London and Oxford: Tea, Murder, and Toad-in-a-hole
Molly is in London!
Hello friends, as I type, I am on a train to Holyhead port, England. From Holyhead, I will take a ferry to Ireland, which is my final country to visit. Wow, my trip is almost done.
Well, let’s talk about my jolly ‘ole time in England! We arrived in London by a very fast train that took the Chunnel (a railway tunnel that goes under the English Channel). From Paris, it only took a little over 2 hours. Woah.
We took a taxi to the apartment we would be staying at in the South Kensington/Chelsea area. If you didn’t know, this is a very posh area of London. This is near the palaces and many well to-do people live here. We arrived at the apartment and found a 4 story, but very skinny building. It had a cute charm, so I liked it right away. It had a nice living room (my bedroom), large kitchen in the basement, and 2 more stories with just bedrooms. I felt like a princess. While, Jamie and Dad explored South Kensington, I rested in the apartment. I made some tea, turned on BBC, and relaxed. (If you’re curious, I injured my foot in Paris. The Keen sandals I love have met their end. Wearing them for 7 months straight has finally hurt my feet. So sad). I felt very British. The telly told me there was a flood in South London and that imported fruit from France tasted the same as English fruit. How very interesting. I was happy to have a rest day after 2 weeks of constant movement.
The next morning, I made Crêpes for the family (Pauline taught me how). After breakfast, we decided to go to the Tower of London. If you didn’t know, the Tower of London was once the old palace for the kings and queens of England, but eventually became famous for being a prison and torture chamber. Many royal or famous people were sentenced to death because of treason and were sent here. Before the 1800’s, all deaths were by beheadment, in which these men and women would be shamefully walked across the city, from the Tower of London, to a public space to get their head chopped off. Then, their head would be placed on a spike and left on London Bridge, as a warning for the people questioning the throne.
We got a tour with a Yeomen Warder, who is apart of the Queen’s Guard. They guard the Tower and they lead the tours. It is a very respectable job; it takes 22 years of military service and good standing to even apply. This position has existed since the 11th century, and it’s one of the oldest jobs in the world. Cool, right?
During my tour, I learned a lot about the Tower of London. I’ll share my favorite story with you. There is a tower called the Bloody Tower, it used to be called the Garden Tower, but its name changed because of a murder that took place. Hundreds of years ago, the power to rule as king was so desired, that relatives or descendants would do anything to have it. Some would marry their way in, but some people were so vile, that they would kill their own family for the throne. In the Tower of London, there is a mystery. In 1483 there were 2 princes, age 12 and 9, whose father died and they were next to the throne. Their uncle, Richard, was their lord protector and would teach them how to rule the kingdom. Soon after their fathers death, Richard invited the boys to the Tower of London and shortly thereafter the boys disappeared. The specific date of their disappearance is unknown. Since they could not be found, Richard was next in line and became king. Many believe a servant of Richard or even Richard himself killed the children in the Garden Tower. No one will ever know, but even today, the tower is still called the Bloody Tower. Creepy, right? I learned that 2 small skeletons were found beneath a staircase in a different building 200 years later. People believed it was the lost princes, so they buried the skeletons in Westminster Abbey with their royal relatives.
The Tower of London was a very interesting place. The history is full of terrible stories and the coolest part is that you can really see its history. There is a tower where most of the prisoners were held and they all etched their names or drew pictures on the stone. It is still preserved today, so I got to see people’s graffiti from 500 years ago. There were initials, stone carving, and even their last thoughts. I’m sure these people did not think their last thoughts would be seen by people 500 years later.
Alright, I’ll stop talking about the Tower of London, but you should totally check it out if you’re in London. Or look up the Wikipedia page, you’ll be reading for hours.
After the tower, Jamie and I walked the Queen’s Walk. This is a path that follows the Thames river on the South side. The weather was beautiful and we got great views of London. We walked through an old district that was once known for its taverns and whore houses. Some of the buildings were still intact and I imagined that hundreds of years ago women were hanging outside these windows encouraging young men into their brothels (maybe I read way too much Game of Thrones…). Near the end, we saw the London Eye, a giant ferris wheel that is above the Thames. And then, across the river I saw Big Ben. Similar to Mount Fuji, the Kremlin, and the Eiffel Tower; I will remember the first moment I saw Big Ben. We took a few pictures and then headed back towards the apartment.
I had read on Facebook, that my old friend, named Dash, from college was traveling through Europe with his younger brother and that we’d be in London at the same time! We reconnected and decided to meet at the Church Hill Arms, a restaurant and pub. We ordered drinks and talked about our travels. They had been in Turkey during the protests, so it was interesting to hear about their perspective. We talked into the late hours of the night and I learned a lot from them. I was very happy to see Dash again and I look forward to our next meeting.
The next morning, I woke to my father making breakfast. He cooked eggs, bacon, and toast (‘Merica). Earlier in the week, I had reconnected with a high school friend, named Lindsay, who goes to Oxford for Classical Archeology. She invited me to visit her at Oxford, so after breakfast, I took the Oxford Tube (a double-decker bus) to see my friend. She met me at the bus stop, we hugged, and then my Oxford tour started.
We walked all over the city. She showed me the historical sights and the most beautiful campuses (since she is a student, I got inside for free!). She showed me the pub called Eagle and Child, which is famous because C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were regulars and wrote their books inside it. While walking around the campuses, I imagined how many students have walked the same route. I mean, these schools have been open for hundreds of years! I asked Lindsay how it feels to go to a school with so much history, and she says it still gives her goosebumps and that it encourages her to work hard even on the bad days. In most of the campuses, there are gardens, or meadows (full of deer?), or even small lakes. Each campus has their own character. I like that.
Another highlight was the random Harry Potter movie spots. Many parts of Oxford were used for filming, so Lindsay showed me as many as she could. I am not ashamed to say that I felt giddy walking around these places. Overall, I had a great time in Oxford, thanks to Lindsay. I saw history, posh college life, beautiful places, and not to mention my wonderful friend.
I must mention, I just looked outside and I saw a golf course with lots of sheep on it. I thought, “oh, must be an abandoned golf course,” but no there were many golfers with theirs wheeled-golf bags walking in between the herds of sheep.
On my final day in London, Dad cooked breakfast again, but ham and eggs this time. After, we set off to the Buckingham Palace. We walked through Piccadilly area, walked through the park, and saw the statue of Queen Victoria protecting Buckingham palace. We stayed for a bit and then walked through Saint James Park towards Big Ben. Dad hadn’t seen him yet. We took our pictures with the clock tower/parliament and then separated. Jamie and I got lunch and Dad found the Savoy Hotel, which is where my granddad proposed to my grandmom. Our last day in London was relaxing and full of delicious food (I got Toad in a Hole… Yum).
The next time you hear from me, I’ll be in Ireland. My family’s homeland.