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09 April 2005

the tower of london

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a combination of factors conspired to keep me in bed yesterday until well past noon. in addition to combating a cold that i caught about a week before i left (for which i've been downing vitamin c tablets like candy), the five hour time shift has really messed with my nocturnal schedule. for much of march i lived my life between 2pm and 5am boston time (7pm - 10am london time), researching destinations and buying gear online late at night. while i'm no longer living life on a schedule, most of the rest of the world certainly is and historical sites and museums are open during typical 9am - 5pm business hours. i'm trying desperately to force myself back into a daytime life.

i made my way to st. paul's cathedral yesterday. designed by christopher wren and built between 1675 and 1701 after the great fire of 1666, the cathedral boasts the second largest church dome in the world, second only to that of st. peter's in rome. i serendipitously arrived just as a service was beginning. the female members of the choir were singing softly and the reverberation of the voices inside the obe (order of the british empire) chapel at the far end of the cathedral was absolutely beautiful. the choir and organ kept me entranced throughout the entire service. the cathedral administration is in the process of cleaning and restoring both the inside and outside of the great monument and as such certain areas are off limits, including the whispering gallery, a walkway within the cathedral dome, where even slight sounds carry to the opposite side 32 meters away.

today i managed an early rising and made my way to the tower of london by 10:30am. william i began construction on the white tower at the center of the fortress in 1078 (!) and successive kings (including william ii and henry iii) have added to the defensive capabilities of the tower, digging a moat and building an outer wall and additional towers. the tower of london has served as a royal residence, a treasury, a mint, and an arsenal, although it may be best known as a prison. famous prisoners include queens anne boleyn and catherine howard, both of whom were beheaded within the tower walls.

i really expected my visit to the tower to last only a couple of hours, but i soon realized that there was a lot to see within the outer walls. one of the most interesting things for me was the prisoner "graffiti" carved into the tower walls, most carvings bearing dates from the 16th century. pics here and here and a very ornate one here. so very cool. the carvings really serve to "humanize" the prisoners... i can't imagine what it must have been like to be locked up in a tower for tens of years... i can however imagine an entrapment of sorts: one of the tourguides led me and about twenty other tourists into a rather cramped space at the base of one of the towers and proceeded to give a 15 minute lecture about the history of queen elizabeth i and the conflict between protestants and catholics during her reign. after a few minutes, the tourguide had already used the word "however" seven times (yes, i was counting) and i tuned her out and glanced around for the exit. with the crowd of people behind me, there was no way i was getting out of there before the 42nd "however". i dug through my pockets looking for some sort of carving tool... "here i standeth trapped, driven mad by a word." pavl 2005.

i'm still working on the gallery and hope to have something up soon. i'm spurred on because i really want to share the picture i took of an american gentleman wearing a sherlock holmes style hat and a sweatshirt with a giant "england" emblazoned on the front. i think it's an unwritten rule that one not wear souvenir garments within the city (or in this case country) of purchase.

posted by paul on Sat 09 Apr 2005 at 20:45:59 est (-05:00)

comments

Paul, no doubt where you got that cold. I am SO sorry. 4-5 Days will be the duration. If I were you, I'd track down some sudafed adn Advil. They'll make all the difference. (BTW, not to be a total downer, but I think it's the Flu!) Sorry again. DAVE

posted by NEAL DAVID on Sun 10 Apr 2005 at 10:48:30 est (-05:00)

Hey Paul,

I am so excited for your travels. When you return (if you return) I reserve time with you to listen about your adventure.
Have a wonderful time and if you do find inspiration, stop by Poland (Wroclaw, Gdansk, Krakow and Warsaw) BRYNDZA

posted by Joanna on Sun 10 Apr 2005 at 14:14:43 est (-05:00)

nd: no problem. i think it's clearing up anyway.

joanna: i think poland would be great, but i might not be able to make it. perfect example of bryndza, no? poland is in my itinerary at this point!

posted by paul recon on Sun 10 Apr 2005 at 21:40:52 est (-05:00)

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