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Published: October 22nd 2017
Geo: 51.5002, -0.126236
What a whirlwind day of sightseeing in London! We began the day with a city bus tour that bypassed Big Ben (named for the bell, not the building) and the Houses of Parliament, as well as Westminster Abbey and the River Thames. While bus tours are not everyone's favorite (we might have preferred exploring the city on our own two feet), our tour guide was a short, feisty woman who cussed freely until she learned there were middle school kids on the bus and unfortunately curtailed her colorful narration. She was highly entertaining! We ended the tour in front of Buckingham Palace for the conclusion of the changing of the guard ceremony.
Then we were free to explore the city on our own. Because of a monetary gift from my aunt Kristi in the spirit of student travel and education, I was able to help students out with the otherwise prohibitive admission to the Tower of London, so we set out straightaway. We wandered through the cobblestone courtyard, climbed the ramparts for a raven's view of the fortress, and then meandered through the informative displays throughout the Tower. It was a bit chilling to view the sites where Anne
Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey were executed. But perhaps most disturbing was the story of the mysterious disappearance and death of the two princes. "12-year-old Edward V and his younger brother Richard were sent to the Tower by their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. By July 1483 they were declared illegitimate and the Duke was crowned King Richard III. The princes were never seen again" (Historical Royal Palaces, Tower of London). You only have to read Shakespeare's Richard III to learn what a monster that Richard was! It wasn't until 1674 that a workman dug up a wooden box containing the skeletons of two young boys with broken skulls that theories of the boys' murders were corroborated, although it has not been officially proven.
On a lighter note, we also enjoyed the glittering display of the Crown Jewels--a lavish arrangement of crowns, rings, swords, and orbs. Used in coronation, we marveled at the royal purple crowns set with diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds, the sovereign scepter with cross, and even a solid gold coronation spoon. Queen Elizabeth II's coronation robe was embroidered with gold, the solid gold baptismal font was large enough for at least two people, and Queen Victoria's
intricate diamond crown must have been crafted by fairies with the tiniest of fingers. But for all the ooing and awing the sparkling jewels evoked, I couldn't help but think how silly it all really is!
Dinner was served at the original Hard Rock Cafe in Picadilly Circus, and we again parted ways with Collin. His European sightseeing will continue with his family as they visit Paris, Munich, and Rome. But it was a fun farewell evening as we chomped on burgers and fries to the tunes of Elvis, Otis Redding, and The Cure.
Not wanting the night to end quite yet, we took an evening walk along the Thames to visit the Globe Theatre and the nearby site of the original Globe where the concentric stones still remain. Magic hour light illuminated the Millenium Bridge and the faded, robin-egg-blue dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. Although we would have loved another day in London to soak up England's deep history--so much longer and more storied than our country's young life--we felt satisfied seeing what we were able to see given our limited time.
Until next time, Europe!
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