From there, we crossed could see the Tower of London. The Tower was an incredible experience. We saw it from across the Thames River and could clearly see the Traitor's Gate, as it was seen by the incoming prisoners. the Traitor's Gate was originally called the Water Gate because it's on the river. Henry wanted to avoid transporting prisoners via the streets. He eventually had to add a portcullis and receiving area to protect this entrance from marauding ships.
Another impressive part of this area is the Tower Bridge. This bridge is quite busy and quite long. Here you can see two views of the bridge. The first is from upriver (by the HMS Belfast). The second is from inside the Tower grounds.
|The Tower Bridge|
After we entered the Tower, we joined one of the Beefeater tours. These are the guys that do guided tours of the grounds, sharing the history and quite a bit of humor along the way. Our Beefeater was quite fun!
One of the first things I noticed was that the Tower of London is far more than a "tower." It started as the White Tower, the central tower. But Henry built an entire fortress around it. It's like its own mini-city. One thing he emphasized is that the royal prisoners here were treated very well. They brought their servants, sometimes their families. They sacrificed their freedom, but not their lifestyle.
The Beefeater also shared a nursery rhyme with us, along with its legendary meaning.
Three Blind Mice
This is how the Beefeater explained it to us:
Three blind mice, three blind mice,
(these are the three protestant bishops, Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer, that were blinded by their faith)
See how they run, see how they run,
(They were running around London drumming up support for Jane to overturn Mary)
They all ran after the farmer's wife
(That's Mary, who was married to Philip the Farmer King of Spain)
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife
(Well no she didn't, she had them burned at the stake but that doesn't rhyme)
Did you ever see such a sight in your life as three blind mice?
When we reached the chapel, he shared that it was built over the burial plot of so many unnamed prisoners. At one point it had to be rebuilt b/c the bodies all shifted over time and the ground was sinking. The bodies were then moved and walled up in the crypt instead. Kinda helps you see where the tales of ghosts come from in the Tower.
And that's most of the tour. We finished our day with a river cruise back to Westminster, lunch at London Bridge, and then back to the dorm. And now I'm off to bed. My legs are killing me! I will likely not blog tomorrow. It's a free day for us and I need to give me legs some recovery time.
Have a happy 4th USA! I'm still working on the best way to celebrate without getting our heads cut off.