The place on the very top of my bucket list was The Tower of London.
I love history, reading about it and watching documentaries on it. Every time you watch something you learn something new something even more fascinating that happened in what seems like forever ago. For a few years now I have tried to learn as much as I can about the British Royal Family particularly Henry the 8th and Elizabeth Woodville. For me, they seem like forces to be reckoned with in a time where your name meant everything and our life could be ended on a whim.
So when London got put on our itinerary for our trip there was no negotiating it, we were going and there was no stopping me. The only thing that worried me was the girls and if they got bored. A bored child and a huge bucket list place can be a nightmare. I stressed over it for a while and then I realised that we would just have to make it work that day, we could only do our best.
We were up early for our entry time and made our way via the tube to The Tower of London. We joined the huge line to get in and then we waited. It did not take long to get in but I used the time to look at it and reflect that I was finally here. Luckily the girls were asking lots of questions about Kings and Queens who had been there in the past. It made the time go very quickly. As we were let in we decided to go in the free Beefeater tour that was about to leave. We met them just inside the gates. The groups are quite large so getting up close to hear was a bit hard right at the start but the girls being so small wiggled their way right up to the front and gave us all the info about it that we needed. We made our way through the gates and we made our way up to Tower Green.After we had all made our way up there our Beefeater (I am so sorry I can’t remember his name) started to tell us about the history of that area and a bit about his life within the walls of The Tower of London. He straight away picked out the Americans and the Aussie in the group (Mark was wearing a green and gold hat) and we all got a good laugh from his teasing! I was surprised to learn that he lived inside the walls of the tower with his family and that this has been a tradition for many years. He was able to get considered for the position after 22 years in the Armed Forces. The stories that he told us were great to hear. I had no idea about the Yeoman Warders or how they came about. I was really interested in learning about the tradition that they held and how they would go into the future.
He then went on to tell us stories of some of the people detained in the Tower and some of the more harsh techniques of getting them to admit their crimes. As we listened we realise how hard it must have been to live back in these days. Right near where we were standing was the memorial to some of the people who were executed on Tower Green away from prying eyes and then buried within the Chapel. He then told us about some of the nicer things that went on with coronations and the Crown Jewels. He told us the story of the Ravens and the legend behind them. I was surprised that both of the girls were loving the stories and were listening really well.
After our Beefeater had told his stories he told us that unfortunately the Chapel was shut on that day as someone was getting married in there so we were unable to go inside and with that, he left us to explore the grounds of the Tower of London. We made our way over to the Memorial of XXXX. the girls asked me about the Queen that was beheaded there and why. It took a little to explain but the harder one to explain was Margaret Pole. Both the girls thought that King Henry Vlll was pretty mean for doing that. It is a huge lesson for them and we had to cover so many different scenarios with their questions. I was amazed at the thoughts that they had and I did struggle to answer some of the questions. From there we went down to see Traitors gate and it was there that they found some people walking around in medieval dress. The ladies would not smile for the camera as it was ‘crass’ (more explanations there!) but the gentleman with them was quite a ladies man and had my girls laughing. As we had moved away from Traitors Gate we went back to get some more pictures and I was thinking about how many people had come through there nor knowing if they would ever leave. It was a sobering moment for me and it was hard to imagine what their families thoughts and feelings would have been having a member bought through these gates.
We then headed up to go into the Tower. We first went to see the torture room that also held the ‘rack’ It is a horrible looking apparatus and I can only imagine the pain it must have inflicted. We then headed up to the museum. I was absolutely fantastic. We loved looking at all the different sized armour from back then and I could not believe some of it was made for little children. I was also surprided at King Henry’s different sized armour as he grew over the years. I loved how it was all set out covering some of the walls and then there was some in glass cabinets. As we went up onto each different floor there was more to look at and more history to learn for the girls. In one room they both had a turn of firing an arrow in a virtual reality section. They also learnt about medieval life in this part as well. They both decided that ife now was so much easier than back then!
From here we went and sat out on one of the benches and had a snack that I had packed. Due to the amount of things we wanted to do in London and the short amount of time that we had I took some small snacks everywhere we went so it would tie the girls over until we could find somewhere within our budget to eat. We found that it was very hard around huge tourist areas to find a reasonably priced place to eat. They had their snack and then we went in to see the crown jewels. We went from room to room with interactive information on the royal family and how some had come to power. This was really great as we got to see the Prince Of Wales being crowned at Caernafon Castle where we had been earlier on in our trip. The girls really liked these displays as they had plenty of places to sit and watch the screens. They were also very easy for the girls to understand and follow along.
From there we went in to see the jewels. It was hard to get a good look at them as there was a little escalotor that you got on and it took you past the jewels so you were unable to stop and get a good look. We had to go back and have another couple of looks to get a really great look. The one that I really wanted to see was Queen Victoria’s as I have heard so much about it. Everything I have read said it was small but I was still very surprised at just how small it really was. We then made our way to the exit and off to find a toilet.
We wandered around the grounds for a little while longer but by that stage the girls were hungry and they had had enough of our visit so we decided that we would go and find somewhere for lunch.
Tips for families:
- Take some snacks and a drink as the prices at the little canteen we saw were quite pricey and the line was very long.
- Take your time. We were pressed for time and I felt very hurried and I think I really missed quite a lot of what we could have seen.
- Go on the free Beefeater Tour and make sure you get a front spot so that you can hear what they say.
- It is pram friendly on the outside but you may need some help with the stairs inside the museum or a baby carrier in the Crown Jewels area. It will make it easier with the crowds.
I really loved my time at the Tower of London but to be honest, we hurried our visit and the kids got bored easily. I think while I did tick it off it might only be a half a ticket and I would really like to go back there again one day when the girls are older so I can spend much more time there and really get my tick!