Queen of the Underground

This morning was kicked off with Julie cooking us crêpes, which unsurprisingly did not help my craving for blueberry pancakes and absolute need to find an IHOP.

We jumped on the tube and headed to Tower Hill as soon as we were done with our delicious French breakfast, where we visited my absolute favorite historical site — The Tower of London.

History, Jewels, and Torture — the trifecta.

The original tower was founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror, not unlike the current monarchy. Expansion under Richard I, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th century created the landscape of the tower that still exists today. It’s been an armory, treasury, menagerie, home of the Royal Mint and the Crown Jewels, a public records office, and in the 14th century it served as a royal residence. It’s probably best known for its bloody reputation which peaked in the 16th and 17th century when it became a prison under Tudor reign, though only seven people have ever been executed at the actual Tower.

Most notably, her.

After about three hours of looking at armor, torture chambers, and very large jewels, we grabbed some sandwiches and jumped on a tour ferry that took us down the Thames from Tower Hill to Westminster. We saw the London Eye, though we didn’t go up in it since it was a long wait and wasn’t covered by our London Pass cards. We also saw Big Ben, and then went to Westminster Abbey.

As the second giant church in as many days, Westminster isn’t nearly as beautiful as St. Paul’s, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. The site was consecrated by Edward the Confessor in 1050, and the modern building was founded by Henry III in 1245. Hundreds of  people are buried there, including 18 British monarchs, and various other famous people, such as Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen, and Oliver Cromwell.

This may have been the highlight of my visit.

Once we had gotten our fill of grave walking, we hopped on the tube to High Street Kensington, were we planned to tour Kensington Palace. The palace is a beautiful manor house that was originally a country home for the Earl of Nottingham, but was acquired by William III in 1689 because he was asthmatic and wanted a home out of the smog of London. It was expanded by William and Mary, as well as Anne, and is considered the “Princess Palace” because Victoria grew up there, as did the daughters of George III, and it’s where Princess Diana, Princess Margaret, and Princess Alice all lived until their deaths in 1997, 2002, and 2004.

We were planning on going on the palace tour which is most noted for its extensive dress collection; however, we didn’t know that Kensington had been transformed into “The Enchanted Palace” which is basically an interactive children’s museum focusing on seven different princesses (Mary II, Anne, Caroline, Charlotte, Victoria, Margaret, and Diana) and their time spent at Kensington. I was pretty disappointed they had made such a beautifully historical building so kitschy.

Also, extremely creepy.

After we finished at Kensington we met up with Julie at Leicester Square where we wandered through Covent Garden and found the cheesiest touristy souvenir shop we could find, then we headed back to South Woodford and hung out with Julie and her roommates.

Tomorrow morning we leave early to head back to Dublin. This has been a short trip, but I’m really glad I took it. Despite it being ridiculously expensive (remember that £1 = $1.78), I absolutely love London, and for the first time anywhere I managed to prove myself not directionally challenged. In fact, not only did I know where we were and where we were going the entire trip, I managed to master the tube system as well. While this may not seem like a large feat, it’s a personal victory and I take them where I can.

I got this.

As much as I’ve enjoyed knowing where I am, all good things must come to an end. I need to finish repacking and get to bed so I can return to Dublin, the Land of the Lost.

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