Part 3 London and Paris 10 Day Getaway - Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Meeting up with friends and a Birthday Dinner!

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We slept like little on a submarine. Our room is so darn small! The hotel is still pretty nice though, it is very well located and quite affordable. You may have heard me say this time and again, but when traveling in Europe, I like to get the breakfast included with the hotel as often as I can. This is because it is usually a bit less expensive than going out. Also, you don't have to leave your hotel and wander around sleepily looking for a cafe. The main reason I like it though is because you can fill up as much as you want so you can usually skip lunch. I also like to stick a little yogurt, bun or something in my purse for extra energy later on in the morning. We went down to the hotel breakfast room at our usual breakfasting time, 9am-ish. We were super disappointed to see that most of the food was gone! Not just the food was gone but the DISHES too. We had a pathetic breakfast of soggy cereal eaten out of a juice glass and some cold, hard mini muffins. I was so let down by this breakfast that I went to the concierge and told them to not only give us our money back for this terrible breakfast but to cancel and refund all our breakfasts at this hotel going forward. They understood and obliged.
Andy, our tour guide for the day. I love this guy!
After a sad breakfast, a happy event occurred! I met up with my wonderful friend, Andy. I met Andy about a decade ago in a chat room online. We became friends and then, a few years later he came to visit me in San Francisco for St Patrick's day of all times. We had a BLAST. He came back a couple years following that but it was different because I had fallen ill and couldn't do all the fun, fun things we did when he visited the time before. This was MY turn to come visit him and I am in for a great time, I just know it. Andy is the BEST! I jumped out of my seat and give him a big hug. He introduced us to his friend, Michaela. We got on the tube and headed out to tour London with some locals.
Random trash can along our walk to The Monument, London
Walking through the streets was so fun for me. Even the trash cans had something interesting to look at. The history is so rich in this city and it shows up everywhere. We were heading first to the Monument to the Great Fire of London. It was recommended by Andy and it is something I would never have thought to do myself! The tower, known only as The Monument, stands not too far from the northern end of the London Bridge (not to be confused with Tower Bridge). It was erected on the site of where the great fire of London started and it is said you can look out and see all the area that was burned. The fire broke out in 1666 and this tower was erected not too long after. I love towers and I love going up high because it gives you a great view of the city you are visiting. This tower is just one Doric column with a winding staircase of 313 steps to the top where you can view most of London.
Approaching The Monument
One of the lovely views from the top of The Monument is of the Tower Bridge
It was early in the morning so I was able to do the climb with little pain. Going around and around reminded me of the time I was in Hawaii with my parents and brother when the fire alarm went off and we had to use the stairs to go down 13 floors to safety. At the bottom my body wanted to continue to circle right into the ground floor wall. This was similar.
The long and winding way.
It was a short walk from there to the Tower of London. I was most excited for seeing the dungeon here because when I came as a little girl it had a huge impact on me. We were lucky, when we were visiting it was the same time that they had the beautiful WWI poppy display. Artists put together this art display to show the near 1 million people who died in the war. One poppy for each person was placed in the ground. It was meant to look like a blood bath and it worked. It was a beautiful blood bath.
The poppies were installed during the period between June and November so we were there when most of them were in place. So many!

Michaela, one of our companions and guides was actually a volunteer in the poppy project. She helped assemble and place many of these poppies we see. I think that is super cool. Go Michaela! We got to cross the field of porcelain poppies as we were in line to enter the Tower. The Tower is really a castle pretty much. The area with the poppies was a moat at some point. Once you enter the walls of the castle there is much to do! We saw lots of armor, old weapons and those guard guys with the bear hats. We saw war masks, death masks, things made of bones and ivory. We even saw a really old toilet! It rained while we waited in line in the courtyard to see the Crown Jewels. As we waited, a Raven came to hang out with us. Ravens are really good luck for the Tower.
Our friend the Raven. If you were curious, he quothed nothing.
We finally got inside to see the Crown Jewels. Of course, Andy and the bf went to get us gals some hot cocoa and by the time they came back we were already entering the "no drinks allowed" building. That is ok though, my body liked chugging the warm chocolate after standing for 20 minutes in the rain.  I didn't know I would be as in awe of the jewels as I was. You go in to the dark building, past loads and loads of guards. Then you get to this place with a people mover belt. The people mover takes you past the long glass box enclosing most of the Crown Jewels. These were rings and actual crowns mostly. I went through at least twice on both sides! Sorry, no photos are allowed inside.
One of many guards in the Tower of London. This one was in a lovely contrast to the half timber homes he was guarding.
We saw all there was to see but the dungeon at this point. I was so excited! We found where the spot was on the map and made our way to the dungeon. To my dismay there was a sign saying it was flooded and we could not tour it today. Bummer! I guess I don't get to tickle my macabre side today. No worries, there is plenty more to do still. We walked through where Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned and left the Tower heading past the Tower Bridge to have a drink.
The lovely Dickens Inn where we had some cold hard cider and chips to fuel us up.
We had some hard ciders and sat out front of an adorable place called The Dickens Inn. We had a snack of some crisps too. The sun was peeking out from behind the clouds and the ground was drying up. It felt so good sitting there in the late afternoon sun, sipping on a cold hard cider with friends. It was a lovely moment.
Another wonderful moment on our trip.
After drinks we crossed the Tower Bridge. I love this bridge! I was like a little kid running and bouncing off of everything. We crossed one way, crossed the street and then crossed the other way back. I must have taken a hundred photos of this bridge alone. It is just gorgeous. The sun was beginning to set and the sky was all clear.
A look at the Thames from the center of the bridge.

Sweet detail on one of the towers.

We made it back to the hotel we were all staying at. Along the way we stopped and got a better photo of that giant blue chicken I loved so much!
Me and my chicken.
We had a rest and freshened up getting ready to go out and celebrate my birthday! Andy and Michaela recommended some place they had heard of but never been so we started walking the Saturday night streets of London. The area was lit up and full of people. It was fun just walking around but I was hungry too.
A bit of London nightlife.
The restaurant was darling. I forget what it was called but it was very small and cozy. It had an eclectic mixture of old and new decor. It was a lot of candles and wood. Very pretty. The food was amazing too. It also was a perfect blend of modern and traditional English food.
All we did was laugh and laugh. I don't think we ever stopped smiling.

Andy and Michaela gave me a massive button to wear so everyone knew I was turning 40!
I started with a hash cake, a mayonnaise slaw and a perfectly poached egg. Then I had mushy peas, which I LOVED with fish and chips. The bf had risotto and I forget what the others had but it all looked wonderful. We each got a dessert as well. I had this meringue thing with strawberries that I would eat again and again. Might be my top favorite thing I ate the whole trip. The bf had a cheesecake in a jar and the others had chocolate things. All were wonderful. I am so happy we found that restaurant because it really was perfect. It was English, delicious and intimate. Perfect way to celebrate a birthday. We were going to go bar hopping but I was just far too tired so we agreed we would get rest for another big day tomorrow.

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