tower of the Tower with the 'Walkie Talkie' skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch in the distance. This skyscraper's concave shape once caused a car to start to melt that was parked across the street from it.

KLS defends herself from the Tower guard.

Tower of London wall with the River Thames in the background.

Safety first (David - do they use these in CSA's?).

Another Tower guard overlooks the street below.

The Tower of London dioramas were more graphic than any I have ever seen.

Despite the name, the Tower of London isn't a single tower. It is a full castle that includes a moat, walls, and multiple towers. However, the building in the photo below, the White Tower, is where the Tower of London gets its name. It was the first building built and at 27m tall it was the tallest building in London in 1089.

White Tower inside of the Tower of London

Tower of London walkway

The Royal Armories exhibit inside the Tower of London.

The Royal Armories exhibit became England's oldest museum in 1545, when its collection was shown to a foreign dignitary.

The White Tower as seen from outside the Tower of London walls.

The Lanthorn(?) Tower

The Tower Bridge just outside the Tower of London

Tower Bridge (not London Bridge).

KLS . . . . . . . . . . . and . . . . . . . ME

Tower Bridge.

The view from Tower Bridge.

Another view from Tower Bridge.

Looking down from Tower Bridge.

They put a mirror on the ceiling so you could take a picture of yourself standing on the glass.

Tower Bridge.

The old inner workings that raised Tower Bridge to let boats pass by.

The Tower Bridge tour was one of my favorites of the day. The bridge had nice views, but the best part was seeing how the original bridge used to be raised an lowered. They used steam engines to create energy and store it in hydraulic accumulators. Then, when the bridge needed to be raised, the accumulators powered the drive engines that raised the bascules (movable section of the bridge).

Westminster Abbey

This movie is to let you hear the church bells KLS described as 'fairly obnoxious'. She expected them to be more soothing.

Westminster Abbey is probably the most famous church in England. Its Gothic style reminds me of the Cathedral of Learning and Bellfield Chapel in Pittsburgh. At this point in my travels, the details of each church and cathedral all tend to blur together. However, two things that really stood out in this tour was that the coronation of England's royalty still happens there and that a number of a famous people have been buried there to honor them including 17 kings and queens, Geoffrey Chaucer, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, David Livingstone, Alfred Tennyson, Neville Chamberlain, and Sir Laurence Olivier. It seemed a little weird to have thousands of tourists tramping over such a rich historical place that is still being used.  That feeling was echoed throughout a few other tourists sites we toured including Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace, which are half tourist sites and half residences for the royal family.

Cloister in Westminster Abbey

Chapter House in Westminster Abbey was built around 1250.

Cloister Garth in Westminster Abbey

Cloister in Westminster Abbey

This might be the Dean's Yard, just outside Westminster Abbey.

The Cabinet Room where in May 1940, Winston Churchill declared: 'This is the room from which I will direct the war'

The Churchill War Rooms are a underground complex that housed the British military command center during World War II. They were built underneath the Treasury building so that the essential government could keep operating from London even through enemy bombing. The rooms' constructions included the addition of a 5 feet thick slab of concrete for protection from bombing, generic offices, a map room, the Transatlantic Telephone Room that was a direct line to President Roosevelt in Washington, DC, living quarters for staff, private rooms for senior ministers, and Churchill's bedroom.

Taking a break in the War Rooms.

A map showing areas of control during WWII.

The Map Room which was manned around the clock by the branches of the military.

On our way out of the War Rooms, we jumped on a hop-on hop-off bus tour as part of the London Pass. It allowed us to easily get between some of the major tourist spots. On our way, we drove past a protest over the contracts of junior doctors in the National Health System. The government was proposing new limits on unsociable hours worked by junior doctors and rate cuts to the premium pay received during unsociable hours at night and over the weekends. I believe the junior doctors eventually went on a non-emergency services strike to get the government to meet their demands.

A demonstration by junior doctors of the National Health Service

Trafalgar Square

KLS' and my last stop on a very long day was at Kensington Palace. It is a royal residence at the west end of Hyde Park. What really amazed me about this palace was the accessibility of it to every day life. You literally could walk your dog past their front lawn. It wasn't like the Palace of Versailles where you could not see anything from the street because the palace was protected and set so far back. The palace has been left decorated in Victorian style. Unfortunately, KLS and I do not enjoy the intricate and ornate Victorian style so our visit was short.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace