Raising Flags of All Nations…

We were exhausted from our long walk the day before, and we slept in pretty late. I eventually got up and checked out the tour bus website to see what the costs would be. It was not bad, and I was able to book a 24 hour tour pass, including Cruise on the Theames, and add a trip on the Eye for under 100 Pounds. With this setup, we could pickup our tickets from the main office back at Trafalgar Square anytime.

We hit the Tubes, and made it out to Trafalgar by 11:30. There was some kind of marathon going on, and traffic was rerouted all over the place. I had Yulia and Sasha hang out at Cafe Nero (our punch card is almost full!) while I headed to the office to get our tickets. The line wasn’t too bad at the office, and I was able to get in and out fairly quickly, but they did explain that the marathon traffic diversions would change the routes for the day.

We were primarily headed out to the Tower of London, so the exact route didn’t matter to us, so I wasn’t worried about that yet. I got Yulia and Sasha from the Cafe, and we walked over to the bus stop. It was pretty crowded. We hung about for a while, and when the bus arrived, it was pretty full. This meant that we had to sit on the lower level instead of on top, with the better view.

Then we hit the traffic.

I hadn’t realized the side effect of the rerouting would be the huge impact of every car and bus being routed in the same path at once, and we crawled along at a snail’s pace. The tour itself was good, but we had too much time between items, and the heat was on so we were baking on the way. Eventually we made out way around to the Tower, and hopped off the bus.

We were pretty hungry at this point, and found a nice place to eat with a view of the tower, river and even a peek at Tower Bridge. Unfortunately the food in the area was limited, and we ended up with a “Sacrifice Meal” of KFC. We have tried to balance our meals while n the road between good meals, and cheap. The lowest scale of cheap meals I like to think of as sacrifice meals that we eat just to keep the trip going. This was one of those. The quality of the food was bad, but they made up for it in volume.

No longer hungry, as our insides were shutting down in self-defense, we got tickets and headed into the tower. Once inside I realized that we had now visited each of the man castles in each of the Capitals, Cardiff Castle, Edinburgh Castle, and now the Tower of London. All in one trip. What made this interesting is that you hear the same history three times, each from a different point of view. Heroes in one are the villains in another. And in a sense, they are all correct, from their point of view.

Political history aside, the tower is amazing. We walked through Charles I’s quarters, the White Tower exhibits, and the Crown Jewels. This took several hours, and there was much more to see, but we just ran out of time. We spent 4 hours there, and it was beautiful and amazing. everywhere you looked there were examples of the development of the place from Roman times to today. It has never stopped changing. Eventually we were just out of time. We headed out and fond that the cruise boats were still running, and would take us to Westminster, where we could get our tickets from the London Eye. I wasn’t sure that they had spaces that evening, but at least we could get them for tomorrow.

The crowd was big waiting for the boat, and we had to wait through to boats to get on, being literally the last folks let onto the second boat. It was a nice cruise around the bend, narrated by one of the cruise members who gave us bits of river history as we went. a memorable part was a rhyme he told us about the Cast Lions heads that line the river wall, and their relation to high tides.

If the Lions are Drinking, London is sinking…

If the lions are Ducked, London is — flooded.

Strangely it didn’t rhyme.

We left the tour boat, and walked back across the bridge to the ticket offices from the Eye. The day was sold out until too late, so we got tickets for the next day. We figured on getting dinner at the Swan Pub again, and headed for the Tube. There is a lot of construction and repair going on, and they have closed some tube entrances, so I got a bit confusing to figure out how to get into the Waterloo station, and we got completely looped around an underground sidewalk. We found an elevator down to the station on one sidewalk, but when it opened it appeared that someone had been using it as public restroom, so we headed into the train station to find the connecting tunnel there.

It was easy after that point, and we came out our station, and halfway to the pub, found a guy selling miniature pub signs. This looked like a pretty cool bit of artwork for the house, so we go two, including one for the Swan pub itself. Dinner at the Swan was great again, and the tourists who were the customers were fun to mock as usual.