In August this year, Hamish and I did something we rarely do. We took a weekday off work and played tourist in London. It also happened to be Hamish's birthday and London certainly came to the party and brought magnificent weather for our little day out. The main reason for the random day off was actually to climb the Elizabeth Tower and see Big Ben up close and personal, we were lucky that the list of dates we had to choose from included Hamish's birthday - win win.
I honestly cannot recommend this short tour more. First off..it is 100% free. Also, it is only open to residents of the UK which makes the groups small and personal. Our group consisted of about 5 other couples and we had a brilliant tour guide who clearly loved the history of Big Ben and this tower and was truly passionate about it. She was able to answer all our questions and somehow, managed to make what could come across as crusty old boring history, really interesting and intriguing.
To say I loved every single split second would be an understatement. The fact that this tower and world famous clock is such a massive icon in London and England was not forgotten and when we were able to walk behind each face of the clock and actually peek out between the cracks in the white (and one pink) window panes I honestly felt a little thrill that I was up there and right at that very moment, so many tourists were looking at the clock I was privileged to be standing, literally, right behind. Hello secret photobomb.
We were shown the actual mechanism of the clock and even got to watch it all tick over at quarter to the hour which was pretty cool (the geek inside me LOVED it!). The clock is an antique and requires a lot of love and care to keep it working so smoothly and accurately. In fact, the pendulum which keeps the time, is monitored frequently and if the clock is running too fast or too slow, old penny coins are added or taken off of the top of the pendulum. Seriously, this clock is kept so accurate by a little pile of pennies. I never would have guessed.
I won't give away any more tidbits from this tour, just take my word for it, you want to make the time to do this yourself if you ever get the chance. The entire trip takes about 90 minutes from top to bottom and you need to be fit enough to walk up a few flights of stairs. Don't worry too much about the stairs though, the guide makes sure the pace is nice and slow and there is also a rest point halfway up where you learn about the history of the tower and the bell. The peak of the trip is standing in the bell tower when the bells chime - ear plugs are a requirement, but these are provided free of charge. Unfortunately, as you will be able to tell from this post, for security reasons, photo's are prohibited on the entire tour.
If anyone wants more information on the tour or how to go about booking it, feel free to drop me an email :)