I love when I can visit an area and truly get an appreciation for the lay of the land. When you visit the “Towers” as I have nicknamed this area, there is much to see. I spent an entire afternoon here and covered much ground.
We’ve all heard it. We have been told since we were children. “London Bridge is falling down”. We sang these lyrics and played the game countless times. But why? What is the true story of the London Bridge?
As you have found out the afternoon I visited the Tower Bridge I also visited the Tower of London because they are in the same vicinity. From within the high walkaways of the Tower Bridge you can see the current London Bridge, but that is not the one we sang of.
The original London Bridge stood over the Thames River between 1830 and 1967 and was the first of any such crossing in the city. It was a medieval bridge constructed of stone where numerous stores and merchant stands were located. However after so many years and different “upgrades” it was in a bad state.
In 1967 the Old London Bridge was dismantled and moved to Arizona. Yes, our country decided to purchase this infamous London landmark. The main reason behind this purchase was to bring tourism and visitors to the formerly deserted city of Lake Havasu, which was apparently a successful endeavor.
When the Bridge arrived in America it needed to be reinforced with concrete, steel, and metal in order to make it safe. That construction project took over just three years to complete. The London Bridge reopened, this time in Arizona, in 1971.
After getting off the metro, I walked to and then over the Tower Bridge. That in itself was exciting but then I got to go inside. I don’t believe I have ever been inside before a bridge or since this unique adventure.
Originally opened in 1910, the Tower Bridge had not been open for pedestrians to walk across once again until 1982.
After climbing up a few flights of stairs (that appeared to be the theme of my trip) you arrive at the aforementioned walkways. They are the two walkaways with exhibits in each. The exhibits have plenty of information about the Tower Bridge but also about other famous bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Brooklyn Bridge in my hometown.
Once you have seen these exhibits you are welcome to climb back down stairs to see the engine and steam room, that allow this Bridge to move up and down when need be for boats that are passing by.
Since 1977 the Tower Bridge has been painted red, white, and blue in honor of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
The beauty of this Bridge remains whether you see it during the day or evening.
Tower of London
The Tower of London was home to the monarch for many years, right up until the fifteenth century. During those time periods the procession would begin here and led to Westminster Abbey for all coronation ceremonies.
The Tower of London has a long vivid history that includes acting as: an armory, prison, fortress, treasury, the Royal Mint, public record office, and of course as the home of the Crown Jewels. The Constable of the Tower is responsible for all activities here and is the only other person beside the monarch allowed to handle the Crown Jewels. Speaking of which, the Crown Jewels was a major reason why I was here.
This World Heritage Site, is a very popular tourist attraction. It is also one of the attractions included on the London Pass (http://bit.ly/2nDgTTc) which means I didn’t have to wait on line or pay for a ticket. It also paid for my metro ride there and back. If do you not have a London Pass, you can save time by purchasing your tickets at the kiosk at the Tower Hill Tube Station before you emerge above ground. Sundays and afternoon are when crowds are the largest. Ever hour on the hour, guided tours are given by "Beefeaters" starting at 9:30am from the Middle Tower near the main entrance.
I toured all of the other Towers, going in and out ,seeing the different exhibits and facts about their history before finally going to see the Crown Jewels in the Jewel Tower. I was very deliberately saving the best for last.
You are not able to photograph the Crown Jewels and they are very heavily guarded. The line will be long outside this Tower no matter what time you arrive there during your visit. Naturally they are worth the wait. Once you enter you will step onto a moving walkway that will pass by the Jewels and lead you out of the building. You can reenter if you want, which I did, as long as you follow the rules. I could have stared at them forever they were just so beautiful and exquisite.
This exhibit includes all of the items used in every coronation since 1066:
- St. Edward’s Crown - weighing nearly five pounds and is what the monarch wears to the coronation ceremony,
- Protector of good - as known as the Sovereign’s Orb,
- The Sovereign’s Scepter and Rod, as well as
- The Imperial State Crown - containing two thousand, eight hundred and sixty-eight diamonds, seventeen sapphires, eleven emeralds, two hundred and sixty-nine pearls and four rubies. This is what the monarch wears as he or she leaves Westminster Abbey at the conclusion of the coronation ceremony.
On your way out be sure to look for the six ravens that call the Tower of London home. They have had one of their wings clipped to ensure they remain there as a means to protect the Tower and monarch from falling. They say that process is painless but it also seems useless as some ravens have managed to get away from time to time. They are cared for, by none other than the Ravenmaster! They are fed a diet of raw meat and blood soaked bird biscuits. Tourists are asked not to feed or attempt to handle the birds. However, you are allowed to photograph them, which is all I really wanted to do anyways.
All Hallows Barking By the Tower
I was here for one reason and one reason only: this was the site of where John Quincy Adams married his wife Louisa and where William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania) was baptized. Okay that was two reasons. But you have to admit they are two pretty fascinating reasons. Imagine that I came all this way to stumble upon sacred spots for fellow American citizens. Well, that is another exaggeration. While doing my research I learned of these facts and planned my visit accordingly. But still it was pretty random.
When all was said and done I was beat but satisfied with the “Towers” tours I designed myself.
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