Florida Sailors UK Trip: Part Three

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The Meet maybe over, but Florida Sailor is still 'over here'

Florida Sailors UK Trip: Part three.


Monday was the day I had set aside to tour the Tower of London. The thousands of ceramic poppies in the moat are most impressive, especially when you know that each represents a life lost in the 'Great War'. The last one is to be placed at 11:00AM on 11 November.

As I arrived one of the Yeomen Warders was starting his tour at about 11:35AM. The crowed seemed rather large, and he had already issued the opening lines, so I decided to wait another 20 minutes for the next tour.

Then the rain came. It was only a soft London rain, but the next Beefeater sadly told us they did not start tours in the rain. I spent the next two hours exploring some of the buildings, including the 'Crown Jewels' (my wife was disappointed - not only can't you take them, you can't even take a picture of them.) By 2:00PM I decided that the rain was likely to continue, and even if it stopped the tour crowds were certain to be huge, so I exited the castle for more adventures.

I found a subway and stair that led me to the north end of 'Tower Bridge' I decided to cross the Thames and start exploring the south bank. I would have loved to stop and wait (even in the rain) to watch the bascules rise, but that happens very rarely these days. By the time I reached the next cross street the wet was getting to me. I remembered my folding umbrella carefully stowed in my duffel far away in Bloomsbury. A corner pub also offered shelter from the participation - a pint or two of London Pride seemed just the ticket to get my spirits back.

By the time I had downed my second pint the weather had cleared a bit, so I set off for a few more sights. The tour of HMS Belfast was interesting, even though I had toured US ships from the Second World War and also toured visiting Royal Navy ships at home. I then proceeded down the river bank to visit the reconstructed 'Golden Hind' Sir Francis Drake's ship from Elizabethan times . I had the ship to myself, which was a bit of a disappointment as I had wanted to talk with a few of the crew.
I concluded the day with a river boat trip that passed down to Tower Bridge and then up to Westminster. The trek to Trafalgar Square and the bus home had become almost common place by now.


Tuesday had been primarily looked at as a travel day, but I still wanted my Yeoman Warder tour of the tower. I had seen that the basement hallway at my hotel was stacked with luggage for most of my stay, so I asked if I could leave my bags for a few hours after I had checked out of my room. I was told that this would be no problem, so I checked out of my room and headed back to the Tower. I managed to get a good spot for the start of the tour, but as the crowd moves from station to station positions shuffle, based on speed and the direction of travel. As all the Yeomen have a long (22 years) experience as a senior NCO in Royal service they have a loud booming voice and know how to communicate. They live with their families in the Tower, we were told that if we did not applaud and cheer at the end of our tour the yeoman's daughter might shed a tear or two. There were no tears at the end of or visit! I also took time to visit the White Tower, that Dates back to William the Conqueror (or other titles as you wish), and now houses the Royal armour exhibit. As the time was well past 2:00PM it was time to leave London for a bit.

I carried my bags, one at a time, up the stairs and into the lobby. Thankfully Gower Street is fairly busy and it took only a few minutes to find a Black Cab with its light lit. The passage to Waterloo Station was quick and reasonable in price (for London). I was offered a £34 fare for one way or £38 for a round trip. As I knew I would be travelling on to Stanwell on Friday and, still learning as I go, I just opted for the one-way fare.

The train journey was fairly routine, although we did have a group of children from a local boarding school join us for a part of the trip. It was fun watching them play their card games. I arrived at the Harbour Side terminal and faced a large set of stairs marked 'Way Out' I managed to trundle my bags up and then down, had I been cleaver I would have realized that this was a terminus of the rail, and I could have just rolled by bags to the front of the platform and around to the exit. It did have the desired affect to lead me to consider other options for my return journey.

My room was on the third floor, overlooking the street and Historical Dockyard. Although separated by a couple flights of stairs and a corridor stretching the length of the building, the downstairs pub made for a good experience was a convenient watering hole. The pub was more what I would describe as a neighbourhood bar. Most of the clients were regular locals stopping by for a drink (or several) after work. The atmosphere was quiet talk between two or three stools, or at the tables. No loud music or trendy groups. As an American guest of the hotel I found myself accepted and plied with all of the usual questions about my exotic country. I tried to not be cynical, but I don't think that is totally possible. Some I spoke with over several nights, others only once.

Florida Sailor has arrived at the Solent - Success and disappointment are sure to follow in next week’s conclusion.


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