London May 2016, Day 3: The Tower of London and an Afternoon in Southwark

London turned on the grey skies for the third day of our holiday. We were on day 2 of our London Pass and we planned to use it for the HOHO (hop on hop off) bus and for admission to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

We headed to Kings Cross station at around 8:30am to catch the tube to Tower Hill via Aldgate… a big mistake in peak hour! Clusters of people crowded around in groups on the platform where the train doors would open. We hung back initially, hoping the crowd would subside, but as people stepped on the trains, more would filter through the entrance to join the crowd. We finally decided to join a cluster and unfortunately for me I ended up in a very small space at the very edge of the platform.

Fotunately the next train didn’t take long to arrive and after an uncomfortable clautrophobic ride, we arrived at Tower Hill station. We stopped by the Golden Tour HOHO bus stop to exchange our tickets before heading to the Tower of London a short distance away. The Tower is actually a castle with several towers, and it was initially used as a residence for monarchs, then a prison and now is a major tourist attraction.

Tower of London Entrance

Tower of London Grounds

Tower on London Path

From the Tower there were nice views of the Thames waterline and the Tower Bridge.

Thames Waterline View

Tower of London View

There is a lot of ground you can cover at the Tower. The Crown Jewels exhibition is probably the most popular attraction. Located in the Jewel House, the display includes the sceptre and crown used in coronation ceremonies, which are ostentatiously magnificent.

Tower of London

Tower of London Guard

We also visited the White Tower, which housed the Royal Armouries collection. The stairs are a bit steep, but well worth the climb if your interest lay in historical weapons and armour. There was also an impressive display of a dragon constructed out of metal and medieval armour.

Tower of London Dragon Armour Exhibit

Tower of London Dragon Armour Exhibit Detail

After that we meandered through the Beauchamp Tower, which contained prison cells and carvings left by its inhabitants, which was both intriguing and eerie, then proceeded to the disturbing torture exhibition at the bottom of Wakefield Tower. The display was in a basement of sorts with a low ceiling and featured a few torture devices. The one that I found most disturbing was the Scavenger’s Daughter, which without going into gory details, had a function opposite to the rack.

Tower of London Monkeys

We also visited the guardians of the castle, the ravens. At least six are kept on the grounds, with the belief that their continued presence ensured the safety of the kingdom.

Tower of London Ravens

After a few hours, we left for the Tower Bridge, which wasn’t too far a walk away.

Tower Bridge

The bridge’s glass walkway is suspended over the road, so it’s a great place for some imaginative photos.

Tower Bridge Glass Walkway Mirror

Tower Bridge Glass Walkway

You can also get a great view of the Thames.

Tower Bridge Thames View

After that, we descended to the bottom to see how the bridge’s engine works.

Tower Bridge Engine

Leaving the bridge, we tried to spot a HOHO bus, but ended up walking the whole way to Borough Market in Southwark. It’s one of London’s largest and oldest markets, selling fresh produce and food. Some sections of the market was closed (including a place on our list to visit called the Ginger Pig), but we managed to find a decent assortment of food stalls. There was also a nice, planted area for people to sit and eat, though it was quite crowded due to the weather.

Borough Market

Even though it was partly closed, the market was bustling and the smells of roasting meat and spices lingered in the air. We came across a place called fish!, which had a takeaway window as well as a sit-in restaurant. The fish and chips that we took away was excellent – the fish was fresh and flaky with a light batter and the chips were cooked perfectly.

Borough Market Fish!

Borough Market Fish and Chips

A stall with a lady stirring a huge pan of vibrant yellow seafood paella caught our eye. The paella was a little dry, but it had a deep seafood flavour and there was a generous amount of chicken, prawns and mussels in the serving.

Borough Market Seafood Paella

From a row of stalls that seemed to be roasting or grilling meats, we ordered a grilled lamb wrap from one, with tzatziki and salad. The lamb was smoky and interestingly was grilled until crispy but still juicy. Next to the wrap stall was a place called Ethiopian Flavours which we were put off by due to the huge queue. After Googling it and reading the glowing reviews, I do have regrets on giving it a miss.

London Streets

We managed to catch the HOHO bus near London Bridge station. In the horrible London traffic, it took almost 3 hours to get back to the hotel. On the way back the bus drove over Westminster Bridge, passing closely by the Parliament and Big Ben, and giving us a nice view of the London Eye.

Westminster Bridge Parliament

Big Ben Close Up

Big Ben

London Eye

We also passed by Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey

We had an early start for Paris the next day, so we had a simple Tesco dinner complete with Tyrrell vegetable crisps and Krispy Kremes (good for the budget) before turning in early.

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