If you’ve never been to London it’s likely that your imagination ignores the advice people give you before you go there. “There’s so many people!” “The traffic is horrible!” “The tube is packed with people!” Yeah, yeah I thought, I’ve been to New York, and to many other cities, I know what I’m getting myself into. WRONG.

My planning took a severe hit due to the lack of foresight I had into London traffic. Just getting our car to our campsite in Crystal Palace (a suburb of London) took hours. Then the next morning, the bus to Piccadilly Circus took an hour. Congestion on the streets within a 40 mile radius of central London is truly a nightmare.

By the time we got into town it was almost lunchtime. So as we have done, we forced lunch back until 2pm and got on with what we had planned. To get to the tower we crossed the impressive Tower Bridge:

Tower of London

As most people know the Tower of London is where Anne Boleyn got her head cut off, as did her brother, and many others around her. Henry VIII’s other wife Catherine Howard also got her head taken off here too.

The Tower is actually so much more than a place where people were killed by their King. It is also where the Royal family would go in times of danger, as a residence, and currently as a place to store the Royal Jewels of England. The fortress was also started by William the Conquerer in the early In the early 1080s! Isn’t that mind boggling?

It was rainy when we arrived but only that typical English rain where the sun shines brightly and you look up with no idea how it’s raining because there’s barely a cloud in the sky. I was particularly excited to visit the Tower because I’m a big fan of Tudor period.

We actually purchased a London pass via our phones so it would save us some money and time on visiting various London attractions. The Tower of London was on the list so all we had to do was get a barcode on our phone scanned and in we went!

The Tower is very big and I kind of wished we had more time to explore around but then how much time did we really want to spend at one place? The suggested time is 3.5 hours. I don’t have the patience to listen to entire audio tours or read every sign so we’re usually done with a place in under 1.5 hours.

We went through some rooms where they used to torture people. They had these torture devices on display and each one made my body tense up. We were standing in the place where people were actually tortured. I wondered whether time could fracture somehow so that we might be feeling some of the fear they were feeling.

The highlight for most people, and probably for us too, was the Royal Jewels. They’re house in a special vault that is opened to the public for viewing during the day. It’s weird seeing rubies and sapphires as big as your face and knowing that they’re completely real and almost priceless. Nobody should own something so opulent. (But if I was Queen I would totally want to keep them.)

The final thing we did, despite some pouring rain, was to visit the spot where Anne of Boleyn, and a few others, were executed. It’s such a peaceful place now so it’s very difficult to imagine such a horrific event happening where we stood. There’s a water fountain that has the names around the rim of those put to death.

I stood there, took a couple photos and thought about how Anne must have felt knowing she was leaving her little girl, Elizabeth, to the power of a man who was putting her to death. I wondered how she would have felt knowing that her child, and not Katherine of Aragon’s daughter or her replacement Jane Seymour’s son, that would rule England for 50 years. History had its way of giving Anne retribution.

Shakespeare’s Globe

Around the time of Elizabeth I there was Shakespeare – the greatest playwright of all time. It was a little bit of a way from the Tower of London so we took the hop-on-hop-off bus that came included with our London Pass. It took us about a minute walk from Shakespeare’s Globe.

I wanted to come here ever since I heard about it but I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I wondered why people wanted to go since it’s a very recent recreation of the original, which was built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644.

It turns out that a witty and knowledgable tour guide makes all the difference! I highly recommend the Shakespeare Globe tour because they will take you within the theatre, sit you down, tell you about the history of the theatre as it would have been in Shakespeare’s day and then explain to you the history of the current theatre, which is interesting in itself.

We had the most amazing luck because they were rehearsing for Macbeth while we were there. This meant that they had to conduct a “silent tour” where they give you the speech before you go in, then you sit and watch some of the rehearsal, but are not allowed to take photos. We thought we had the worst luck until the actors finished the opening scene of Macbeth and we were suddenly allowed to take photos again and listen to more details on the theatre. Addam and I wished we could have seen a play in this working, and gorgeous theatre, but the season didn’t start until after we left London.

We will be back Shakespeare’s Globe!

British Museum

Stepping into the British Museum was just like going into the Louvre in Paris. It’s big. It’s too big to do in one day. You will not see everything even if you tried. And we only had 1.5 hours. Haha. Yep, we did not do the British Museum justice at all. I felt bad because this was something Addam really wanted to do.

Luckily we did get to see some of the highlights and our London Pass got us into the special exhibit on Ancient Sicily.

The most incredible thing we saw in the museum was the Rosetta Stone. This special hunk of rock has inscriptions in three different languages: Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script, and Ancient Greek. It was the same script translated three times on this very rock that helped historians translate all of the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Addam was very excited to see the Rosetta Stone. Hundreds of people seemed pretty excited to see it too and so it was almost a fight to get up to the front for photos.)

It rubbed me the wrong way a little bit to see just how many iconic Egyptian and Greek sculptures or artifacts they had in the British Museum. Many of the priceless items they have on display should be in their original locations in Egypt or Greece. Instead they’re sitting in England. After hundreds of years of plundering it might be a good time to start giving these beautiful pieces back to the countries where they belong. I’d rather go to a temple in Greece and see all of its pieces intact where they were originally built rather than in the corner of a room in busy London.

Anyway, the biggest highlight was to see a real mummy. It was very strange to see an actual person, preserved quite well, in a glass case. The fingernails, though darkened and hardened, were so real and present it made me feel a bit uncomfortable about death and decay. I wondered what this person would have thought if they had known their body would be gawked at by millions thousands of years after their death. But then I realized they couldn’t possibly have an opinion on this because the notion of our travel culture now would have been far too foreign for them to grasp. Poor mummy.

As part of the London Pass we were able to visit a special exhibition on Sicily. My parents, and their family, all from Sicily, I found it very fascinating. We didn’t know until half way through the exhibition that we weren’t allowed to take photos – oops! So here’s some illegally taken photos:

After the Museum we had a little bit of time left to visit a shop that Addam had on our list – Forbidden Planet. If you’re from Melbourne, Australia it’s basically like Minotaur. If you’re from the U.S. it’s sort of like an improved Hot Topic/Collectors/Game Store. Essentially it’s a super nerdy place to get all of your pop culture and comic book needs. It wasn’t special to England in any way but you could get some really cool merchandise.