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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Tuesday in the Tower

Okay, kiddies. It’s time to pick up where we left off yesterday, right in the middle of our proper English adventure. Righty-ho, then. Off we go.

We join our story on Tuesday of last week, and an exciting day it was. First up on the docket — the creepy, crawly, eerie and bloody… Tower of London. We hopped on the subway in the morning and headed for the Tower Hill tube stop. Before the gore, though, we needed some breakfast. Nobody wants to hear about twelve hundred years of horrendous torture and human suffering on an empty stomach, right?

On our trip for food, we serendipitously ran into something that I’d secretly hoped to see — Fenchurch Street Station, just a block or so from the Tower Hill station. See, Fenchurch was a character in Douglas Adams’ So Long and Thanks for All the Fish; she was so named because she’d been conceived (so the story goes) while her parents were waiting in the ticket queue at Fenchurch Street Station. I read recently that Douglas Adams said he thought he’d never actually been to the Fenchurch Street Station, and Fenchurch was, of course, fictional, and I never actually went into the station myself — much less had sex in the ticket queue. Still, it was sort of a thrill. And that’s the Douglas Adams reference I mentioned yesterday.

(Yeah, yeah, it’s not a terribly interesting one, I know. I never said it would be a hilarious reference, or even amusing. Look, I’m just a big sentimental douchebag when you get down to it, okay? No need to rub my nose in it.)

Anyway, moving past Fenchurch, we hopped into the ‘Crutched Friar‘ pub down the street for an early lunch. And I have to say, I was a bit disappointed.

Not in the food, per se. True, I think I ordered the wrong lunch — I forget the description, but it was basically a chicken salad ‘sandwich’ on two pieces of bread, each of which was almost too damned tall to fit into my mouth. So there was no hope of slapping them together and making a proper sandwich out of it.

(That’s sort of a pet peeve of mine. Restauranteurs of the world, listen the hell up — two slices of bread do not a sandwich make. It’s a simple concept. Learn it, live it, and update your goddamned menus, for the love of Julia Childs.

If you can’t slap the slices together, then it isn’t a fricking sandwich. Stop calling it that! If it’s too tall — not a sandwich. A bunch of meat on a single slice of bread — not a sandwich. And anything that involves gravy? Open-faced sandwiches?! No. Sorry, there, Poppy. Stop screwing with us.)

Anyway, it wasn’t my food that made me all frowny-faced about the place. The larger issue was that it was fairly well Americanized. Sure, it looked ‘pubby’. And it felt pubby. It even smelled a little pubby, if you snerfed really hard in one of the mustier corners. But it wasn’t a pub. Pubs sell ‘chips’ with their sandwiches (or, in this case, ‘sandwich-like entities’). But this place sold ‘fries‘. Not ‘chips’. ‘Fries‘. I can get fries anywhere here in the US; I didn’t fly over a big-assed body of water and screw up my circadian rhythm by six freaking hours to order ‘fries‘. Not cool.

This was also the first place that I noticed playing old American ’80s music as their ambient music. I later found other restaurants doing it — many in that area of the city, come to think of it — but this was the first, and I was a bit miffed, for much the same reason as the ‘fries’ brouhaha. I don’t know what I wanted instead — Celtic folk songs? Sex Pistols B-sides? Unreleased Beatles tunes? All I know is that I never imagined — or wanted — to be sitting in a pub a stone’s throw from the Tower of London eating French fries and listening to Like a Virgin by Ma-freakin’-donna. Where’s the magic in that?

All right, enough of that. Let’s move on to the Tower itself. That was pretty damned cool. I don’t want to give too much away or anything, but I can tell you a few things to entice you to go see for yourself:

  • Near the Tower Hill tube station is a remnant of a Roman wall, built (partially, at least) over 1500 years ago. Even surrounded by old, older, and really old stuff all around, that’s pretty impressive. And it’s a big freaking stone wall, too. How the hell do you get a wall to stand for more than a millennium? I built a bird house once. It collapsed in the first stiff wind that came along. These guys were good.
  • The Tower is actually several towers — it’s a castle within a castle, with all sorts of walls and turrets and god knows what added on over the centuries. It’s a hodgepodge of royal chambers, arms chambers, and torture chambers. A tear-’em-down-and-build-’em-back jigsaw puzzle of architecture. Sort of like that bird house I built, actually.
  • I like torture and mayhem just as much as the next wide-eyed tourist, but my favorite story of a Tower ‘resident’ is this — Sir Walter Raleigh was detained within the Tower walls not once, not twice, but three times. For much of his time there, he stayed in fairly comfortable quarters — his family stayed with him for a while, and he wrote his History of the World while imprisoned. My favorite bit, though, is that he was apparently released from his second sentence because he promised the crown that he could bring back Spanish loot from the New World. He failed, returned to England, got thrown back in the joint, and was beheaded. Tough luck, old bean.

All in all, we spent several hours going through the Tower — pretty impressive for a place that (to the best of my knowledge) doesn’t serve beer, eh? Then we toddled off, over the Tower Bridge towards our next adventure.

(Oh, and while I’m at it — the Tower Bridge is pretty interesting, too. Again, there’s all sorts of historical and anecdotal stuff you should probably know — but what the hell am I, a damned encyclopedia? I’ll only tell you this one thing:

The Tower Bridge is what most people think of when they hear ‘London Bridge’ — you know, with the big tower thingies, and the powder blue trim, and all of that. Very distinctive, very British.

But there’s also an actual London Bridge, too — a comparatively dull and drab affair further west up the Thames. It’s relatively new, replacing the original bridge just thirty years or so ago. The old London Bridge went up for sale, and was bought — and reconstructed over a lake in Arizona. The rumor — sorry, ‘rumour‘ — is that the buyer had the other bridge in mind when he plunked down his bucks. Leave it to an American, eh?)

Okay, so over the bridge we went. And, of course, went looking for a pub. And found the Elusive Camel, not too far from the riverfront. Nice little place, and a proper pub, thank you very much. Guinness on tap, no jangly American pop blaring out, and — get this — cricket on the tellies over the bar. Oh, yeah. Now I’m in Britain, baby.

I have to say, though — while watching the West Indies bat against England on the pitch, I realized that I have no clue, whatsoever, how the hell cricket is played. It looked like baseball, sort of. The commentary had some words that get used in baseball telecasts — like ‘batters’, ‘teams’, and ‘ball’. I thought it would be just like baseball, only with less crotch scratching and urinalysis tests. But I watched the thing for twenty minutes, and I still don’t exactly know what I was looking at. I caught on to a few details, but the specific rules are still a mystery to me. A flat bat? Running before pitching the ball? A wicket?! Wha? Man, I have missed a lot. Don’t tell me rugby’s not just football without helmets now. I’m gonna need to sit down.

From the Camel, we headed over to the Globe Theatre — yeah, you know, the Globe. That Bill Shakespeare guy did his work at the Globe a while back; maybe you’ve heard of him. There, we picked up a pair of tickets for a show the next afternoon. (You’ll have to stay tune in tomorrow to hear about that little number.)

Then, we wandered in the general direction of St. Paul’s Cathedral, to get closer to a subway station to help us get home. Along the way, we looked for… that’s right, more booze. (We’re nothing if not consistent, folks.)

We found an interesting little spot — a shared courtyard serving the ‘Black Friars Saloon and Bar’ on one side and ‘El Vino Garden’ on the other. Just to mix it up a bit, we opted for the wine bar, grabbed a couple of glasses of shiraz, and sat in the courtyard to figure out our next step.

As it turns out, we were pretty tuckered after a full day’s worth of adventure. So, we hopped the tube back towards the hotel, and slipped into a guidebook-recommended Indian restaurant, the Khyber Pass on Bute Street in Kensington. It wasn’t bad — a nice way to end a Tuesday in London. We forgot to ask for extra spice — and ended up with pretty much none at all. (Apparently it was obvious we were American. Bitches!)

And so, another vacation day came and went, and we walked back to the hotel for some snoozies. Hard to believe we packed all this shit in, and the trip wasn’t even halfway over, eh, folks? You gotta believe — the wife and I don’t go on vacation to lounge around, you know. This is serious shit. Tune in tomorrow for more. Until then — cheers, and good night!

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “Tuesday in the Tower”

  1. white pebble says:

    Good bits

    Via Where the Hell Was I?, RE: the Romans in London…

    Near the Tower Hill tube station is a remnant of a Roman wall, built (partially, at least) over 1500 years ago. Even surrounded by old, older, and really old stuff all around, that’s pretty imp…

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