The ancient Tower of London with its yellow stone parapets and green lawns jumps out at me as I walk out of the Underground station. The fort sits strangely among the modernity around it. My initial intrigue and excitement ran short, however, when I saw the mass of people waiting in line for entrance tickets.
Despite arriving right at opening time, I was still shuffled along in a line so a silent and burly security guard could check my bag. I was unsure of what he was looking for between my notebook and wallet, but I was given a stiff nod and moved forward. I took long strides right to the Crown Jewels in hopes of beating the crowd already wandering around the uneven stone pathways. My timing was rewarded, as I was allowed past the gated queue area, empty at the moment. Eyeing the length of the line that would soon amass there I expected the Jewels to be in view shortly. I was proved wrong, however, as I wound my way through the building. The path to the Crown Jewels is reminiscent of a theme park as the line of people waiting was penned in and fed through introductory halls and rooms. The first room depicts the whole lineage of the monarchy on its walls. The second parades tourists in front of a video of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. The final room is the largest and brings the suspense of the Jewels to a climax as a slide show of pictures of them with accompanying explanations is projected onto the walls.
The Crown Jewels themselves were glittering with intricate details. The stones encrusting the gold and silver were larger than I had anticipated. However, the collection as a whole was smaller than I had been lead to believe. Jackie Hinke agreed with me saying, “I was expecting more earrings and rings and such.” I wanted to linger longer on the few, but breathtaking Jewels, but was pushed out by a sudden influx of fellow tourists.
Once back out onto the green courtyard in the center of the fort I didn’t know what to do next. I had come for the jewels and now that I had seen them, I was ready to wind my way out of the tower. To my dismay, I was dragged to a guided tour where a group of twenty or so people was already gathering. By the time the Yeoman Warder begin his lecture, there were forty people straining their ears against the wind and murmurs of the uninterested. My mind easily wandered as the massive group was led around the tower. I was glad when it ended after forty minutes and asked two of my classmates what they thought of the tour. Jackie Hinke said, “I was disappointed by the Yeoman Warder tour, it was too large and felt impersonal.” Gina Ciliberto echoed this sentiment, “The tour guide was stiff…he didn’t make the tour compelling.” The Yeoman Warder was a soft-spoken older gentleman. He had many stories to tell about the various rooms of the tower and their prisoners, but he rattled them off so swiftly I was unable to catch them as I drowned in the chatty mob.
Exploring the rest of the tower proved very difficult as I tripped over screaming children running about and groups of high schoolers giggling and shoving each other. When I finally made it into the Bloody Tower, which has been made into a game for people to guess and vote on who they think killed the young sons of King James, I was assaulted with the loud reasoning of other people’s suspicions and was unable to form my own.
The morning was beginning to turn into afternoon and the stream of tourists entering the tower was increasing by the second. I took this as my queue to leave. Upon exiting I was greeted by a magnificent view of the Tower Bridge and was finally able to take a deep breather and spread my arms wide without smacking anyone. After the over-crowded and over-rated experience of the Tower of London, I enjoyed my quiet walk back to the tube station, however, not before stopping for a picture in front of the Tower Bridge.
The Tower of London’s website: http://www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/