Daily Archives: June 19, 2013

Dear Erika and Joe …

Thanks for your message.

Mum and I are staying at the Hotel Indigo in Paddington, London. Mum chose it because it is right near the train station. So it was easy to get here from the airport and easy to go catch the Tube each day.

The hotel is nice but our room is much smaller than Australian hotel rooms. They are my favourite. Mum thinks the room in Denmark might be bigger. And she says that rooms in London are usually pretty squishy.

We have a room with a big bed, one chair, a TV, a nice bathroom. But my favourite part is the bar fridge full of free drinks!

I'm having fun but I do miss my friends and family and home (especially when I am tired). I miss Louisa and Dad. And I miss my school friends. And I miss you too. But London is awesome.

See you soon.

Love Ollie.

 

On the train to the Tower of London

Tuesday morning Oliver and I caught the Tube from Paddington to Tower Hill. It's fun getting used to the different Underground lines and their directions. To know if you are getting on the right train you need to know the name and/or colour of the line you are travelling on, the direction of travel (east or west, north or south), and the end point of the train (because they terminate at different places and/or take different branches of the same line). So to get to the Tower of London we had to watch for a Circle Line (yellow), eastbound train terminating at Mansion House. This trip had a slight trick because we had to get off at Edgware Road and cross the platform. The great thing is that you don't really need to know the times of trains; they come frequently (unless there is a disruption on the line). When lines are closed or disrupted, you can try to find your way to your destination via a different line. Bit like a puzzle.

The Underground, Westminster Station

We were glad we made time on this trip for the Tower of London since I have never been and it is fabulous! The Tower of London is an ancient royal castle and set of fortifications. It has seen some of the bloodiest of English history.

Traitors to the Crown would be brought into the Tower by river, often by night, via the Traitor's Gate. And then either imprisoned in the Tower or beheaded.

The Traitor's Gate, Tower of London

We saw an exhibition of instruments of torture, which supposedly were not extensively used in Britain. The name of the “Bloody Tower”, one of the structures we climbed inside (and the scene of the murder of the two boy princes some time around 1483, or so legend says), might give lie to this claim (and of course we all remember Braveheart!)

Instruments of torture in the Tower: the rack and shackles

The Tower is not one building or tower but a whole set of buildings within two rings of defensive walls and a moat. Many of the buildings date from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, although they have been remodeled and rebuilt over centuries.

The White Tower (top left), the building that houses the Crown Jewels (top right), big and little armour (bottom left and right)

We also saw the Crown Jewels. No pictures allowed unfortunately. These are housed behind 1200 kg steel doors, in a series of rooms that form an enormous safe. I didn't know this, but the original Crown Jewels were destroyed in the English Civil War of 1649 and created anew after the restoration of the monarchy and of Charles II in 1660.

Oliver was especially taken with an exhibition of armour and weapons. We saw Henry VIII's armour, lance, swords and other weapons as well as a suit of armour that Louisa might enjoy wearing. It suddenly occurred to me that the suit of armour you always see in English stately homes (or period dramas set in such homes or castles etc) actually might be armour that once was used and then passed down through generations of the family. I thought suits of armour were just an old fashioned piece of home decoration! Anyway, we came away from the Tower of London (gift shop) with a new battle axe.

Oliver helping Sir Isaac Newton with a tricky problem re heat exchange (left) and putting into practice some new moves learned at the Tower (right)

At the end of our visit we caught a cruise boat from Tower Pier, just under the Tower Bridge, to Westminster Pier, underneath Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Tower Bridge (top), Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (bottom)

It was a wonderful morning and I would love to return one day and take a Yeoman Warder tour (and do the other top ten, highly recommended things). Oliver prefers his own “tours” to guided or formal tours and I am sure that it would take many visits to do full justice to the Tower of London.

Tonight we are all packed for our departure in the morning. Oliver is deep asleep after three and a half hectic days. Things will be a little quieter once we arrive in Denmark. We will post more updates from there!

A model of the Tower of London; larger than I expected (the real version that is)

 

Jet lag and June weather

Oliver and I have been waking at 5.30am since we arrived in London. This will come in handy when we need to be on the Heathrow Express back to the airport tomorrow morning.

But it means we are pretty tired by 6 or 7pm at night. Last night Oliver turned off his light at 7.30pm (after reading a Horrible History book about World War II, which he bought at the Churchill War Museum yesterday) and was asleep within one minute. I was asleep not long after.

This means that we haven't been making much of the long London summer nights; it's still light outside when we go to sleep. Not sure how we will go when we need to stay up for conference dinners in Denmark!

But then it's not very summery here right now. Yesterday the top temperature was maybe 21 or 22 and today it might get to 24. There's a cold bite to the air. Martin Conway told us that summers in England have changed over the last 10 years, getting progressively colder and wetter. The prediction this week is for rain every day. But then we're heading to Denmark tomorrow so it won't worry us!

To take advantage of the jetlag, this morning we left the hotel at 7.30am (after Skyping Louisa and her nanny, Jennifer; hi Louisa and Jennifer!!!). We grabbed a bag of bread we'd bought on Saturday and went to feed the birds in the Italianate Garden in Hyde Park. Oliver was soon surrounded by ducks and pigeons. There also was a beautiful swan who seemed to like bread too!

Oliver feeding birds in the Italianate Garden

You'll notice in the photos that Oliver is well rugged up. It was about 13 or 14 degrees Celsius.

The swan enjoyed the bread as well

Oliver had a wonderful time and has ticked off 1 of 4 things he wants to do today: ducks, Chelsea tour, Tower of London and back to the Zoo, which he loved yesterday.

Views from Queen Victoria's garden

Views from Queen Victoria's garden