Sunday - day 2 (continued)
We crossed London by Tubeto the London Bridge Underground Stop, than walked along the south side of the Themes river to Le Pont de la Tour. I would have liked to have taken a little more time to dawdle and enjoy the walk through the interesting neighborhood, but we were running a few minutes late for our dinner reservation.
We chose the French restaurant because it was one of the few restaurants with a great view of the Tower Bridge that was open on Sunday, but it was a little too cold to sit outside and enjoy the view. I thought the three course prixe fixe menu at Le Pont de la Tour was reasonable at £27.50. What we call appetizers, were called "starters," and what we call entrees, were called "mains."
This was just one of many memorable meals during the trip.
Service was quite good, right up until we asked for the bill. It took more time than I would have liked and left us having to run to get to the Tower of London on time.
We left Le Pont de la Tour a little later than we intended and had to hurry over to the Tower bridge to cross to the Tower of London for the Ceremony of the Keys. We panicked a bit when we reached the north side of the Themes and the walkway along the shore was closed due to construction. We had to go the long way around the Tower of London. We just made it to the entrance and were ushered in seconds before the outer fence was closed.
The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London has taken place every night for nearly 700 years. It was delayed about 5 minutes one night during World War Two when a bomb went off next to the guards. Only a few dozen outsiders are permitted to view the ceremony each night and free tickets must be requested weeks in advance. No photographs are ever permitted during the ceremony.
During the ceremony, the Chief Yeoman Warder meets the Tower's military guard, and is escorted to the Tower Gates where the Yeoman Warder locks first the outer gates (which can only be heard) and the much nearer inner gates. The Chief Yeoman Warder and his escort return to the main part of the tower and their party is challenged by another guard. Following the correct responses to the challenge ("Halt, who comes there?" "The Keys!" "Whose Keys?" "Queen Elizabeth's Keys." "Pass Queen Elizabeth's Keys and all's well"), the party and vistors continue into the central area of the tower where the rest of the guard awaits.
The Chief Yeoman Warder then moves two paces forward, raises his hat in the air and calls "God preserve Queen Elizabeth." The guard and visitors all shout "Amen!" Finally, the Duty Drummer sounds The Last Post on a bugle, as the clock chimes 10PM.
We were warned that the troops on duty this week had recently returned from Afghanistan and the musician might be rusty, but he sounded perfect.
copyright 2010 by Keith Stokes.