Thursday 27 May 2004

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© 2004 Giles Orr

Breakfast at the hotel was pretty good. Passable cold cuts, yogurt, cereal, perfect toast.

After breakfast I went to the Earls Court tube station, which is just a block away from the hotel. At that point I concluded that more than half the American tourists in London were staying in Earls Court, because they were all in that station trying to figure out how to buy tickets. Fortunately there was a staff member by the machines (as well as several walk-up windows) and I figured out how to buy a day pass for Zone 1. Then I took the tube to The Tower.

The Tower is great. A lot like the castle in Edinburgh in that it's a bunch of buildings inside a defensive wall. Huge armoury with an incredible amount of armour and weapons. Lots of crowns - many older ones devoid of jewels because even the British royal family can't afford to populate multiple crowns with thousands (literally) of diamonds and jewels. Very weird to see them empty like that, but they also had the current ones with jewels. Including a 700 (?) carat diamond ...

The Tower cafeteria wasn't as bad as I expected. The Tower occupied me from my arrival around 1015 until 1415, again a remarkably long time for me to spend at a site. I think I missed a couple things, but I wanted to move on anyway - I had a couple other things I wanted to see.

I went to the Tower Bridge after the Tower. I wish I could have seen more of the current mechanism for lifting the bridge (they show you the old coal/steam/hydraulic stuff) but it was still very interesting. It's an odd design: Victorian steel lift bridge clad in almost medieval stone. The admission fee allows you to walk up on the upper reaches of the bridge (enclosed) and see the old machine room.

Westminster Abbey was closed to tourists at 1630 despite what my guidebook said. Brompton Oratory (I made good use of my tube day pass) was sumptious and gorgeous, but I didn't take any pictures because there were a lot of people praying. Ending up there was deliberate - I had dinner at the Oriental Canteen again - Ma Po Tofu this time. Not as good, but fine. Cheap and fast.

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