Oh, Day 9. Had we known we’d get stuck in a rain and hailstorm, we may have burned the candle at both ends the night before. Maybe. The DH said it best, “How else would you have known you were in London if it didn’t rain?”
Up to this point, we’d had great travel weather with highs in the mid 80s, except for Brugge where overcast skies kept it cool. The day started out well enough: cloudy, but bearable. We bought tickets for a Hop On Hop Off tour right across the street from our hotel. We rode the bus the full length of the route. Highlights included:
- The London Eye
- #10 Downing Street
- Horse Guards
- Royal Courts of Justice
- Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- The Monument
- The Gherkin (I think it looks like a Fabergé egg!)
- The Shard
- Tower Bridge
- Tower of London
- London Bridge
- Millennium Bridge
- Houses of Parliament
- Big Ben
- Westminster Abbey
We hopped off at the Tower Bridge and Tower of London stop. The Tower of London is a former fortress, royal palace, and prison. In fact, some of the most famous beheadings happened here, including St. Thomas Moore, Thomas Cromwell, and Queen Anne Boleyn. Currently, it houses the Crown Jewels. More on that later in this post!
I would like to take credit for planning this specific tour on June 2nd, but alas, it was completely serendipitous. We arrived just in time for a 62-gun salute commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. Score one for me!
We opted to take a guided tour by one of the Yeoman Warders (a.k.a. Beefeaters). This was much more entertaining than an audio tour and the kids were able to follow along. Ours was very snarky, which the adults loved!
The tour lasted about 45 minutes. Then, we were off to see the Crown Jewels. Unfortunately, picture taking is prohibited inside the building ☹️. You’ll just have to take my word that viewing them is well worth the visit. Or, you can just visit this site and see for yourself.
Sidebar: Britain was a colonial powerhouse in its heyday. It reaped the benefits of its colonies, including a wealth of gemstones for its ceremonial garb, like crowns, scepters, etc. that live in the Tower and are checked out occasionally for events such as a coronation. Many of the stones’ countries of origin are listed inside the building. It was sobering to realize many of those same countries are in abject poverty today, drowning in human rights issues. Not to mention homeless families living inside the tube stations and on the streets of London. Just something I thought about in the presence of such opulence.
After visiting the gift shop the plan was to hop back on the bus and backtrack to some of the other locations. But out of nowhere a thunderstorm hit. We sought shelter under an archway along with about a hundred other visitors. Before we know it, it started hailing. Not very large, but still a less than ideal situation. After about an hour it let up just enough for us to exit the tower and seek shelter in a nearby restaurant for a late lunch.
The rain paused eventually, but we could see on the radar it would soon be back. We hopped back on the bus anyway and headed toward Westminster. The DH was determined to get a picture with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
We were hoping to go up the London Eye, but this was as close as we got. Having done it before, I really didn’t mind. #notafanofheights
Pretty soaked and tired, we gave in and rode the tour bus back to the hotel. We reasoned an early night could only make the next day traveling cross-Atlantic that much smoother. Even though our last day was cut short, we really enjoyed everything we got to see and do. I told the DH we’ll just have to plan another trip to London to make up for what we didn’t get to see and do. Of course, he agreed.
So ended our European tour of six cities over nine days. It was a dream vacation that would not have been possible without the kindness of his dear aunt.
Please let me know if you have any questions about the locations or the trip itself. I shall be more than happy to answer them.
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