Friday, July 1, 2016

Are we sure it is July?

London, with St. Paul's Cathedral in background.
Today was by far the coldest day we have had here. Not only was there a chill in the air, the rain was also intermittent and the wind was biting. But since we bought raincoats for everyone yesterday, we were well prepared (finally!) and marched on to our next destination.

Taken from the opposite bank later in the day.
After getting a glimpse of the City yesterday, we decided today we would head back down in that direction to visit the sites in that area. We had it all planned out (the anonymously donated guidebook strikes again!). But you know what they say about the best laid plans, don't you? Our intention was to start at the Tower of London and make our way to the Tate Modern. Only, the train we needed wasn't running so we had to, on the fly, make an alternate plan of action. No big deal. We were experts at this underground train tube bus connection thing. Or so we thought. We hopped on a train and had a plan to make a bus connection to get us there. Only, we took ourselves to London Bridge and the Shard, instead of to the Tower of London, placing us smack dab in the middle of our walk instead of at the beginning. There was no clear way to make the loop from where we were. So, we just had to improvise. We found ourselves at the base of the Shard, which is a 95 story skyscraper housing offices, restaurants and shops. It is the highest building in the UK and the EU, the fourth tallest in Europe, and the 87th tallest in the world.

Also taken later in the day. 
We headed down along a path by the Thames and just took in the views. First, up London Bridge, which isn't the actual London Bridge, but a rebuild. In fact, there have apparently been many historical bridges prior to this one which was opened to traffic in 1974.
The path led us straight to Tower Bridge, which in my mind is far more iconic than London Bridge and for good reason. Because coffee was in high demand, we strolled past the Tower Bridge to find ourselves a nice filter coffee before crossing to the other side.

Ahead, we saw quite a lovely walkway and decided to head down and check it out before going on to cross the Tower Bridge. We literally had nothing else to do.

The Shad Thames is a historic riverside street set behind converted warehouses in Bermondsey, London. It reminded me a bit of what Tobacco Row could have been had it sat closer to the James River.

We just hung out here a bit before heading back towards Tower Bridge and crossing over to see the Tower of London.

The Tower Bridge was built between 1886-1894, and is both a suspension and drawbridge. The two towers are connected along the top by two horizontal walkways, that now have glass bottoms so if you choose to pay, you can see below you as you walk and are part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. This is definitely the bridge I picture when I think London. But what do I know?

We walked across the bridge and headed back to the North bank of the river.

The Tower of London sits at the foot of the Tower Bridge. It is officially named Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London and is a historic castle which lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. We didn't go in for a tour, and I didn't really get any great shots of it up close.

Interesting tid bit: the White Tower was built by William the Conqueror in 1078. It came to be seen as a symbol of oppression but a new London ruling elite.  The castle was then used as a prison from 1100 to 1954, although it was not its intended use. Sign posts around the tower stated that some of the grassy areas were actually moats.

We grabbed a bite to eat and followed along the Thames on the North bank, heading back towards the Millennium Bridge and the Tate Modern. The clouds began clearing and the day was shaping up to rather beautiful. We actually crossed over an earlier bridge so that we could see the Shakespeare Globe, before heading to Tate. We literally saw it and kept going. My students know how much I despise Shakespeare. I know, odd for an English teacher. But I really, really do. So much so I don't think I even took a picture of it.

The Millennium Bridge is a steel pedestrian suspension bridge linking Bankside and the City of London. It opened in 2002, but then was almost immediately closed to make modifications, as pedestrians felt a swaying motion when crossing. It was nicknamed "the Wobbly Bridge" because of this. Not the most reassuring name.

But hey, St. Paul's Cathedral was over in the distance, the sun was out and we were on holiday, as the British would say. What could go wrong?

I feel like the Tate needs an entire post to itself because it was by far my FAVORITE museum, further proving that I just don't love old stuff as much as I love modern stuff, at least when it comes to most art and literature.

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