The Tower of London: Preservation Conundrums

Better late than never on the blog!  I’ve had a crazy past month with work, traveling to Utah, and so much more.  Back to London:

After a fantastic day traipsing all over London, drooling over David Tennant, and visiting the British Museum, we were out for another day of history and art!

1008431_10101545160293565_11292607_oOne place in London that I absolutely had to see was the Tower of London – it has so much history!  I have to admit, as I walked through, I just touched all of the walls and doors and exposed material possible.  People have done that for a thousand years; don’t you judge me.  I remember walking down one spiral staircase and just running my hand down the wall the whole way down – I felt up all of the history.


The wibbly wobbly Harry Potter bridge, with St. Paul’s ahead!

We walked along the Thames through the mist, saw the current London Bridge (I lamented the fact that it is totally lame compared to the Elizabethan version), and finally turned the corner to the ticket queues for the Tower.  Along our walk we also got to see St. Paul’s in the day light, walk across the wibbly wobbly Harry Potter bridge, the iconic Tower Bridge, lots of giant boats, barges, and bouys, and even the Globe Theater.

From a museum professional perspective, I do have to say their ticket process is ingenious – the cost of the ticket was, say  £17.99; the ticket person asks if you would like to round up to and even  £20 with the rest as a donation towards preservation.  Duh!  We did, of course, and I’m trying to implement the same among my staff.

my favorite monarch!

my favorite monarch!

Moving on, we walked through the gates, past the yeomen warders, and into the heart of 1,000 years of English history.  You can read about the entire history elsewhere, but historical highlights for me were: William the Conqueror, Richard III (allegedly) murdering the princes, and Anne Boleyn.

It was a bit crowded while we were there, but it didn’t dampen my excitement.  Charles loved the armor and weapons displays, I loved the animal displays and Traitors Gate, and we both loved the cooking demonstration, even though the stag’s head sat there and watched itself being butchered.  We didn’t bother with the crown jewels since the line was long, and I had promised Charles time to visit the Tate Modern across the river.  Another disappointment was the lack of info torture chamber – the yeoman laughed at me when I asked where it was; something about Americans and their love of violence.  The interactives, living history, and touch stations really made a difference, though.  Charles and I both tried our arms at the long bow – we weren’t too shabby at it!

yummy. It really did smell delicious!

yummy. It really did smell delicious!

Reading about the Tower, I was a bit surprised to find out that sections were torn off that didn’t look “old” or “new” enough. I don’t know why I was surprised since this is a common practice, but it did still hurt my heart a bit.  I deal with the same type of things (on a MUCH smaller scale) at my own site, where the historic house has undergone MANY renovations, changes, and owners in its 200 years.  What period do you interpret?  Can you tell all the stories?  What color do you paint the walls – the color from 1200, 1500, or 1850?  Should you tear down a building from 1700 in favor of the view from a 1300 building?  I don’t have the answers, and I don’t know if there is a right answer.  Preservationists – what are your thoughts?

My general demeanor throughout the Tate

My general demeanor throughout the Tate

We left the tower to head to the Tate Modern.  I originally thought I would write a blog about that, but I enjoyed it so little that I don’t even really want to think about it that much.  I saw a Dali, which was ok, and I ate an ok muffin from the cafe.  Charles saw a couple things he liked, but over all, it just wasn’t that great.  As you know if I read this blog, I have feelings about art museums anyway, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.  I have nothing against art, obviously, since I’m engaged to an artist.  I like a lot of contemporary art and old art; something about modern art just irks me, though, in general.  I like van Gogh?  And now I’ve dedicated a whole paragraph to that place. Fin.

From the Tate, we tried to find a place for dinner, which we hadn’t anticipated as a problem, until we realized it was New Years Eve.  We went to the Sainsbury’s by the flat, watched the premier of Sherlock on the BBC online, and then headed out to Southbank for the fireworks….

london day 2

Our day in review

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Northern Ireland: Giant’s Causeway

Walk down to the Causeway

Walk down to the Causeway

After the bridge, lunch, and cute ponies,  we continued on to another National Trust site, the Giant’s Causeway. Wayne from Extreme Ireland Irish Day Tours told us some of the history and mythology associated with the geological phenomenon along the short drive to the site.

I'm not sure what this is, but it is terrifying and probably exactly what it looked like when Fionn and Ben met.

I’m not sure what this is, but it is terrifying and probably exactly what it looked like when Fionn and Ben met.

Legend has it that the rock columns that make up the formation are the remains of a road built by giants.  Wayne told us that the Irish giant and hero Fionn mac Cumhaill, sometime called Finn MacCool, was the rival of a Scottish giant called Benandonner.

Ben challenged Fionn to a duel, and built the causeway across the Channel so that they could meet. When Fionn saw Ben coming across the causeway, he realized how large his opponent was and decided to hide from him to avoid the battle.  Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguised Fionn as a baby and put him to bed in a cradle. When Benandonner came to the house to find Fionn, Oonagh told him he had gone out, but would soon return.  Ben saw the ‘baby’, and got curious about the size of Fionn.  He reckoned that the baby’s father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants, and he was frightened back to Scotland. As he ran back across the causeway to his home, he destroyed it behind him so that Fionn could not follow to give him the business.

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

While this is a fantastic story, the geological reasoning for the formations is almost as thrilling. Sometime 50 million years ago,Northern Ireland experienced a lot of volcanic activity.  Molten basalt leaked through the chalk creating a lava plateau.  The lava cooled, and when the rocks contracted they created hexagonal pillars that we see today.

Regardless of how it was formed, this is a BEAUTIFUL site, and truly a national treasure worthy of protection by the National Trust.

The visitors center was nice looking, but we were warned it was way over-priced so we skipped it and decided to walk down to the stones. It was super windy, and a little bit chilly, but again, the beautiful views along the way made it worth it.  The path down to the rocks wasn’t too long, but the weather made me long for a quick stop then a jaunt back up the hills to the pub!!  We got to the bottom of the hill, saw the causeway, and I said, “ok, let’s go!”

Gorgeous Northern Ireland

Gorgeous Northern Ireland

Luckily Charles convinced me to sit a moment, and then he asked me to marry him!!  I’ll spare you the details, but it was great, and I can’t imagine a more beautiful and inspiring place to get engaged.

We looked around a bit more, took pictures, then headed back up the hills to the pub, The Nook.  The pub was perfect, we had a Guinness, and then stopped at a little shop to buy some delicious honeycomb candy along with MORE postcards.  I also took the requisite phone booth photo, since we were in the UK, after all, and I wasn’t so uncool to do something so touristy in London.

Back on the bus, Wayne asked if everyone had a good time, and if anyone happened to get engaged at the Causeway – we did!!  On the way from the coast to Belfast, we stopped by Dunluce castle.  The castle is over 500 years old, and is in serious disrepair.  This is

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

one of those cases where “ruins” rather than conserved sites are the most beautiful.  The castle is right on the edge of a cliff, which is great for defenses but not so safe, as it turns out.  Parts of the castle have fallen into the sea, and part of the kitchen next to the cliff face collapsed into the sea during a party One story says that when the kitchen fell into the sea only a kitchen boy survived, as he was sitting in the corner of the kitchen which did not collapse.  This castle is also said to be the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’  Cair Paravel in the books Chronicles of Narnia.

We didn’t have NEARLY enough time in the north of Ireland, and we need to make another trip soon.

To See Next Time:

  • Bushmills – Distillery and town
  • Rathlin Island
  • Dunluce Castle
  • More ponies

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