12.09.2014 39 °F
Today was our last day not only in London, but in Europe as we leave on a flight tomorrow back to the United States. While I am sure that our families and loved ones are ecstatic to see us after being abroad for the past seven months, it is sad knowing that our around the world adventure has come to an end. Kaela and I have grown together tremendously over the course of this trip (as it would be difficult not to), and we have shared and experienced things that we would never have imagined. For instance, being separated at Oktoberfest in Munich for 8 hours with no way of contacting one another…and no way of me finding my way home! However, somehow we found our way back into each other’s arms and now, after 4 special years together and a magical morning in Paris, we have a wedding (and the rest of our lives) to look forward to as well. We will cherish the innumerable memories that we have accumulated throughout our adventure together and will most definitely reflect on them for the rest of our lives. We are currently looking forward to planning our next globetrotting adventure. What countries should be next? For a wanderlust couple like us, anywhere is possible. Moreover, we are most excited about our next adventure together: life.
We started our last day in London like any other: by laying in bed and laughing away the morning until the sunlight demanded that we get out of bed. I made a breakfast for both of us consisting of yogurt and granola as we prepared for the long day ahead. We were planning on walking 6 kilometers to the Tower of London, since Tutu claims it would be a travesty to leave London without seeing the Crown Jewels. We hesitated at first, due to the high entrance price, but since Tutu has been our personal travel guide for the extent of our journey, we figured we would trust her opinion once more as it has not let us down yet. We left the apartment just after 11:00 and started the the long walk over to the Tower of London. We had a lovely scenic walk through London on the way. Since we are both in fact English Masters (sometimes it can be hard to remember), we decided to make a short stop on our way over to the Tower of London in order to see the replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. The Globe was pretty much on our way; we only had to make a small detour across the Thames river to see it.
We soon arrived at the Globe and we were impressed with the architecture! It definitely looks like a building that was built in a different era due to the design of it (although it is a modern reconstruction). We walked around the perimeter of the Globe, and took a few pictures outside of it before moving on. The theater wasn’t having any performances today, unfortunately, and we decided not to go inside for a tour since the cost was so high. We soon started walking towards the Tower of London again. We continued walking along the Thames river and enjoyed seeing a different side of London. We were even able to see the London Eye during our walk although we previously agreed that we did not feel the need to ride this ferris wheel, especially when considering the exorbitant price! We arrived at the Tower of London just after 13:00. We were surprised to see a castle type structure when we walked up; we didn’t know what to expect as we hadn’t looked it up! I guess you could say that we fully trusted Tutu's opinion that we should visit the Tower of London so much that we didn't even look it up beforehand! Since we knew this particular attraction would take us an hour or two to complete, we wanted to find a quick snack before we entered. We walked into a nearby Pret A Manger, yet thought that the prices were slightly high for the meal that we were looking for. Kaela looked on her phone and saw that there was a Tesco express on the other side of the Tower of London so we decided to make the trek around it. At the store, I got my favorite cheese and onion sandwich, an England supermarket staple, while Kaela got a delicious pasta salad with feta and sun-dried tomatoes. We also got an egg sandwich and a liter of apple juice to split. We sat on a ledge outside of the Tesco to eat our lunch. Kaela ended up begging me to finish eating faster because she loves to eat her food quickly and also, because, now that she was finished eating, she was freezing since it was so cold outside today! When we left the apartment it was 37 degrees Fahrenheit and, by this time, it had not gotten much warmer. I quickly scarfed down the last few bites of my sandwich and we headed off back to the Tower of London to begin our tour, but not without walking up the London Bridge to take a few pictures.
Once we walked back down from the London Bridge and back over to the Tower of London, we headed over to the group entrance. We bought our tickets online the night before, for a slight discount, and were directed to proceed to this gate. Kaela showed the main security guard the reservation on her phone and we walked right through! We were surprised that her phone wasn’t scanned in any way; we wonder how they keep track of entering guests. As soon as we walked in the main gate of the, overall, quite impressive compound, Kaela made it clear that we should head directly to the exhibit that we had come specifically to the Tower of London to see: the Crown Jewels. We checked the site map and quickly navigated ourselves to the main door of the Crown Jewels exposition. Just as we were walking toward the entrance, we saw a small crowd accumulating to one side. It seemed that we had walked up just in time to witness the changing of the guard! We watched for five minutes or so as new guards came in to replace the previous ones. After the crowd dissipated we headed into the exhibit.
The exhibit is incredibly technological. As soon as we walked in there were three large screens that communicated the importance, and the long history, of the Crown Jewels. As we made our way into the next room we were able to read descriptions of each of the items that were included within the collection. In this room there were also several other screens projecting the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. It was interesting to see the procession take place, and to see how each of the items in the exhibit are specifically used during such a special day. When we finally arrived at the Crown Jewels themselves, we realized how truly spectacular these items are. We were not allowed to take pictures during this particular portion of the exhibit, and the constantly patrolling workers seemed to ensure this. It was a rather unique setup that the exhibit used as well. The major items of the collection were featured along one long row that was flanked on both sides by a moving platform. Viewers simply needed to stand on the platform in order to gaze at these magnificent objects, presumably because seeing these objects render viewers incapable of walking (or possibly it is to keep people moving when the exhibit experiences heavy crowds). We took our time viewing these gorgeous items, and even had to walk backwards several times to ensure that we were not whisked away before we fully finished gawking at the Crown Jewels. The Soverign’s Sceptre with Cross has, perhaps, the single most incredible jewel in the entire collection: a 530.2 carrot diamond, which is the largest colorless cut diamond in the world. While the Scepter contained the single most amazing jewel, the Imperial State Crown is possibly the most impressive of them all, although it is difficult to decided because each crown appears more impressive than the last. Most of these crowns contain so many diamonds that it is difficult to describe the sparkle and the shine that these headpieces give off. Although, to be fair, it doesn’t quite compare to Kaela’s new ring
After we felt like we looked at the main items of the collection for an unreasonable amount of time (like there could ever be such a thing), we looked at the collection of solid gold items that were located in the adjoining hallways. It seems that anything that the Royal family could possibly need was made out of gold as a precaution. There must have been a handful of extremely large and ornate salt holders. There was also an enormous basin that could hold hundreds, if not thousands, of bottles of wine (I forget the exact number). There was also an accompany “ladle” to serve the drinks from the basin that more resembled a paddle for a row boat, also made out of gold. At this point we reached the end of the collection and thought that it was rather ironic that there was a donation bin next to the exit door, considering that we just saw items worth hundreds of millions, if not billions, of British Pounds.
Once we finished viewing the crown jewels we quickly stopped in a side museum that was located near the exit door. We walked in and were immediately confused as to what the layout was and how we were supposed to progress through this particular exhibit. We ended up just looking at the large collection of war and commemoration medals in the first room before exiting. We now headed to what seemed to be the other main portion of the exhibit: the large castle structure located in the center. The entire Tower of London property is rather interesting because it seems to be a small enclosed town. There was even a corner of the “town” that resembled a small German town based on the architectural styles we have seen. We walked into the central building and found it to be a museum exhibiting armory and weapons. The first room contained examples, and actual pieces, of armor that would be used to protect horses and riders. It was also interesting seeing pieces of armor that were designed specifically for the Royal family, or seeing smaller suits of armor designed for their sons. After this room we walked up a few flights of stairs to see examples of weaponry, which always is fun to see! We saw several examples of medieval weapons such as clubs and spears and, surprisingly, numerous examples of modern weaponry. In 1997, England enacted new legislation that changed the laws regarding who can lawfully possess a gun. The police instituted a buy-back program in order to entice gun owners to hand over their personal weapons. The state then kept the more rare, exotic, or special weapons to be shown on tour or in museums. One of the more fantastic examples that was seen in the exhibit include a pistol that was encrusted with over 1,000 diamonds and had sapphire placed in the grip. There were also small hand cannons and old-style pistols, along with a few gold-plated modern weapons. After I spent a while waiting to take perfect pictures of these unique weapons, Kaela and I exited the central building and looked at the map to continue our tour. We decided to visit the torture room and walk along the upper wall, which would grant us elevated views of not only the Tower of London, but also the London Bridge.
We made our way over to what we thought was the torture exhibit, but turned out to be the walk along the wall. As we were following the corridors and looking for the outside walkway, we walked into a faux bedroom and there were several actors inside of if acting as if it were 700 years ago! They were discussing relations with France and the possibilities of war. It was quite a shock for Kaela and I to walk in there and see that, as we weren’t expecting it at all. Moreover, once we were in the same room as them, we weren’t sure how we should react because we were within several feet of them! We quickly left the room to game-plan, since the actors spooked us. We decided to continue on because the walkway had to be through that room! When we re-entered the room the actors were no longer performing and one even said hello to us! We scurried out of the room because we felt like we were interrupting something. We walked up a narrow, winding staircase and eventually arrived at a room that was adjacent to the walkway we were hoping to find! We spent a few minutes at the top of the walkway admiring the view and taking a few memorable pictures of our visit. After we finished we headed back down to ground level and happened to accidentally stumble upon the torture exhibit! This part was rather short and pretty much consisted of a single room containing a few of the most used instruments of the time. The majority of the torture instruments were to keep individuals in highly uncomfortable positions either being crouched or curled up in the fetal position. There was also an example of one of the more famous ones that involves stretching a person’s body to uncomfortable, and often painful, ends. Nearly all of the signs continuously declared that torture was very rarely used and that it is most definitely not used today, let alone in the last several hundred years. Since they were so adamant in making this point, we’ll take it with a grain of salt. In another tower, prisoners were held and some were allowed to exercise on the top floor. There are impressive carvings in the stone walls of this particular building that are covered with glass to preserve them.
Once we exited the torture exhibit, we felt that our visit to the Tower of London had pretty much concluded for the day. We headed out of the exit and into a nearby gift shop to get a few more souvenirs for ourselves and others. After some intense shopping and bargain hunting, we completed our purchase and led the shop. Unfortunately, it was time for the true decision to be made; we had to decide to spend 10 British Pounds on a metro ride back to the apartment, or complete the hour walk back. After some deliberation we decided that we could handle the walk, particularly because it was our last day in Europe (and because the underground in London is several times more expensive than similar locations such as Madrid and Paris). We had a romantic, yet chilly, walk through London on the way back to our apartment. It was nice to be able to casually stroll through the city and admire the small intricacies that make London the city that it is. We took a few breaks along the way to rest our legs and enjoy the scenery, and we eventually made it back to the neighborhood that we are currently staying in. On the way home, we decided to stop at the store right away so we would not have to go back out for dinner. We purchased the dinner meal deal, which consisted of picking out two main courses and a side for 6 British Pounds. We both got a different type of Indian curry with rice along with a mixed side that both of us weren't entirely sure what it contained. Look at us, even on our last night in Europe we are being adventurous We also picked up a loaf of garlic bread to complement our curries. We headed home after and immediately collapsed into bed after learning that we walked 21,000 steps today and just under 10 miles!
We relaxed around the apartment for a while and started getting ready for our long travel day tomorrow. I worked on compiling the pictures from the day while Kaela organized the room and heated up our dinner. Once dinner was ready, we finished watching the rest of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol while we ate. The curry was surprisingly delicious! The adventurous sides that we got ended up being fairly tasty as well, apart from one item that neither one of us cared for (and neither one of us still knows what is in it). After dinner we worked on packing and organizing our bags for a little while before deciding that, since it was our last night, we would go across the street to the Crown and Anchor Pub and enjoy one last pint before heading home. Kaela decided to get a heavy dark beer since she is trying to train herself to like them. I settled for a pint of London’s Finest (yes, that is the actual name), which was a lighter beer, especially when compared to Kaela’s. We decided to split both of them so that we would experience the best of both worlds. The atmosphere in the pub is not quite what we were expecting either. It seemed that it was full of people who had just gotten off work and came for a drink or two as we seemed to be the youngest ones in this particular establishment. Since the Real Madrid game was on at this time, I was hoping that we would be able to catch the second half in the pub, but it wasn’t on. After we finished our round we headed back outside and completed the 50 meter walk back to our apartment (how convenient!). Once we got back to the apartment we agreed that we would finish packing in the morning, since we still have to brush our teeth and whatnot tomorrow.
Kaela is fast asleep and I have been stalling in my mission to complete this post because that means that our time in Europe has actually come to an end. It is difficult to believe that so much time has passed so quickly. The memories and experiences that I have encountered over the past 7 months are indescribable. I am grateful for having the opportunity to go on this trip of a lifetime, especially with Kaela, who is a wonderful person. We are both incredibly thankful for everything that anyone has done to help us in making this dream trip a reality, particularly Heather, Paul, Carl, Joyce, Tutu, Kuku, La’akea, Pat, and Bonnie. We are full of emotions now that our journey has come to an end. We are happy to return to the United States to see our families and loved ones, yet are sad to be leaving this particular chapter of our lives behind. We will cherish these memories for the rest of our lives. Thanks to everyone. Although this is our last day in Europe, our journey is not truly complete until we arrive back in California. As we have had a number of interesting, and rather frightening, travel days throughout our journey, we will be sure to post about them once we are home safe in California. We have a 12 hour flight tomorrow direct from London to Los Angeles. We are excited for what the next chapter in our lives has in store for us. Until tomorrow.
Justin and Kaela
The London Tower!
The London Bridge!
The Globe Theater!
The London Eye!
Entering the Crown Jewels exhibit
Commemorative and military metals
The Armory Museum in the London Tower
Looks like a German village to me! How cute
Fancy prisoner artwork
A throne fit for a king? Perhaps.
A walk through London at Dusk
The Crown and Anchor to cap off our around the world adventure