On the Monday after returning from Paris, I was able to go to the Tower of London with one of my classmates after we were finished with our morning classes. Once we arrived, we were met with a flood of tourists and the hot sun and both were almost too much to endure! Despite that, we went on a tour with one of the Beefeaters named Chris, who was actually the Ravenmaster of the Tower. According to the Tower of London’s official website, King Charles II decreed that there must always be six ravens present at the Tower, otherwise the “kingdom would fall,” and there are currently seven ravens located at the tower. During the tour, Chris showed and explained to us the different highlights of the tower, one of them being the famous spot where three of England’s queens were executed. Anne Boleyn in 1536, Catherine Howard in 1542, and Lady Jane Grey in 1554 were killed in the same spot in the middle of the courtyard to ensure that it was a private execution, according to the official website. All three women are buried in the church that is also located inside the Tower, along with hundreds of other unmarked bodies. Towards the end of the tour, he explained that the name “beefeater” was still unclear to the staff, but it is believed that the name comes from the fact that because they were part of the royal guard, they were paid with all of the beef they could eat. Once we completed the tour, we went straight to line up to see the crown jewels. The exhibit was much larger than I expected, full of gold and silver pieces from past kings and queens, and we were able to get on a conveyor belt to see the last queen’s crown which she wore during her coronation. The Tower of London was definitely a place I would wish to go back to, just because the grounds were well kept, the staff was wonderful, and the historical significance blew me away.
On Friday I went on a Golden Tour to Leeds Castle, Dover, Canterbury Cathedral, and finally Greenwich. We left for the bus at around 7 in the morning and were out for about 12 hours, and it was so much fun! Each site was beautiful, but Leeds Castle was definitely my favorite. Once we were off the bus, we were offered small glasses of mead, as it was King Henry VIII’s favorite drink. Having never had mead before, it was definitely an experience right off of the bat. We then walked around the castle and through the wine cellar. We went through each room carefully so we could take as much time as we wanted without missing the bus to the next site. The official website of Leed’s Castle says that this castle has been used for many different occasions, such as Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon’s palace, and is still used as a meeting place today. The last owner, Lady Baillie, made sure to leave the castle as a place for all to see, and so it is now open to the public. Along with viewing the castle, we had a few extra minutes to spare and went through the remains of the mill right near the entrance. There was also a peacock roaming the grounds, and he came up so close to us, as if he wanted to model for the guests. We were able to get some fantastic pictures out of this experience!
After this, we drove to Dover where we sadly only spent a short while. This seaside town is home to the White Cliffs of Dover, and we were able to view them from the area we stopped in front of. Dover was a town I wish I could have explored more fully, but due to time constraints we were unable to go up to the castle. We then arrived at Canterbury Cathedral, a location I was able to recognize thanks to The Canterbury Tales. The inside of the cathedral made my jaw drop! The ceilings were massive, and though I am beginning to get used to the elaborate English churches, I was still amazed by the size. The historylearningsite.co.uk reveals that the steps through the church are worn down in some places because of the pilgrims that have traveled far and wide to get there. Some of these pilgrims even went up and down the stairs on their knees as a form of prayer.
Our last stop was at Greenwich, which was located about an hour and a half away from Canterbury. Again, we were unable to spend much time at this location due to the fact that we had to catch the river boat back to Embankment, but we did learn much about the National Maritime Museum located in this district. According to their official website, they are the largest maritime museum in the world, and this was evident due to the sheer size of the entire museum. We did not get to go inside, but we did marvel at the building before we made our way to the river cruise. While I was glad to get back to the college after such a long day, I do wish I could’ve spent longer in each location because I feel I did not get enough out of the experience.