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Dear Luke and Leia,
Today, our third day in London, we visited the Tower of London, a Royal Castle that is nearly 1000 years old! Back then the castle was a key to controlling the country. The Tower was also the most important royal prison in the country, famous for the Traitor's Gate and the Beefeaters. It was also where Henry the Eighth imprisoned and had three of his six wives executed during his lifetime: Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey. He sounds like a very scary king.
Have you heard of UNESCO? It's an organization at the United Nations that has created a list of the most significant places in the world. The Tower of London is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visiting the Tower of London
Nana came here when she was a girl and she wanted me to see it. I'm glad we did. It's really cool.
The building itself is really quite impressive. It is located along the Thames river in a part of London known as Tower Hill. Because it was on a hill it was a great place for the royal family to live safely. Inside is not only the palace, but also living quarters for the people of the time.
It may not appear very big to you but back in the day, waaay before all the skyscrapers were built, it looked really huge.
Around 1189 to 1190 they built a moat around the castle to increase the protection. They also expanded the size under the direction of Richard the Lionhearted. You might have heard of him.
Lots of cool weapons
We enjoyed seeing some of the old weapons they used around the time they built this fort. They used many of them while standing at the top of the wall. If you ever hear someone talk about a “castellated wall” they are talking about that up-and-down border on top.
Standing in the moat – which is now filled with grass instead of water – we saw a replica of a catapult. Catapults were used to hurl heavy stones at buildings in order to break down doors and walls during battles, sort of like a giant slingshot.
We met a real Beefeater
We had a charming gentlemen act as our tour guide. He was one of the Yeomen Warders, more commonly known as the Beefeaters. Isn't that a funny name? He entertained us with jokes while he was filling us with interesting facts about the Tower as we walked the grounds.
Half-timbered houses at the Tower of London
I loved the half-timbered homes that were inside the Tower walls. These homes were laid out on a square with plenty of park grounds to sit for a rest or enjoy the festivities.
Within the walls and upon the central square is a beautiful building called Waterloo Barracks. This castellated neo-gothic style building was built to replace the original storehouse, which was destroyed by fire in 1841. The foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Wellington, who was a very important man at the time.
Nana wants you to know that she liked the basement the best. That's where they keep the Royal Crown Jewels. We went down there to see the crown and scepter that the queen wears on royal occasions, as well as a lot of other amazing pieces of jewelry there. The basement is actually a massive safe, all very, VERY carefully guarded.
You know what? Nana read that the Queen doesn't like to wear the crown too much because it's really heavy and hard to balance on her head. She joked that she would like to try it on and see for herself, haha.
We stayed long enough for watch the British Royal Guards perform a ceremony in front of Waterloo Barracks. In their bright red uniforms and bear skin hats they marched along the barracks for all to watch. Lots of people were taking photos, including me!
This is the infamous Traitor's Gate entrance into the Tower of London, It was the way you entered Tower of London complex from the Thames and forms part of St. Thomas' Tower, which was built to provide additional royal accommodation.
It doesn't look too big, but that's because the Thames was high. We were surprised to see how much the Thames River actually rises and falls with the tide. Yeah, it's that close to the ocean.
On the other side of the central square there were role playing entertainers making fun of the visitors. They tried to get the people watching to understand the lifestyle that took place within the walls in earlier times. They were quite funny
As we wound up the tour we saw part of a wall built during Roman times when the city was known as Londinium. Part of the wall was incorporated into the tower defenses that William the Conqueror built.
Nana and I wish you were here to see it with us. Maybe some day you will see it for yourselves. Who knows?
Well, it is off to an early dinner as we have a long flight tomorrow to our new home in Panama. We will write to you from a new country next time.
Hopefully we will be seeing you soon.
Nana and Pap