europe: Abbey

Wednesday, August 4, 1999

Sorry for the interruption, but Rosie made it to the station and we were off to the Abbey. More about that in a bit—as I was saying, the jewels themselves were magnificent. The jewel hilted blade used during the crowning ceremony was beautifully wrought and sparkled incessantly in the light. Some of the crowns were completely covered in small diamonds ad had huge diamonds as their centerpiece. Although I must admit I didn’t want to wait on the line to see the jewels, it was definitely worth the wait.

The architecture of the tower was not what I expected. The buildings were built up at different times and while impressive, don’t seem to flow properly together. The high walks and water gate entrance (also known as traitor’s gate) stood as an eerie reminder of how different times were and how difficult it was to live in a kingdom controlled by a monarch and a church gone made with power.

Except for the lack of torture implements and the incredible soreness left in my legs after touring the entire grounds, the visit to the Tower of London was enlightening and enjoyable.

After finishing with the tower we headed off for dinner more than a little famished. We ended up in an American-style bar for burgers and beer (they used JFK pictures and American flags as decoration—hence their claim to an “American” style bar). The food was decent and their leather couches made for an excellent rest period after the day’s journey.

We hung around the bar for a couple of hours and then headed for the Bank Underground station for a guided hauntings tour. Our guide brought us through parts of London where ghost stories and rumors had formed. Besides giving an uninspiring rendition of the ghost stories—he was an interesting actor but failed to tell the stories in a way that would make them scary—he also whoo’ed us with amateur magic tricks. Probably the most interesting part was his accusation of one of the tour members of being a witch and his attempts to burn her at the stake at the end. While the tour was entertaining, it lacked a spark that could have made it realistic and spooky.

When we finally figured out how to get home after the tour—the underground is under construction and the easiest route was closed—we stopped at a 24-hour café and had drinks and some pastries. We then went back to the hotel and after talking about some common friends and high-maintenance girls, I fell asleep.

I went to breakfast this morning at 8am and then went back to sleep until about 11:30am. Of course, my mother would be having a hissy-fit if she learned that I spent half a vacation day asleep instead of seeing every possible site—but to each their own. Rosie went to St. James cathedral in the morning and went to Buckingham palace to see the changing of the guard, which she said was interesting, but incredibly crowded; she had not seen it yesterday because it is only shown once every 2 days.

As I mentioned earlier, I met Rosie at Westminster station. As I later came to realize, the tower housing Big Ben (the bell not the clock is known as Big Ben), is not the tower of Westminster Abbey, but of St. Martin, which contains the parliament houses in the back. We walked down to the Abbey and waited 30 minutes and paid ₤3.50 (thanks to our student IDs) to get in.

Inside was tomb upon tomb upon tomb of at-their-time famous people. The monuments, statues and plaques were added in anywhere and everywhere with no particular ordering. The puzzle-like crypt contained, you guessed it, dead people with words explaining their accomplishments (such as being a mother of a monarch) and their devotion to god. While in its pamphlet Westminster Abbey claims to be a devotion to God, inside is more a devotion to dead people, with incredible statues with gold leaf carvings and a distinctly crypt-smell.

After leaving the hall of dead people, we headed to the British museum, which is on a stop of the underground. We ate in a little “deli” outside the museum. The sandwiches they gave us were even smaller than the ones served at the Syracuse Law cafeteria. The meat and desserts, however, were quite tasty. The British museum closes at 5pm and we got there at 4pm, so we weren’t able to stay long. We did get to see the ancient Egyptian (read as mummy) exhibit, and the ancient British exhibit (standard museum stuff).

We left the museum at 4:50pm and made our way to Kingsbridge so Rosie could to go to Harrods. While she’s there, I took a walk a couple of blocks away to Hyde park, where I’m writing this entry while lying on the gras with my shoes off under a sparkling tree.