One of our first stops, and one of my favorites, was the Tower of London. This is the prison that was primarily reserved for traitors to the crown or high treason crimes. This is also where the be-headings occurred. The first picture is a view of it from the Thames River, but you really can't tell how big it is from that picture. There are actually 20+ towers inside and you can see and walk through almost all of them. They are all connected by walkways between each tower. What I loved about this place was it is completely run by retired military. There are 35 retired military families that live and work onsite. It is considered a pretty prestigious honor to be able to work there with strict qualifications. The second picture is a picture of one of the Yoeman Warders - caretakers of the Tower. Many of them have prestigious military records with the British army. And yes, that is their official uniform they are wearing. The last picture is where they keep the queens crown and jewels. To get in you have to walk through a vault door almost a foot thick. The largest diamond in the world is there on display. You can see it only from a moving walkway that goes past it. It was pretty amazing.
My next favorite was Hampton Court Palace. We spent the whole day there. This was the only palace we visited that was not still occupied by royalty, so we could take pictures freely. It is hard to imagine the granduer of these places without having been there. This palace was primarily used by Henry VIII in the early 1500's and sits right on the Thames river. It is absolutely HUGE - if I could scan in the map / layout I would. We spent all day there and still didn't see everything. The first picture is one of the sides of palace and the garden. This is the small side. If you look at the palace and look at the bottom row of windows, then look at the second picture. The hallway in the second picture is the one that runs along the bottom row of windows in the first picture. Clear as mud? How would you like to stroll down that everyday and look out into those beautiful gardens. The last picture is the ceiling in super huge dining hall. It was simply stunning. Below the windows in that picture hang two story tapestries, some that were original from that time period. Wow.
One of our last stops was Windsor Castle. This is where the current Queen Elizabeth spends most of her weekends and uses this for quite a few state functions, etc. Because it is still occuppied and in use, we couldn't take any pictures inside. But it was amazing, much more grandiose than anything we saw at Hampton Court. It is absolutely huge and all the staff live and work onsite. It was unbelievable that people still live in that much splendor. The video above is just of the entrance to Windsor. It was raining pretty good so we didn't get to see a full changing of the guard, but a smaller version of it.
It was a wonderful trip and I would go back in a heartbeat. I have over 600 pictures to share (most are of the weird outfits people wear over there). So anyone that has a couple of hours and wants to see them all - just let me know!