Tower of London
Fun facts I learned at the Tower of London:
- King Henry III had a polar bear which got tied to a long rope so it could go fishing in the Thames
- They kept snakes there and wrapped them in blankets and put them on the stove so they could be warm
- There was a Tower ostrich, but as a result of the belief that they ate iron, it died after eating a large nail
Aside from these animal facts, the highlight of the Tower of London was seeing the crown jewels. The fortress-like vault door you walk through to get in is one of the few things that help you believe the multitude of jewels and gold are the real deal.
Just to now detract from the amazing history and how mind-blowing it was to walk around a place built long before my country was discovered, I have to make special mention of this set of amusing decorations I saw in the gift shop. I probably should have bought them for the fun of it:
Along the Thames
It was almost lunch time by the time we crossed Tower Bridge to the south side, and a bit like what happens in Wellington on a good day, all the suits were bursting out into the sunshine and onto any available bit of space to sit and soak it up.
There was something so satisfying about seeing the all-familiar London cityscape as we walked along beside the Thames. It was as though all these years I’ve strangely been waiting to go and check that it looks exactly like what I’ve seen on TV, in books and in movies – and I can report it does, and it’s fabulous to see it with your own eyes.
After doing a lap through the bustling Borough Markets, I can now see why British chefs say so casually “you can just get this at your local market” to things which would be hard for us to acquire that easily back home. Chutneys, cheeses, vegetables, spices… so many fabulous looking things and a real feast for both the eyes and the stomach. I settled on a delicious pie for lunch, concluding that it was an appropriately British choice.
St Pauls Cathedral
Walked past more well-known names after lunch (Tate Modern, Globe Theatre) on the way to cross over Millennium Bridge and walk up to St Pauls Cathedral. I love that you see the dome majestically rising above the surroundings straight ahead of you as you get on the bridge.
Even after seeing many more incredible places on the rest of my trip, I would still say St Pauls is the most breathtaking building I have ever been in. Surely it is impossible for anyone not to find themselves just standing in complete awe when in there.
City of London and time for dinner!
I got a great little walking tour through parts of the City of London after St Pauls, and because we hadn’t crossed enough iconic bridges today, we used London Bridge to get back across to the south side where we were going to have dinner.
We joined the queue at Padella (I had been told the pasta is worth the effort of doing this and can confirm it was) and got our names on the list, then while waiting for a table we popped to a nearby pub and had some well-earned rosé. Perfect end to an incredible day!
Natural History Museum
Said goodbye to my hotel this morning (seriously still so glad I had three nights there to start off) and headed to the Natural History Museum. I hadn’t planned to go in there, but seeing just the outside of it the other day made me want to. It is just as magnificent inside (if not more) – think along the lines of what you might imagine part of Hogwarts castle would feel like, but with the addition of a huge blue whale skeleton hanging right in the centre.
After exploring some of the wonders of the museum, we jumped on the tube to go and see the iconic sights in Westminster. I almost regretted this decision as it was SO CROWDED, being a weekend day. We squeezed our way across the packed Westminster bridge so we could see the London Eye on one side (didn’t want to go on it, but felt it was a landmark to see), and look back towards the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben across the Thames.
There was scaffolding on the buildings because they are undergoing some repair, but I liked that they have left the clock-face of Big Ben visible. Fortunately, the other side of the bridge was slightly less packed with people as we crossed back over and walked around to see Westminster Abbey. The bells were ringing continuously from there and it was brilliant to see/hear.
From there, we did a little further walking tour taking us past Downing Street, before gladly ducking back down to the underground and escaping the hoards of people (somewhat). We doubled back to my hotel to grab my suitcase before dropping it off at Jess’s house in north London.
The rest of the day was a complete change of pace. We gathered together a glorious picnic and set up camp on Hampstead Heath for the rest of the afternoon, eating far too much cheese and bread but enjoying every mouthful!