Hello again! As I mentioned in the last post, my husband, Jerry, and I and our three sons, Wolf, 16, Hayden, 14 and Finis, 9, are on a 28-day dream-come-true “Epic Europe Family Adventure.” Our itinerary includes London, Munich, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Portugal.
After a full first day in London, we slept in on Day 2. We enjoyed a breakfast provided by our hotel, Regency House. Given we were in England, Jerry and I did what any wise visitor would do and ordered the “Full English Breakfast.” Oh. My. God. Absolutely delicious. Bacon lovers, our sons each opted for the “bacon sandwich,” which was a piece of thick toast on which a huge heap of cottage bacon was piled. Epic to say the least.
We were well rested and fueled for the day’s adventure, which would include a tour on the River Thames, and an afternoon at the Tower of London.
We set out to practice our public transportation skills by using our “oyster cards” and the Underground to get to the Westminster Pier. As soon as we walked up the stairs out of the subway station, we were surprised when we looked up and right in front of us were Big Ben, and the spectacular Westminster Abbey palace. We also saw the Eye of London as we found our way to the pier and onto our City Cruises boat.
The River Thames is a river that flows through southern England. It is the longest river that is entirely in England, and it is the second longest river in the United Kingdom. (the longest is the River Severn.) According to Wikipedia, the River Thames gets its name from three sources: the Thames Valley, a region of England around the river between Oxford and West London; the Thames Gateway; and the greatly overlapping Thames Estuary around the tidal Thames to the east of London and including the waterway itself.
Our river cruise’s guide was informational and also very funny, making our tour a wonderful experience. In a short ride, we learned all about London’s major attractions, including some of the most prominent buildings, old and new, the London Bridge(s), the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, the Eye of London, Big Ben, Westminster Palace, and much more.
We disembarked the boat at the Tower Pier, and headed, eagerly, to start our exploration of the Tower of London. We were mainly excited about exploring the White Tower.
Located in the center of the Inner Ward, the White Tower – so named due to the white stone it was built from – was begun in 1078 and completed about 1100. It is four stories tall with walls up to 15 ft thick. The boys loved looking at the armour. By the way, King Henry VIII’s armour weighed up to 90 pounds at times! Can you imagine riding a horse, or going to battle with armour that weighed that much? According to a guide that we talked to at the exhibit, only one knight was known to ever die while in such armour, and it wasn’t from a weapon but rather from a heart attack, probably from being unfit and out of shape, and trying to move around in such heavy attire…
The boys also loved seeing the assortment of ancient weaponry, including mace pistols and swords and spears and mortars and cannons. Some of the cannons reportedly weight 36,000 pounds.
Of course, the torture exhibit also intrigued us, particularly our sons. We all got a kick out of an ancient torture advice called the “Scold’s Bridle” Here’s the description for it: “The Scold’s Bridle was a popular local punishment throughout Europe, the scold’s bridle publicly humiliated women accused of gossiping. Locked around the woman’s head, the spring mounted bell alerted everyone to her approach.”
Next, we headed to The Jewel House to spy the Crown Jewels. I quickly embarrassed the family, and was embarrassed and humiliated when I tried to take a photo of a jeweled crown. I was so enamored by the jewels, I didn’t notice all of the signs saying photos are not allowed. Oops. So I didn’t get any photos, and of course I understand and support why photographs are not allowed. We were mesmerized by all of the jewels on display.
As we left the Jewel House, we watched the guards in front of the Jewel House. Guarding the Jewel House is serious business. The guards are not there for visitors’ display and delight, but rather to keep the order and seriously protect the jewels, and access to the jewels. Some rowdy, misbehaving youth were antagonizing one guard and we saw him come unglued, and rightly so. At any rate, seeing the guards was also thrilling for us. We are not accustomed to seeing such sights on the frontier of Wyoming!
We then left the Tower and enjoyed a walk over the beautiful Tower Bridge, and then along the walking path along the south bank of the River Thames.
We stopped to enjoy sights like Hay’s Galleria, which includes offices, restaurants, shops and flats. Next we marveled at the replica of Frances Drake’s sailing ship that circumnavigated the globe two times, and is set to do it a third time.
Jerry and I got particularly excited when we arrived at a place called the Anchor, a pub that is 401 years old – Europe’s oldest pub. We all sat and enjoyed cold ones – Jerry and I had pints of 1730 and London Glory, respectively, and the boys had Fantas. It was a wonderful day of immersing ourselves in some of London’s culture.
We met up with Antonia for dinner, and then finished with an ice cream treat. We are ice cream eating fanatics. Our family has enjoyed a tradition of eating ice cream every Friday after school for years now. Since we’re on vacation, it doesn’t matter what day it is, and we may even eat ice cream every day, and in Italy we hope to eat gelato on a daily basis. But I digress.
What I want to emphasize is we fell in love with Jude’s ice cream. The founder of the ice cream company wanted to create the world’s tastiest ice cream with milk from local cows. In his barn at home he set to work and soon the whole family joined in. In the winter of 2002 he carried the first tubs across the field to the village pub and Jude’s Ice Cream was born. The ice cream is named it after his wife.
Our youngest son, Fin, upon tasting the ice cream, remarked: “This is the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted in my whole life.” We all concurred.
Thanks for reading. Please stay tuned for more reports from our Epic Europe Family Adventure. Next up: Munich, Germany!