Wednesday 11 October 2023

Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum - a visual treat

A few years ago, we went to Spain and started our trip with a pilgrimage to see the famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao – any architect’s dream project to be involved with or view. You can look up the specs on Google. Here is a visual treat. The beauty of the architecture speaks for itself.  

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Saturday 9 September 2023

The famous Tower of London - revisiting history with a Yeoman warder as guide

The Tower is a famous landmark which most people living in London take for granted and say that they will visit one day! In all my years in England, I had never been.

My son and his family were in London, so a visit was essential. I did the booking online as one does not want to risk not getting in….in fact, these days, everything is online including payments. I was horrified to find that nobody accepts cash these days; it’s all by card and God help you if you don’t have one, preferably two cards as one might stop working. 

Luckily we had an excellent spring day, clear and no rain. On arriving at the right tube station, there were alternate signs to the tower which were confusing! Anyway, we crossed the road, and walked and walked. There is a large forecourt for visitors and then a smaller court where the queue barriers are fixed snaking many time till the ticket checking gate. There was a large crowd and entry is as per the timing. A small grace period is allowed in case delayed. 

The ticket purchase is complicated as they have milked every opportunity to show  the tourist every small element. So, apart from the Tower itself which covers the grounds, you have :

  • The famous Crown Jewels (the exhibition totally revamped had opened just the day prior to our visit so we saw all the beauties!)
  • The Fusiliers Museum – excellent display of their role in the battlefield.
  • The Moat in bloom – a recent innovation of wild flower planting
  • The Ravens – unofficial guardians of the tower.
  • The White Tower – Norman architecture at its best.
  • Line of Kings – the armour of various kings
  • The Guards at the Tower march past
  • Tower Green and Scaffold site
  • Torture and blood galore
  • The Battlements and Armoury
  • Medieval Palace

There is no way that you can see all these places in one day unless there are no queues and you whizz through each place! A normal person likes to stroll, enjoy the walk and more so, the displays which they have come to see.      

The Tower is imposing with its huge walls, its round massively thick walls and round towers rising up into the sky. 

This is the type of wild grass growing in the moat special zone. 

After entry, we waited in the inner large enclosure for the Yeoman Warder guide to arrive. A charming extremely well attired Yeoman. As we learnt, you need to be an RSM – regimental serjeant major – to qualify. He had a commanding presence and despite having nearly 75-90 people as his group, his voice carried effortlessly. 

We were led into the Castle proper through a narrow walkway, our entry being vetted by yet another Yeoman. 


Yeoman Warder Mr Pryme knows the history backwards. His irreverent wonderful sense of humour is fantastic and he made fun of everybody in the Castle’s past. His explanations of all its past residents and their fate brought alive to us mere mortals what life must have been like in those ghastly days.  

Our tour began at the entrance between the two sets of walls of the tower! It lasted exactly 45 minutes and covered all the main grounds. 

It’s a question of the chicken or the egg – which came first? Should you take the tour of the Tower and its main sights first like we did or should you see the heavy duty – heavy queue items like the Crown Jewels first? On reflection, definitely the exhibition queues as the tours are frequent. We joined the queue for the Crown Jewels and I was astonished … it extended into a very long U shape to the opposite end of the exhibition building. Mind you, when we came out afterwards, the queue had extended towards where Mr Pryme had left us – another one hour of queueing time at least. 

It took us a cool 75 minutes before we got entry. In the meantime, my nieces went off to have an ice cream and see other sights. I went in between to see the super but small Fusilier’s Museum with very exciting exhibits. 

To keep people occupied a clever skit was played out by actors in period costume – about a golden orb being stolen , then found and what to do with the culprit.

 The Waterloo Barracks houses the new Crown jewels exhibition. The entry is strictly controlled, and no photography is permitted. The rooms are dark and for people with poor eyesight, difficult to manoeuvre in the darkness. I held onto my son’s shoulder so I would not get lost and ensure that I saw all the exhibits. There are a few rooms; each with a section depending upon the type and period eg A large room had all the swords, spears, cutlasses and other such armour with a video on one wall of soldiers marching. The main room with the actual crown jewels had them in single file with the many crowns of different kings and queens, in solitary splendour, with brief captions explain each exhibit. The Kohinoor and Cullinan diamonds had pride of place in a separate room all by themselves.

Having seen the Crown Jewels, what else is left. You can walk the battlements on each side if you are feeling extra energetic! I wasn’t too keen so I just climbed one battlement and found the interesting panels you see here…. The names of the people who were executed in the Tower during the two World Wars for traitorous activities.  

We ended again by the Waterloo Barracks and gradually made our way out walking down the gradient towards the Traitors Gate and exit. As they say, a fine day was had by all. It was fun, it was entertaining, and enlightening --- learning from Mr Pryme and the various exhibits. Yes, seeing the Kohinoor was the icing on the cake as it was not on view for many years.

Text and photographs copyright of the author. No part of this article or photographs maybe transmitted or reproduced by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without written permission. Do contact the author on email --