NewLondon tour through the old town

Trip Start Dec 01, 2008
Trip End May 21, 2009

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Today I went on one of the new tours of London.  I'd been on the same tours in Amserdam and Berlin and they are generally really good walking tours.  This time, our guide was a bit grumpy but he still knew his stuff.  It was also really cold, kind of rainy, and by the end of the tour, only 5 of us were still on it.

We started out near the Tower of London and saw a piece of the old Roman wall (for all the pictures, flip through the album).  I'll post more information on the Tower of London when I actually visit it.  We also got a decent view of Tower Bridge.  For your information, London Bridge is an ugly nondistinct bridge.  Tower Bridge, on the other hand, is what everyone associates with London and comes from the Victorian era.

A lot of our walk was down the Thames path where we were told stories about how nasty the water is and how London uses it as drinking water. Yuck!  This one building used to be the old fish market. I don't know if the pictures show it but it's actually decorated in fish.

We quickly stopped at this monument which has construction all around it.  It's a memorial to the London fire of 1666.  Even though we were walking within the oldest part of London, it's also London's financial center which means most of the buildings are very modern.  Also, the first of 1666 burnt just about everything.  If it didn't, there was probably another fire that had.

As I mentioned before, the City of London is the financial center and the Bank of England is located there.  If you've read Harry Potter, Gringott's bank is actually based on the Bank of England which actually has a labyrinth of underground tunnels which stores the nation's gold.

We then stopped at St. Paul's Cathedral which is relatively close to where I live.  It was built by Christopher Wren after the fire of 1666 and is one of the largest churches in Christendom said to rival Saint Paul's.  The land around St. Pauls is a protected view so that you can see the church from the whole area around it.  You can also see straight down the pathway to the Millennium Bridge and the Thames.

The Millennium Bridge was built for the Millennium but opened about a year too late at which point it started swaying whenever anyone crossed it.  A study showed that the bridge was safe for about 8 people to cross at any one time.  So it was shut down again and a couple of million pounds sank into it.  It's a pedestrian only bridge that connects the new Tate Modern museum to the rest of London.  The Tate Modern is on the south bank of the Thames and was a historically overlooked part of the city.  There was almost no touristy things over there until the Tate Modern opened.

Our last stop was through Temple Bar.  Temple Bar is a freakishly quiet area right in the middle of central London. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it's about a 5 minute walk from my house.  During the middle ages, the lawyers were some of the only people who could read and write.  Therefore, they wrote into the law that the Temple Bar area was it's own independent city and has remained so to this day.  Lots of lawyers live and study there.  There's also lots of fancy looking cars around.

One other thing in Temple Bar is one of the original churches of the Knight's Templar.  The Knight's Templar were a poor order of knights dedicated to God who eventually made lots of money by starting up an international bank of sorts for those who went on the crusades.  Crusaders could pick up their money in cities along the route and therefore, didn't risk the chance of getting it stolen.

The original symbol of the Knight's Templar (bad picture) is of two men on one horse which was supposed to show how poor and humble they are.  Naturally, when the knights came under criticism they were often accused of being gay!  And I have to admit, that symbol is about the gayest thing ever.

The tour ended at the Royal Courts of Justice, another filming point for Harry Potter.  It's fancy and gothic looking.  And famous people get divorced there a lot.  That's about it.  I spent the next 1-2 hours trying to find my way home not realizing that Chancery lane, right next to the courts of Justice, led right up to my house.  Oops.

And one thing to add on.  British people like to explain everything.  So when you are looking at something and are thinking "What the hell is that thing?" there's probably already an explanation, hence this thing floating in the middle of the Thames.       

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