Tag Archives: tourism

Hidden gems in the Tower of London

2 Apr

The White Tower at the Tower of London

The group aactivity today was to the Tower of London.  This is definitely on the “must do” list for families.  You can’t come all the way across the pond and not see the Traitor’s Gate, the Yeoman Warders spin their fantastically entertaining tales on the tour, nor get a chance to enter into the vault where all the Crown Jewels are housed and look up close at the queen’s crowns with only an inch of highly secured tempered glass between you and them.  Sunday proved to be a particularly entertaining day at the Tower of London as every costumed player was in full form telling stories of Edwardian London, using visitors to reenact rebel attacks on the massive fort and ravens flying all free everywhere, no, seriously:

Two ravens getting all cozy by the Jewel Tower at the Tower of London (I used my zoom, I’m not that cray)

In 2010, I blogged about the despair I felt looking at the Crown Jewels.  Saddened because I knew that for every diamond, gilded spoon and ivory laden writing pen, there were countless lives indelibly ravished and severed from connections to and with the continent of Africa.  As I walked the same grounds today, I haven’t forgotten about those memories from 2010, but I have also vowed to find the Black in London history this go around.  Here’s what I found:

Phillis Wheatley was an honored guest of the White Tower Castle when she came to London in 1773.  Traveling with her master’s son, her visit was to get a sponsor to publish her poetry because they could not find a publisher in the United States (WE know why, but “the innanets” presents it as bad luck…*side eye*…go figure).  The White Tower actually features her image at the entrance of the castle.

Image of Phillis Wheatley taken at the White Tower at the Tower of London

I do not remember seeing this the last time I was here.  I toured every nook and cranny of the various towers and buildings in 2010 just as I did today.  I combed through my travel notes and even the blog posts here to see if Imentioned it or jotted it down somewhere…nothing.  It’s like Spirit has aligned in such a way that this time around, I needed to see this. I really did need to see this.  So, now that my morning has been pumped, I keep looking.  Coming out the vaulted building where the crowns are housed, I stumbled into a changing of the guard.  Regardless the country or armed servicemen, this is a spectacular scene to witness.  I stopped not thinking too much about it until I realized this:

Yes, brotha, YAAAAAAAASSSSS! Good to see you!

Now it’s the 21st century, I’m clear that there have been a diverse pool of folks serving in the military for a long time in this country and ours, but I had not seen (with my own eyes) this particular type of guard represented by a person of color.  I know, when Uncle Barry came to see the Queen there was one guarding Buckingham Palace who broke protocol to smile for a picture with our 44th, but I’m totally making this post about my yearning for everyday examples of folks who look like me on this trip, so let’s pretend you are just as excited as I am.  My excitement increases as I learn from the audio tour that it is an elite group of military personnel who are selected to be a part of the Tower of London warders, having achieved distinguished service from the Queen’s military.  They also get free housing for themselves and their families.  So, this brotha here, is not “just working.” Arguably he is being acknowledged for going above and beyond while serving his country.  


Later this afternoon, we went the Victoria and Albert Museum.  There was a group that was going to have Afternoon Tea in one of the cafes, I was tagging along because it was a museum, but still my eyes are searching, and I came across these:

Image of a Moor in a tapestry

Mother Nature nursing European and African babies

Bust of a young boy

Bust of an African servant

So now I want to know, “Is there a Black History of the UK?”  I don’t mean this question in a naive sense.  I mean where are the anthologies, textbook, history chronicles that outlines in as thorough a detail as the British are able to provide for the historic relationship with India (a whole ‘nother post, y’all, for real, there was an entire exhibit about India at V&A that still centered around the lived experiences of a privileged white man)? In a shallow dig into the interwebs, I found this place to start: Black Presence in Britain.  Join me.  Let’s learn more about this together.


Tuscany with family

23 May

The view of the Tuscan Hills from Montepulciano

I feel like I needed to immediately follow-up after my last post so I’m sharing this one a bit early…

Tuscany is BEAUTIFUL. Like any location I visit, I encourage you to come with your family, but here are a few things you should know:

Best meme I could find

1) Italy is still VERY much a smoking culture – like, EVERYWHERE! There are more smokers than non-smokers here. It is very much a part of the social culture and something to be mindful of when traveling with children. I actually witnessed a woman scowl at a child because he accidentally bumped her cigarette. As if to say nonverbally, how dare you almost knock my precious cigarette out of my hand, you audacious child? This is something to keep in mind for families with asthmatic children especially with hotels. We don’t feel the need to specify smoke free in the States, but it is a MUST here in Italy.

Half way up the hill to the Piazza Grande

The other half of the hill to Piazza Grande

2) Tuscany is not short on hills – actually, I think that may have been too mild. Hills and mini mountains are all throughout most Tuscan cities. You will be trekking up some pretty steep ones, especially in Montepulciano and Siena. This means really weigh the pros and cons of traveling with a stroller. In fact, for practice, get your nearest mountain (if you have them in your area) and try climbing it with your child in a stroller and lugging your suitcase. When you get to the top, you have just walked in Siena and Montepulciano, in one direction.

This road is for cars and people. Notice, no sidewalks no driving lanes

3) Public transportation, is limited to intercity in Montepulciano and although there are taxis, I did not see many and the town is more of a pedestrian town than a driving one. Parking and bus stops are outside of the city at the bottom of a steep hill and many of the streets are not passable by car.

4) The chocolate lab! – for those of you that love the stuff, or have children who do, absolutely go to the chocolate lab. It’s about 200m from the Piazza Grande and DELICIOUS!

Crociani Wine Shop and Cellar

Inside the Crociani Wine Cellar

5) Wine, wine, vino, vin. However you say it, there is plenty of it – Montpulciano has 75 vintners in the area and almost all of them have cellars in town. You have tour the cellars and have wine tastings (a lot are even free). I would suggest stash the euros to do the wine tasting at Crociani. Susana Crociani is phenomenal and her tasting is filled with the wine history of he area and her family. Her wine is terrific and I promise you, you will never drink a Merlot or Cabernet in the States the same again. My husband jokes that I’m a wine snob now, wait until these bottles get delivered to our door (yes, they ship to the USA!)

It seems morbid, but may be interesting to folks

6) The Torture Museum – okay, yes, it sounds grotesque and eerie, but my students said it was actually a pretty interesting history lesson attached to the exhibits. May be better for older children though.

View from the Caffe in Piazza Grande

7) For the younger ones – Piazza Grande is a huge open space with some cafe tables lined around it, perfect to sit back with a caffé (or vino…do you) and watch the children let off some steam. For something a bit more “organized,” the Fortezza at the top of the city, has a play area with swings, slides and the like.

8) Lake Artemezza is 30 minutes outside of the city and ideal for a getaway from the tourist scene of the town.

You can walk the entire city in less than 45 minutes, but it is jam packed with so much stuff to see.  

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