Monday, July 13, 2009

The Proposal - Tower Bridge in London

A few months after relocating to Berlin, we were ready to stretch our legs and try another foreign country - England! The craziest thing was something I knew nothing about...

To facilitate all our London dreams we had purchased a one-day London Pass which allowed for free access into many attractions, but only for one day. Thus, a strategy was needed: See everything FAST!

The Plan:

Hit Shakespeare's Globe Theatre right at open, take the Tube over to the Winston Churchill Museum War Rooms, make brass rubbings beneath a church, ride over to the Tower of London and explore the grounds, then finish off with a view of the city at Tower Bridge- Break!

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

First- the theatre! Though the Original Globe burned to the ground in 1613, this theatre is a pretty close replica on the exact same spot. Our tour guide- Annette- was amazing & gave a great low-down of the dirty, dark past.

Apparently the area around the Globe was originally the town of Southwark, just across the river from the city of London. This had important consequences, like not being under the strict social and moral codes of London proper. It was in Southwark that all the fine businessman and others came to enjoy the unsavory side of life. Theatres and brothels alike benefited from these visits by Londoners, but had to deal with a curfew. The only way over was on a rowboat (not easy to do in the dead of night across the mighty Thames), or to walk across one of the bridges and suffer the consequences of the gate-keepers. To help communicate across the waters, the Globe would put up a flag on days with a show & the proper Londoners would come right over! The theatre itself is awesome as is the reconstruction.

They have taken pain-staking efforts to keep the theatres vibe similar to back in the day with a few added safety features- like sprinklers. Oak beams support the building with plaster and goat hair creating the walls with the classic thatch roof atop. It is the first modern building in London with a thatched roof! We got to wander in front of the stage just as groundlings (theatre-goers who could only afford standing room) did back then & do today. The stage is fairly authentic not using modern lighting or stage tricks, but relying on the strength of the actors. The tour was amazing & we will definitely be back for a play.

Video from inside the theatre from our next visit to London: London Town- a Love Story in Pictures

London War Rooms

Next on the itinerary, War Rooms! These were the actual rooms Winston Churchill commanded from as bombs rained from above during the war. Great care had been taken in restoring most of the rooms back to their original function and the effect was exhilarating. Everywhere in London had this feeling of wonder at walking the same historical grounds as other great men & women before us. The Churchill Museum actually was the star with really cool interactive displays and quite a character to educate us upon. Churchill's cigars, suits, paintings, and letters were all on display and we really got a view of the Man.

what to do in London, EnglandBrass Rubbings

Next stop- brass rubbings! Replicas of famous tombs are made and then people are able to rub this part metal half wax and make an imprint to take home- pretty interesting.

Tower of London

Then off to the Tower of London, "Palace and prison of the English monarchs for 900 years". William the Conqueror created the massive fortress in 1067 to protect himself from angry subjects. The place is surrounded by two sets of enormous stone walls complete with towers.

The Byward Tower has a bell that has rung the hour of curfew for over 500 years. The White Tower was once the armory & is now a museum of some deadly pieces. Guns, Knives, canons, armor for knights & horses, and sharpened sticks- it's got it all! Most mysterious is the Bloody Tower, where Richard III may have imprisoned his two young nephews (around 10 & 12) and eventually murdered them to usurp the crown. It is just wild to walk around on the same ground as all of these devious happenings.

What to do in London

The Tower of London is also the home of the Crown Jewels where we saw some of the most valuable shiny stones in the world (kinda brings into question Ian's judgement for later that evening, but I will get to that in a minute).

This is all about the place, but what made the whole castle experience was the people. As we wandered through the towers we literally stumbled into the King's bedroom where the Queen & her daughter (not really silly!) were preparing for her wedding. They cordially offered us a brief history of coming events and introduced themselves. Ian put forth a meaty American hand & prepared to shake the hand of the Queen (really). Dismay & horror registered on both their faces and Ian was made aware of the great dishonor he had placed upon the Queen & subsequently forced to get down on one knee & kiss her hand before we escaped through a narrow spiral staircase into the next room.

Our next encounter was just an enlightening, but a little less embarrassing. Beefeaters could be seen walking around the castle giving tours, but as we are more of the self-tour types, we just stopped to ask one a question as he was sitting in a booth listening to the radio (yes, they really wear the outfits). There was an area of the castle roped off with blue doors and a lot of very homey touches so we asked who lived there. With a chuckle like Santa he answered that he did, along with his fellow Beefeaters. "You know how every man's home is a castle? Well, mine actually is!" Apparently some Duke or Earl or Governor or some nonsense also lives there, but my new hero is the Beefeater.

Tower Bridge

We reluctantly left the Tower of London to check out the bridge towering overhead- the Tower Bridge. Often mistaken for the kinda plain London Bridge- this is classic London. Painted blue and gray with huge towers of civilian walkways on either side the bridge is quite unique. We were briefly security wandered and had our bags x-rayed (commonplace in London) and then were whirled upwards 140 feet to gaze over London from glass enclosed walkways. The view was amazing, as day quieted to night and the city was set ablaze in light. The bridge has got some history with tons of crazy facts like an airplane flying between the two towers in a daredevil maneuver and that it was not destroyed during WWII because the Nazis used it as a geographical marker.

We came to the end of the second walkway and Ian drew me away from the rest of the people to try to take a picture of Big Ben. As I peered out the windows, up on the metal steps, Ian started out, "Ebe, I love you." I gave him a look and started to step down, "I love you too." "No, I really love you." My mind and actions slowed to try to comprehend what was happening and I realized I couldn't look directly at him and struggled to untangle my thoughts. As I tried to look him in the eyes he got down on one knee and held something shiny. I started blubbering the most inane sentences like "Are you joking!?" "Oh my God!" and "Wow, I really love you." I said yes and he slid on the ring. It's official, overlooking the city of London Ian & I decided to change our title and have a party- what can I say? I love him.

After that it was all a giddy blur. We really did have fish & chips and Yorkshire Pudding on the Thames, checked out some awesome sports photography in an outdoor display, wandered Chinatown and Picaddily Circus, and went to the cinema in Soho. All of it was awesome. 

Pics of us when we got back to the hostel. We wanted to remember exactly what we looked like the day we got engaged. What we really look like after that emotional whirlwind of a day is tired!

Ah, it really was an amazing proposal. And instead of just telling our parents, we thought we would post a video and then send it our parents & see who noticed the new addition. (For the record- the dad's totally missed while both mum's caught on quick. Sharp eyes ladies!)


Roxanne said...

This is beautiful... Oscar and I were driving home from Yakima and then one of us said, "Should we just start planning a wedding? Pick a date and everything?"

We don't even remember who asked. :)

free speech said...

That's looking a interesting story. I liked your way of proposal. I think it’s also significant to relax and just have fun. In spite of everything, it's a wedding, one of the most blissful of occasions for your friends, that requires your presence as best man.

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008