Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Last day in London

Well its just about time to come home. In about ten hours I'll be checking out and heading to the Tube station for the ride to Heathrow airport. I have a mid-morning flight and will arrive back in Minneapolis in the mid-afternoon (I still can't quite work out how that happens when you fly to the west).

I spent most of the day at the Tower of London. That's the White Tower to the left, finished by William the Conqueror sometime around 1100. I walked to the Tower by way of the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange. It was a nice day for a walk; by the time I came back to my digs I'd logged 18,946 steps on my pedometer. I arrived at the Tower shortly after it opened at 9am and investigated some of the grounds on my own before coming back to the main entrance gate for a guided tour by our Yeoman Warder, Bob. He was very good. I probably read and remembered somewhere that the Yeoman Warders live on the grounds of the Tower, with their families. They are locked in every night at 10. What I didn't know or remember is that you have to have put in significant military service (in any branch but the Royal Navy; they're not eligible for consideration, according to Bob) before you can apply and be considered as a Yeoman Warder. Bob had served for thirty-six years. He was both informative and comical as a guide (with a bit of the drill sergeant thrown in) and took us to various locations within the Tower grounds, ending at the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula (St. Peter in Chains). After the tour another member of our group took a picture of the two of us. Here's that image for your viewing pleasure.

Our tour with Bob lasted about an hour and then we were free to explore the grounds on our own. I went to see the Crown Jewels first. It did not take long to understand why they are so heavily guarded. I don't think I've seen so many diamonds in my life. One is the size of an egg. Between all the gems and gold it pretty much takes your breath away. Its quite staggering. Its also staggering to think that at least a few of those pieces are used on at least an annual basis by the queen. I wondered how they're transported from the Tower to palace when they're used; under heavy guard, I'm sure. After the Crown Jewels it was off to the other towers and parts of the grounds. Early in the afternoon I popped into the "New Armouries Restaurant" for a hot turkey sandwich, some grilled veggies, apple juice and mineral water. While eating, I contemplated the last few sights I wanted to see.

In the end I decided to take the Tube from Tower Hill to Victoria. This also gave me the chance to check the balance on my Oyster card to make sure I had enough left on the card for my trip to Heathrow in the morning (I do). From Victoria I headed for the Vauxhall Bridge. I had decided that one of my sights would be another fortress on the Thames, the headquarters building of the Secret Intelligence Service, sometimes referred to as MI6 (the counterpart to our CIA). From there I walked up Millbank to find the headquarters of the Security Service, MI5 (similar to our FBI) at Thames House. I then headed across the Lambeth Bridge to get a peek at Lambeth Palace, the official London residence for the Archbishop of Canterbury. I walked entirely around the grounds (I couldn't get into the actual palace grounds) and then went back across the Lambeth Bridge for a final view of the Houses of Parliament, the Thames, and the London Eye. And then it was on to one last sight, one related to Sherlock Holmes. I had seen it on Sunday, but did not have a photograph. It was of the site of Holmes possible lodgings at No. 24 Montague Street, around the corner from the British Museum. I found the building, now the Ruskin Hotel, and took a picture. By then my legs and feet were telling me it was time to head back home. The sun was setting anyway, so I arrived back to my upper floor room and a view of a final sunset in London.

Its been a fantastic trip in terms of work accomplished, people met and sights seen. But I'm ready to head for home. I've got 40+ pages of notes from my research that I need to digest, put into a final report to the Friends of the Library and use for updating my Holmes/Doyle bibliography. But that will wait for later. Now its time to pack things up, take a little bit of a nap, and then get up before the sun and head for the Tube and airport. I hope you've enjoyed following my travels here on this blog. If you're a friend of mine on Facebook you've had a chance to look at my pictures as well. I'll be happy to share those photos with any of you that aren't on Facebook. One small warning in advance--I've taken somewhere around 580 pictures on this trip, so it may take a little time to view them all. Anyway, that's all from London. My next post will probably come from the other side of the Pond (unless I have a late-night inspiring thought to add here before taking off).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope you'll consider a visit to the Soane Museum next time you're in London.