London - “Who wants to hear a story of love and romance?” bellows Beefeater Dave Phillips.
Standing in the shadow of the Tower of London, barely a hand is raised as the Yeoman Warder ponders another question.
Resplendent in his Beefeater’s uniform, the former infantryman asks: “Who would like to hear tales of blood and gore, of executions and torture?”
“We do,” shouts the crowd, with the enthusiasm not dissimilar to that of the rabble stood before the executioner’s block on Tower Hill some four centuries ago.
Phillips had his cue and the wish of the enthusiastic crowd was granted. With that, our Yeoman Warder took us away on an hour-long guided tour of the Tower of London, sating the crowd with tales of the macabre, ghoulish and downright creepy.
Enthusiastically following with my wife Sharon and I, were our daughters Laura, 13, and Sarah, 11. Asked what they’d most like to see on a short break to London, they handed over a list that resembled a mad axe-man’s away-day tour: The Tower of London, The London Dungeon, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the Jack the Ripper tours in Whitechapel.
But here we were, absorbing the fascinating history of the Tower with Phillips’s excellent tour vividly illustrated with tales of jet-black ravens, headless nobles, manacled prisoners, severed heads, treachery, torture and treason.
My two duly lapped it up before we were set free to enjoy the Tower’s other treasures. Reassuringly, the splendour of the Crown Jewels, the suits of armour, Traitor’s Gate and the battlements also hit the spot.
We later headed to The London Dungeon where the spine-tingling detail of medieval life was graphically illustrated with some eerily sinister character portrayals as we wandered through semi-darkness and an odour of plague-ridden streets.
Along the way we rubbed shoulders with Guy Fawkes, the infamous barber Sweeney Todd and stumbled into the bleakness of Whitechapel where Jack the Ripper stalked his victims as we experienced 1 000 years of grim London history.
The London Dungeon must be one of the capital’s top attractions for kids in the way it challenges the senses, satisfies morbid curiosity and gives them a very real scare.
Meanwhile, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London taps more into curiosity of the exceptional, unusual, weird, creepy and wonderful – it’s all about the biggest, fattest, smallest, tallest and at times the stomach-churning. Situated in Piccadilly, it is home to more than 700 artefacts and exhibits across six floors from a life-sized knitted Ferrari, unusual portraits of pop stars (Michael Jackson made out of Liquorice Allsorts; Whitney Houston made out of cassette tape and Gene Simmons from Kiss painted on to a canvas of cow dung) and the Olympic Gallery with the single largest collection of Olympic torches.
Having heard about the infamous Ripper murders of the late summer of 1888 at The London Dungeon, and from TV’s Ripper Street, the question arose as to whether our daughters could go along on the Ripper Walks around Whitechapel?
Clearly aimed at an adult audience, the two-hour insight into the macabre killings of 125 years ago remains one of the more popular London walking tours.
It was a welcome respite from the days of macabre drama to head back to the sanctity of our accommodation, the Hotel Xenia in South Kensington.
But no trip to London is complete without a West End Show. Horrible Histories anyone?
Ahem, no… for us it was time for some light-hearted relief and a few sing-along classics from Queen. The fabulous We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre proved to be just the ticket after our insight into London’s dark, dank underbelly. – The Daily Mail