As you put together your iconic list of things you want to see when you visit London, you will no doubt have many of the following famous locations in that list: Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square .. whoa, hold on there, back that horse up a bit. Did you just say Tower Bridge? Well, my lucky friend, you will be happy to know that your otherwise extremely busy day can be reduced by exactly one, because I’ve already visited the Tower Bridge, and I’m pleased to let you know that you no longer have to. But don’t just take my word for it. Follow along with me and lets check it out from the comfort of your own home.
Construction of the Tower Bridge was started in 1886 and completed in 1894 when it was officially opened by the future King Edward VII. I know, kings get to have all the fun, but don’t let it get you down, after all, King Edward VII is now living here while you are reading this blog while sitting on your favourite couch munching on cheese doodles. Though to be fair, compared to his tomb your resting place is really going to suck.
The bridge was built because there was a need for another crossing of the Thames river, and so a competition was held at the time, and after over 50 designs were submitted, the lucky winner was Sir Horace Jones, who also happened to be one of the judges. I highly recommend being a judge in any event you plan to compete in. It really helps out.
Now, you’ve probably already seen the Tower Bridge, especially if you paid attention during the final confrontation scene in the 2009 version of Sherlock Holmes, although that was a CGI version. So if that is all you’ve seen, or you missed that movie entirely, I present to you now, the Tower Bridge.
OK, those of you with a keen eye will probably note that this isn’t the Tower Bridge at all, but rather a lego version of it. And you would be right. But to see this lego version of the Tower Bridge, you have to actually be in the Tower Bridge, where it is on display. And I find that quite ironic. Even now, tiny lego people inside this bridge are no doubt admiring an even smaller toothpick version of it.
So here is the real bridge.
There is no doubt that it is an impressive bridge, way better than the London Bridge that keeps falling down, which is actually the next bridge upstream, and which you can see here in the tiny view screen on Krista’s camera, though I guess you could also just look to the right of her and see it in the picture itself, but whatever.
If you look at the previous picture again, you can see the two pedestrian walkways that span the middle of the bridge. And now you can imagine picturing Krista in the middle of that front walkway taking the above picture. And if you know that Krista has a thing about heights, you will know how impressive that picture really is.
Also interesting to note is the fact that those pedestrian walkways were only reopened in 1982 as part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition, having previously been closed since 1910 because of their reputation as a haunt for prostitutes. Thought you might like to know that while you admire this view from inside one of the walkways.
.. the first one is City Hall, also called the Armadillo and the Mayer of London’s Office. The second, a Faberge egg wannabe is the St Mary Axe also known as the Gherkin (seriously, I’m not making this up). And the last is, of course, the Tower of London, also known as the tower you actually want to visit.
But of course, there is one reason that might compel you to visit the Tower Bridge, and that would be, of course, to witness the famous raising of the bascules which allows large ships to pass underneath.
Now, this raising of the bascules is shown here as Krista expertly demonstrates exactly how it is all done. I know they have this engine room exhibit where they show you these giant red and green turbine thingies and pump like devices that they claim is used to raise the bascules, but don’t fall for it. They actually rely on visitors like Krista to turn those little green things each day, and you actually pay them £7 to do it. Crazy.
Here is what their “engine room thingy” looks like.
But what you really want to see are the bascules in action. I know. So while Krista and I were up on the bridge, some other visitor was down below moving those little green things, and we managed to witness them actually rising. OK, its going to be pretty impressive, so let me lead you into it slowly. First, here is a picture of the massive boat we were salivating over in anticipation of it passing by us.
I know, I know. You think I’m crazy suggesting that you don’t have to see the Tower Bridge now that you know is in store for you once you get there. And right up until that point, I am right there with you. Believe me. And then this happened.
Look, even buddy there monitoring the whole thing was left speechless. Take a look at him here .. I’m pretty sure if we could read his mind he’d be saying “What the %&@# was that?”. I’ll tell you what the %&@# that was, it wasn’t that big assed monster ship is what the %&@# it was, that’s for sure.
Now we know why it only takes a visitor turning that little green thingy to open the gates, because they only open the gates for tiny little pretend boats, and hold up 30 million pounds of commercial traffic from crossing the bridge for 15 minutes to do it. So now you know why I went to see the Tower Bridge so you don’t have to.
You’re welcome “:o)