Tower of London: British Invasion, Day 3

As Day 3 dawned, it was raining, but then, it was raining approximately 60% of the time we were over there, so…  We grabbed umbrellas, I looked at my flat-iron and laughed hysterically, and we set off across Tower Bridge.  (We made a quick stop at Fuckoffee for, well, coffee, but honestly, I found the name the most memorable thing about it.)  Bermondsey is just across the Thames from the Tower, so a 15-20 minute walk found us ready once again to “queue.”

Tower Bridge from outside the Tower. Never fear, by the end of this post, the word "tower" will have lost all meaning for you. Maybe it already has.

Tower Bridge from outside the Tower. Never fear, by the end of this post, the word “tower” will have lost all meaning for you. Maybe it already has.

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We had so much other “stuff” planned for this trip that we really didn’t have too much time for traditional “site-seeing,” so what time we did have was chosen carefully.  After doing a bit of research, hands down the Tower of London was the one thing people said we should not miss.  We ordered vouchers in advance, so we were able to walk up to the visitors’ entrance without waiting in the ticket line (although, we didn’t know this, so we still walked over to the ticket line only to be sent back down the hill the way we came).  We had planned to take a Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) tour, but this being peak tourist season, so did approximately 200 other people, and as we had a set time frame in which to explore, we opted for the audio tour instead.  (This was also great, and it allowed us to peruse at our own pace, which was nice.)

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We made a decision to do the crown jewels first, and I think that was for the best.  It’s one of the more popular exhibits, and it was already fairly crowded when we went through.  They don’t allow you to take pictures, and when you’re actually viewing the pieces themselves, you’re standing on a moving sidewalk, so it’s pretty rushed.  That being said (and ignoring the fact that you’re probably looking at enough money to fix the housing crisis in London), they were beautiful, and the history is, as always, very interesting.  (I’m not going into much of that here because it’s all online if you’re so inclined, and this post is going to be massive anyway.)

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After this, we stuck to the audio tour and wandered from place to place, listening to soothing British accents tell us about war and torture and fire and plague.  Ah, the good old days.  Sigh…

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Back in the “how in the hell did anyone actually survive?!” days of yore, important monarchy types used to gift each other with actual live animals, and at one point, the Tower was home to quite the menagerie.  In fact, it was one of the first “tourist” attractions in London with the public paying a fee to enter and view the different animals.  Or, you could bring one cat or small dog to feed to the lions, and that would also serve as your admission.  True story.

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Now, they have these kind of neat-o mesh wire sculptures as a reminder of the zoological history of the place, and no dogs or cats are consumed within the walls (that I’m aware of).

The Ravens of the Tower are also a big thing.  According to a prophecy made during the reign of Charles II, if the ravens ever leave the tower (meaning there are less than six in residence) the Tower and kingdom will fall.  So, they keep eight on hand, with clipped wings, just to be sure.  We heard a bit of the Ravenmaster’s talk, and he said they’re ridiculously smart birds, they each have their own personalities, and they sort of enjoy f’ing with tourists.  We encountered a few of them, and they were absolutely interesting to watch and definitely didn’t give a damn about any of the people around them.

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They also, apparently, look better in black and white, if you’re Jon.

As we moved from building to building, it became increasingly clear that Jon was not of their time.  The hallways were too low, the stairways too narrow.

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Then we tried to go into Martin Tower, and I about fell over laughing:

Look how much of his head is above the door frame! Like, all of it! This still makes me giggle.

Look how much of his head is above the door frame! Like, all of it! This still makes me giggle.

After carefully maneuvering through the rest of the audio tour, it was time to hike back to Bermondsey and change for tea, but first, we stopped at Hej again because why not?

Second verse, just as delicious as the first.

Second verse, just as delicious as the first.

We’d known in October of 2015 that we were going to London, so for Christmas, Jon got me “tea” in the Palm Court at the Ritz.  This place is highly fancy, and so, of course, I proceeded to be AS COMPLETELY AWKWARD AS POSSIBLE the entire time we were there.  Fancy just makes me nervous, you guys.  I love it, and I want to try it, but I’m terrified of making an ass of myself the whole time, and therefore…I usually do.

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We arrived a bit early, and so we decided to have a drink in the bar, where I silently freaked out about the fact that my single glass of wine cost 18 freaking pounds, and that was on the cheap side.  Also, I changed my shoes under the table, which made me feel like I was trying to re-enact a scene from some sort of “Pretty Woman”-type movie, and when we left, awkwardly, I forgot my coat on the back of my chair, so I had to flusteredly rush back in, only to have a server tell me, she’d tried to catch me but couldn’t, and she’d put my coat in the coatcheck, and here was the claim ticket (which was actually a brass numbered circle attached to a gigantic tassel because Ritz and because of course).

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When we were finally seated (in a back corner because I’m sure they could just sense what a mess I was turning out to be), I tried very hard to be chill:

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But no one was fooled.  Things did not get better when the tea arrived, as I, dolt that I am, poured it myself instead of waiting for our server to do it for me.  He was very sweet about it, telling me he’d just take care of it during our next visit.  (Because clearly, we do this kind of thing all the time.  Are you not reading the signs, sir?!  I am being incredibly awkward over here!!!!)  Even my choice of tea had been fraught with anxiety, and I was almost certain the waiter barely suppressed an eye roll when I American-drawled “Earrrrrrl GrrrrrAAAy” at him.  (It’s a tea I know, and that I know I’ll like, and I didn’t want my fancy tea experience to be tainted by a tea I didn’t enjoy.  Clearly, that was the least of my worries, but still.)

Finally, however, the tea was poured, the sandwiches were served, and we could get down to the business of eating, drinking, and Jon making fun of me for being the most maladroit tea-date ever.

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This was the SECOND plate of sandwiches. The first one had twice as many.

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Not sure which was more awkward–me pouring my own tea or taking a picture of it while doing it. This is why I generally stick to coffee.

There were also scones and a dessert course, which neither of us managed to capture because we were too busy stuffing all of this into our fat, American faces.  Tea being finished in a considerably less bumbling style than it began, all that was left was for me to collect my coat, which I did quite successfully after trying to walk into the men’s bathroom, wandering into the ladies, and finally finding the coat check just to the left of the doors to the men’s.  I don’t even know, you guys…

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Clearly, after all that caffeine and incompetence, I needed a drink, so after checking out a few book shops in Charring Cross road, we stumbled upon Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden.  I think we’d both bookmarked this place before the trip, but finding it was a happenstance, as it’s just a little alleyway off a main road.  It leads back into a kind of hidden square, with lots of little shops and restaurants.  We grabbed an outdoor table and a bottle of wine at Casanova and Daughters, and settled in to people watch while we waited for the theater to open.

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And then, it was time.  HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD TIME!  The entire reason we came to London in the first place.

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I can’t tell you about the play yet (and I wouldn’t on here anyway because it would be super-long, and if you aren’t a Harry Potter fan you would care less than you already do), but the experience was fantastic.  It’s been a while since I’ve been to an event that everyone is beyond excited to attend.  Everyone there was a huge fan, and just genuinely felt happy and fortunate to BE there.

We wanted to take a picture out front, and I kept trying to show everyone how excited I was, but Jon as not a fan of this... Maybe all of the awkward hadn't rubbed off yet.

We wanted to take a picture out front, and I kept trying to show everyone how excited I was, but Jon was not a fan of this… Maybe all of the awkward hadn’t rubbed off yet.

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We went with this one, which is clearly saner. And clearly less fun.

The staff was excited to be working there–all of them had been sorted into houses (I asked), and they were friendly and helpful, and the people we sat by were friendly, and the British efficiency with queuing applied here, too, and I don’t have the words.  I loved it so, so much.

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A shot of the opening set and the closing set (from Part I), that’s all you’ll get from me.  Once the script has published, if you want to ask us about it, we’ll be happy to talk to you about it, but until then, we’re not willing to risk the wrath of Jo (Rowling).

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Part I over, we grabbed a couple drinks at Gordon’s Wine Bar before making our way home to rest up for Day 4.