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March 7 to March 15, 1998
Day Six: Thursday, March 12
"I summon up remembrance of things past ..."
- William Shakespeare
The day was bright and sunny so we headed out to the Tower
of London. Flora, Barry and Martin took the Yeomen Warder tour
first thing. It was very informative. There are only 40 Yeomen
Warders and they all live, with their families, within the Tower.
They must complete at least 22 years of service in one of the
Royal Armies without a bad conduct mark in order to apply for
the position. After the tour, we all visited the Crown Jewels.
We especially liked the Queen's sceptre, which holds the world's
largest diamond -- the Cullinan Diamond I. The Cullinan Diamond
weighed 3106 carats, the size of a man's fist, when it was first
mined. It was cut into nine different stones, the Cullinan I being
the largest of the nine. N.B. -- When the diamond was sent to
London from South Africa, where it was found, a decoy went to
London by ship and the real diamond was sent by ordinary parcel
post! The gold punch bowl and ladle were also very interesting.
Margie wondered if we might borrow them for Melanie's Bat Mitzvah.
The jewels are housed in a vault within the Jewel House with moving
sidewalks to keep the crowds moving. We then made our way to the
White Tower, which is being renovated, but a large portion of
it was open. We saw the Chapel of St. John and various other exhibits
throughout the rooms. An interesting item was an original Norman
toilet that consisted of a hole cut into the building at the side
of the room with a little seat around it. It looks quite practical
-- but what kind of plumbing existed in the eleventh century?
Well, as I said, the hole is cut at the side of the building and
is cut at an angle so the waste falls directly into the moat surrounding
the Tower. No wonder that no prisoner ever crossed the moat!
After the White Tower, we had lunch at the Pret-a-Manger just outside the Tower. Freshly made sandwiches, cappuccino, and yummy pain au chocolat for dessert, all in the shadow of Tower Bridge. We then re-entered the Tower and began exploring the various other towers. We toured the Bloody Tower where we saw the suite of rooms Sir Walter Raleigh and his family occupied for 13 years. Melanie noted that she was studying him in school. We then toured the Beauchamp Tower where we saw many inscriptions carved in the walls by prisoners. The Yeoman on duty explained to Flora that these inscriptions were made with the prisoner's eating knives (forks had not been invented yet) which were not taken from them upon arrival, because the prisoners were not considered dangerous. The most interesting inscription was made by Lady Jane Grey's husband, Lord Guilford Dudley, who wrote his wife's name in the wall. It can still be very clearly seen today. Lastly, we walked along the wall walk to the Martin Tower for a photo by the sign.
We left the Tower about 2:30pm and made our way directly to
Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. It was a highlight of the trip for
us all. Madame Tussaud was asked to locate Marie Antoinette's
severed head and make a death mask of it. She complied and brought
her trade to England 200 years ago. Most of the wax figures were
incredibly lifelike, while others were just so-so. We would have
to say that there were many more
likenesses that were done well than were done poorly. We had our pictures taken with various people (Melanie with Queen Victoria, Martin with Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Flora with the Beatles) and our favorites included Itzhak Rabin, Queen Elizabeth II, Katherine Eddowes, Ghandi, Diana, Princess of Wales, Mel Gibson and the sleeping tourist. For the most part, we all agreed that John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Prince Charles were poorly done. Martin enjoyed the Chamber of Horrors, a walk-through exhibit of London gore, etc. using wax models. The final exhibit in the museum is a Disney World-type ride through London history. This museum is one of the most visited attractions in London.
After the Madame Tussaud's gift shop, we split up. Margie,
Barry and Martin went back to Covent Garden to shop the interesting
stores that had been closed the previous night. Flora and Melanie
traveled to Victoria Station to follow a lead they were given
in finding "Britannia" -- the Beanie Baby only sold
in the UK. After striking out at Victoria, they traveled to Oxford
Street (shops are open late on Thursdays) and checked out the
toy departments at Selfridge's and John Lewis. They bought Strut
the Rooster, but could find no Britannia, and were told at each
stop that every American in London was also looking for it, not
to mention most of the Britons. We met back at the flat around
seven, and ate more soup, salad, fish and chicken for dinner.
Tour of the Tower of London
with Tower Bridge in the Background
The guard at the Tower of London
Martin with Arnold Schwarzenegger
at Madame Tassaud's wax museum