In some ways, the transition out of lockdown feels more stressful than lockdown. Do you agree? All of a sudden we have the (albeit confusing), opportunity for freedom. But, that feels a little scary! After all, we are still in a pandemic. However, after 4 months of being so restricted, it was time to re-join the world. We were ready. Keen, and totally ready. I wanted to tell you about my trip to London, and how safe we felt. It might be useful if you are considering your own London day trips.
London Day Trips Post Lockdown
For Christmas last year, our boys bought us a Historic Royal Palaces annual membership. Yep, alongside our National Trust membership, we now have a Palaces one. Pass me my walking frame now if you like…. The membership began in January, but we had not managed to use it before our unwelcome visitor, C19 hit. The membership allows you access to Tower of London, Kew, Kensington and Hampton Court Palaces, Banqueting House and Hillsborough Castle. We had planned that our first outing was to be Kew Palace in the Spring time. In our minds, we were picturing a lovely picnic afterwards in the April sunshine. Well. That never happened. Cheers Covid!
So when we received an email notifying us that the Tower of London was reopening, we were excited. Fenchurch Street station is the overground station that we come into from our neck of the woods. With Tower of London being a very short walk away from the station, it meant no tube journey was required. I was happier with this scenario, not gonna lie! We booked our tour for 11.30 so we were able to avoid rush hour. Then, donning THE trend of the year, a surgical mask, we took the 20 minute train journey into London. Oh and almost everyone on the train had a mask on, also reassuring. If you are wondering, the train journey was absolutely fine. We had a set of 4 chairs to ourself, with no one within 2 meters of us for the entire journey. Result!
Our Trip to London – The Tower of London
As I said, we had booked our time slot for the tour. The Tower of London were limiting numbers being allowed in, so pre-booking had to be done. When we arrived there was no queue, and we went straight in. If you have ever been to the Tower of London, or any of the big London attractions, you will know how crowded they can be. London day trips can be a series of long queue’s! Well, there was none of that! It genuinely felt like we had the place to ourself. For a moment there, I could daydream that this was my humble abode I was strolling around…..
To help give you some idea of how limited it was, the usual foot fall for the Tower of London is 25,000 per day! It is London’s most visited attraction. The day we were there, they had 240 people booked in throughout the entire day. It was the first day of re-opening, so I am sure those numbers will increase, so we were lucky. Let’s look for silver linings here, Covid has not given us a lot. But having the opportunity to see the Crown Jewells with no crowds was an absolute gift! I am pretty sure it will never happen again.
It was wonderful to walk round with such a warm welcome too. The Tower of London is a self-funded charity, so a return of visitors was very welcomed. Every staff member we came across smiled and told us “welcome back, thank you for being here”. It was so nice. Sadly, like many business, the Palaces and other London attractions have been hit incredibly hard by the Pandemic. The staff seemed sincere in their welcoming of us, and so happy to be back.
I have to be honest, my nerdy side loves history and tradition. The traditions, pomp and ceremony at the Tower of London are one of my favourite things. I just love the custom of it all, and the background to why they do certain things. They are so interesting to see being played out, and to read about as you go round.
We were able to stroll around the Castle, totally at our leisure. We had the pleasure of watching the changing of the guards without a million people trying to video it on their phones. Also, the Beefeaters were able to spend time chatting with us, telling us wonderful facts and stories. Although, the official Queens Executioner (genuine title) that we had a chat with was a little bit scary….. I really loved that we had the opportunity to chat with them. They are such an interesting part of history and tradition. They also all seemed to be incredibly proud to wear the uniform and be “a Beefeater”. It was a joy to see.
A Little fact for you – Did you know that all of the Tower of London’s Beefeaters have served a minimum of 22 years in the forces? They also have to have reached at least the rank of Warrant Officer, received a long service award and awarded the good conduct medal.
I was also fascinated to learn that the Beefeaters all live at the Tower of London….and they have their own pub!!! Imagine that. What an exclusive little night out that must be. I have never wanted to join the armed forces more! The houses that they live in are gorgeous. Again, as there were no crowds we got to have uninterrupted views of the courtyard of the homes. It was so lovely. What an address to have!
Something funny did happen though. We were stopped as we went into the Tower, to be interviewed by Channel Five. They have a series about the Tower, (called Inside The Tower of London), and were there for the post lockdown re-opening. They started filming as we arrived and collared us for a chat. I of course loved it (frustrated actress that I am), Nik wanted to run away.
Coming to a screen near you, Kerry and Nik, The Tower Chronicles……….(hope I didn’t have a Chai Latte moustache)
It is worth noting, that there was a small downside to visiting the Tower at this time. Some of it is not open again yet. As they are limiting the amount of visitors, they have obviously limited the amount of staff that they have brought back. This means that the Dungeons were not yet reopened. This did not worry us as we had a fantastic time and will make a return visit. The Crown Jewells are of course, available to be drooled over, and yep, I did pick out my Crown. Typically, and without me knowing beforehand, I chose a Crown made for a King rather than a Queen. Princess is definitely not my gig.
I would really urge you to visit the Tower of London before the crowds build up again. You can even get pretty close to the famous Ravens of the Tower. These huge birds tend to stay away from all the people usually. Honestly, it felt absolutely and totally safe to be there. They really need the support of tourism again too. The pandemic has hit them hard and it felt so good to be supporting a bit of our heritage. Go visit. I promise it will be worth it for a more leisurely visit.
London Day Trips Post Lockdown – Eating Out
So, on to eating out in London. We have not been to a restaurant since March. We have not eaten out in London since February. Once we left the Tower of London, we had a stroll over to the South Bank. A few of the restaurants and bars were open, but not all. We chose to eat in an Italian restaurant by the water, called Cantina Del Ponte. The Maitre D greeted us in full face shield, mask and gloves. She took our name and phone number, as required by the guidelines. The reason they do this is so they could notify people that have eaten in the restaurant, should any staff or a diner come down with Coronavirus. Our temperature was also taken and noted.
The tables were set with at least 2 meters between them. We were also given our cutlery and napkin in a sealed box. We then opened it ourself to ensure no one touched it but us. The waitress took our order, standing slightly away from our table and still wearing full protective face shield etc. It may sound like a scene from a futuristic film. I also get that for some, it is not how they like to be wined and dined. However, It was not uncomfortable or off putting. It made us feel safer and that they took our wellbeing seriously. London days out are a little different at the moment, for sure, but still an absolute pleasure.
The restaurant was not full or crazy busy, but it was steady. They were serving a more limited menu than their standard, and slightly reduced hours. Again, tourism has not picked up in London yet so I assume they need to try to balance supply with demand. Our food was beautiful, and I cannot tell you how good it was to eat out! Eating out really is something we have missed. Nik and I eat out a lot, (its our only vice…) so it felt like coming home! I felt giddy at being served my meal and having an ice cold glass of wine. The simple things eh! We really did have a lovely meal sitting by the water, looking at the view of Tower Bridge.
London Days Out – In Conclusion
If you are thinking of having your own London day out, I hope I have given you a little reassurance. I know it feels scary to make that first jaunt into Town. I know I imagined swathes of people and trains full of bodies! It was not like that. Obviously, we picked our time and tried to be sensible. I know the West End of London is reported to be a little more manic, but Tower Hill/London bridge area is a pleasure. I have a whole plethora of things for you to do in London Bridge if you fancy it. If you have been consider ing a trip to the Tower of London, GO! I promise you, it is unlikely you will ever see the place so empty. We are hoping to get to Kew Palace when it reopens next week. With a bit of luck, we will see all of the Palaces within our membership with out crowds. What a dream!
How are you feeling about making day trips etc? Are you still a little nervous and unsure? Do you feel that the ease in restrictions is making you a little anxious? It is perfectly normal to feel that way. We are living through something that is unprecedented. Be gentle with yourself. Everyone has their own ‘right time”. I would love to hear your thoughts xx