Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Ireland-UK Trip: England Day 10 - Tower of London

That's it, stick a fork in us, we are done touring!  This morning we got up early, skipped breakfast and most importantly, coffee, in order to get to the Tower of London before it opened.  This may have been a tactical mistake in retrospect.

We got in right after the Yeoman Warden opened the main gate into the London Tower Castle.  The tower itself, I believe, is the White Tower in the middle of the fortification, the other towers and walls having been built up since William the Conqueror first had the tower built soon after 1066.

Perhaps it's because we've seen 23 castles, from Irish ones, to Scottish ones, to Welsh ones and then finally English ones, but the Tower of London just didn't have the impact some of the other ones had.  Perhaps we're just tired of traveling?  Perhaps skipping breakfast wasn't such a hot idea?

This is in no way a posting to put people off of going to the Tower of London, it's got some marvelous armor/arms exhibits in the White Tower and of course, there's the Crown Jewels (which we skipped, too damn crowded).

The weather was warm and sunny, so the crowds were out, and so were the large school tour groups....

 The Royal Seal above the tower gate used as the main entrance these days.

 Traitor's Gate, back in the day, the waters of the Thames River would
have flowed in through this gate, and one arrived as a prisoner in this manner.

 A view of the court in between the outer and inner walls

 A view of part of the Tower Bridge from
inside one of the towers

 The stained glass windows in the small chapel
where King Henry VII died under "mysterious"
circumstances, May 21, 1471.

 A better view of Tower Bridge from the wall walkway
I added on the "watercolour" effect as the pic looked like a painting
when I was finished post-processing it.

 The White Tower, I believe it was the original tower 
built by King William the Conqueror after 1066, the rest
of the fortifications built on and around it as the years went by.
It now serves as the Armory Museum.

 Posing with the artwork along the castle wall's walkway

 The Coldstream Guards had the "duty" today, guarding the
Crown Jewels.
The cannon used to be Napoleon Bonaparte's

 The entrance to the tower housing the Crown Jewels.

Inside the White Tower is the Armory and Ordnance Museum.  Quite interesting and very well laid out to show visitors not only suits of armor and old edged weapons but more modern weapons manufactured by the Royal Ordnance Corps.

 Armoring one's horse, wonder how the horse felt about it
on a hot day?

 King Henry VIII's Field Armor

 The dragon and the dragging tourist

 View of Tower Bridge from within the White Tower

 Part of the stockpile of cannons

 More evidence of guns which made their crews have
really bad days.

 A cousin Raven to the ones kept captive in the Tower
of London?  See legend of the ravens: LINK

We had a very late brunch after finishing at the Tower of London, and still feeling tired, we trudged over to the underground/tube to Mansion Station to visit Saint Paul's Cathedral.  One wrong turn later, Martha corrected me and we found the cathedral.

Unfortunately, we learned upon entering that no photography was allowed within the cathedral and I was unwilling to fork over the admittance price of 18 pounds each.  So it's just pictures of the outside for us.  Again, we're probably just castle and churched out by now.

Queen Victoria at the front of St. Paul's Cathedral

Martha and I gave up at this point, choosing instead to return to the underground/tube and ride back to Paddington Station.

In case you're wondering why we both are "castled-out" and "churched-out":

We visited:  23 Castles, 19 Churches/Abbeys.
Took 12 guided tours.
Drove 1559 miles in the rental car, on the wrong side of the road.  ;)
Martha and I rode 660 miles by Sidecar Rig in Ireland.
460 Miles of Scottish roads explored by me along with 200 Welsh/English Miles.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Ireland-UK trip: England Day 9 London Recce

Recce:  Short for Reconnaissance

We drove our rental car from Littlebourne to near Heathrow airport; though not without a traffic diversion (detour) causing us and several other cars to have to negotiate a one vehicle(barely) lane with oncoming traffic!  Oh, and throw in two shallow water crossings and you can imagine it was quite the adventure just to reach the highway!

Couple of hours of slab riding later, we discovered that both the Waze app and Google Maps really didn't know how to get us to the Heathrow Marriot!  Much cussing later, we found it and checked in to drop off our bags.

Next we went to Heathrow Airport a few miles away and dropped off the rental car.  I want it noted the car was undented, though am sure the vegetation in the many country lanes must surely have scratched it!

We took the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station in London (15min trip vice over an hour by the Tube).  After walking a bit, located the spot to board the Big Bus Tour company's bus for the Red Route to see the sights and get our bearings for tomorrow's touring.

We sat on the upper deck, exposed to the sprinkles of rain and cold wind, but with great viewing angles.  We went past Trafalgar Square and saw Admiral Nelson's statue, same for Picadilly Circus, Oxford Street (shopping mecca apparently), the Shard and a couple of other weird's some stuff I found interesting.

 I am surprised they actually let you touch the horse....

The Dragon is a guardian of London apparently, there's statues showing the town
limits and on their city emblem.

 Views of Saint Paul's Cathedral, which Martha and I hope to see
more thoroughly tomorrow

 A view of the Tower of London from the bus (above)

Some of you are probably like me, and thought that the Tower of London was one tower.  It started that way with William the Conqueror, but as you can see, they've added to it.  More tomorrow on this site.

We got off the bus at the Tower Pier stop and after a brief wait, boarded the River Cruise boat that is part of the package when you buy tickets for the Big Bus Tour Bus route.  I must say, the river cruise gives you better views of Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower Bridge and The Eye!

 A view of the Tower of London as we walked to the Tower Pier

 The River Cruise Boat we took was similar to the one above.
Several weirdly shaped buildings in London, guess they wanted to be a bit different?

 Tower Bridge

 H.M.S. Belfast

 The Eye

 Approaching Parliament and Big Ben

 I liked the juxtaposition of the Statue with The Eye

 The more "usual" view of Big Ben and Parliament.

Another juxtaposition, Cavalry Guard and a modern day Police Guard.

So, now we have our bearings, and our goals for tomorrow's touring.  We took the Tube or subway back to Paddington Station.  Then it was a return to Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 via the Express train (very nice by the way, the tube was looking a bit weary) and a short bus ride back to the hotel.  More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Ireland-UK Trip: England Day 8 - Canterbury, Deal and Walmer Castles

Martha and I explored the town of Canterbury today, site of the Canterbury Cathedral where Thomas Becket got murdered by knights under the command of King Henry II.  More info here: LINK

We were staying in the small town of Littlebourne just outside of Canterbury so driving there only took a few minutes and we parked immediately outside the town walls, a short walk and we were right at the gate to the cathedral.

 Canterbury Cathedral, with it's southern main window under restoration,

 A section of the church is devoted to remembering "The Buffs"
The Royal East Ken Regiment...note their battle flags.

 Stained glass window inside the Chapel of Saint Anselm

 The spot where St. Thomas Becket was murdered.

 Notice the small heraldic shields/symbols on the ceiling in the archway corridor above?
Below is a closeup of one section:

After exploring the cathedral, and its definitely one of the more interesting cathedrals we've visited, we wandered around Canterbury town for a bit.  We decided to rest a bit, by riding on their "River Cruise".
More like a canal ride than a river actually but still quite enjoyable and relaxing.  Our boatman/guide was Rob Nye aka Captain Nye and he regaled us with tales about Canterbury and the buildings we passed during the cruise.

 Boatman Rob Nye

 The lodgings of the Black Friars, the order which participated in the Inquisition
Not the guys you wanted to get on the bad side of....

Among some of the historical tidbits offered up by Rob as he paddled our small boat along the smoothly running river were:

Mentioned in one of the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, the pace used by horses of the day to travel towards Canterbury, aka "the canter".

Origin of the word "Hangover":  As they didn't have Netflix and such back in "the day", one of the ways folks  sought entertainment was the attending of the hangings of accused witches.  Once found guilt through the dunking stool (see below), they'd take the poor accused and hang them!  There would be festivities accompanying this "entertainment" and the alcohol would naturally flow.  The "Hangover" was how one felt after the hanging.  Get it?

Legging it.  The act of laying on one's back by a boatman, and using one's legs and feet to push one's boat along under a low bridge instead of trying to paddle.  Back in the day, horses were used to pull boats or tows up a river, obviously you couldn't put the horse in the river to pull the boat, so short men or grown boys would come aboard, lay on their backs and use their legs/feet to push the boat upstream until it was clear of the low bridge.

Main gate into Canterbury Cathedral

Today's meager Moto content.

After lunch in a Chinese restaurant, we tried to go to the Canterbury Heritage Museum but it was closed on Tuesdays.  So we decided to check out a nearby Artillery Fort/Castle built under the orders of King Henry VIII.

Deal Castle is located right on the seashore, one of three castle/forts built in the age of artillery and designed accordingly.  Their mission was to defend the Southern Downs, a sheltered area of seashore which was highly desirable for invading armies.

 Entrance into Deal Castle.

 Evidence of a "Bad Day" for this particular cannon's crew.

 You can see how close and how good a view of the nearby shore
was enjoyed by this Tudor fort.

 The round bastions formed a "Tudor Flower", I read in one of the many
panels dotting the fort, explaining things.

 I supposed you can call it a flower eh?
Photo of an aerial photograph from years ago.

Built functional and to fight artillery duels, this castle and its mates were not
built exactly for imposing looks.

Walmer Castle, the second of three artillery forts built for defense of the coast, was nearby and a short drive later we were touring it.  This castle was also home to the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, the royally appointed official who oversaw the defense of the Cinque Ports.   Over the years, other Lord Wardens would be famous individuals such as the Duke of Wellington (of Battle of Waterloo Fame) and William Pitt, one of the more famous of the British Prime Ministers.  Both of them have rooms inside this castle containing memorabilia and possessions with connections to them.  Another famous person would be Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who was the first female Warden.

 Martha and a view of the fort from the Queens Garden

By this time, were were tired and pretty much done with historical things.  We drove back to Littlebourne and got some rest and dinner later on.  I had work to do as well as a meeting to attend so just as well.

Tomorrow, we go to the London-Heathrow airport area to return the rental car and perhaps take the metro in to London to take a look around, we'll see how things go.