On our second day 'on holiday' in London, we began at the Tower of London. William the Conqueror started construction on this fortress in the 1080s! It was incredible to see a building structure that has endured for so long. Just think of all the lives and history that happened there over almost 1000 years time. Just to blow your mind a little bit more, here are some of the inhabitants of the Tower: Queen Anne Boelyn, Sir Thomas Moore, Edward V and Arthur Wellesley - Duke of Wellington.
See the gate at the entrance in the above right photo? Yep, that's what they would drop to prevent invaders from coming inside. There are also holes that open up from the top of the lookout tower that the British soldiers used to pour hot oil on their attackers. Yikes!
Me with a Beefeater or Yeoman Guard - they've been standing guard since the 1500's. We took a tour with one of the Beefeaters and it was incredibly entertaining. Emphasizing his thick Scottish accent, our Beefeater tour guide told us about all the horrors of the Tower, including a very gruesome tale about a beheading.
This guard was protecting the Crown Jewels, which were absolutely fabulous and everything I hoped they would be. Sigh. The huge diamond in the Queen's crown was breathtaking.
Inside the Tower.
Henry VIII's Armor, sorry for the glare, it was behind protective glass. Henry VIII is responsible for multiple be-headings at the Tower. Have you ever watched The Tudors? Rent it on Netflix - I promise you'll be hooked AND you'll get a bit of a history lesson.
DH inside the Tower complex. We enjoyed seeing all of the antiquities, medieval structures, armor and even the toilets - they 'flushed' directly into the moat that surrounded the fortress. Our Beefeater proudly declared the moat (in all its disgusting-ness) to be the best form of protection for the castle because no invader would want to swim in it.
We could have spent all day at the Tower, but it was time to continue our London adventure. The bridge above is often confused with the London Bridge, but it is actually the Tower Bridge. Pretty cool, isn't it? It looks like it is right out of a fairy tale. Cinderella? Sleeping Beauty?
I was absolutely giddy in anticipation of our next stop: Charles Dickens' house. Before we left for London, friends and family asked us, "Are you going to check out Abbey Road? Strawberry Fields?" Sorry people, but Charles Dickens is my rock star.
Moi and the man himself! Dickens wrote some of my favorite books: Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol. He wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelsby while living here.
The Dickens Museum goes all out during the holidays with a traditional Victorian Christmas. The garlands around the house were decorated with dried orange slices and other fruit and the museum hosts special celebrations throughout December. Touring the house, you are transported back to Dickens' time and can see just how he would have lived. Can't you see he and his family singing Christmas carols in this sitting room while perhaps one of his daughters played the piano?
Here is where the giddiness overwhelmed me - this is Dickens' writing desk. Did you hear what I said? HE WROTE HIS BOOKS ON THIS SURFACE! I couldn't believe it wasn't behind a velvet rope or glass. It was just right there for you to touch and connect with Charles Dickens in your own nerdy way.
After regaining my composure, we made our way to Kensington Palace - home to William III and Mary II, Queen Anne, George I, George II, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II and of course, Princess Diana.
I was particularly interested in seeing the Fashion Rules Exhibition featuring fashions worn by Her Royal Majesty The Queen, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. Sadly, we arrived about 10 minutes too late to be allowed in to view the exhibition. We decided to explore the grounds instead.
It was twilight in the garden and quite beautiful.
Statue of Queen Victoria.
The Christmas lights and tree in the gardens made the palace even more magical.
DH and I at the beautiful gilded gate in front of Kensington Palace.
After a bite to eat at The Pig's Ear, we ended the evening with some window shopping on King's Road. This photo was taken in Sloane Square, which was beautifully swathed in thousands of little sparkling lights.