Tower Bridge review
The first time I came to Tower Bridge I wasn't all that impressed, but I quite liked it today. Maybe that's because I'm four years older (I feel about ten years older). Maybe it's because I'm more easily pleased. Maybe it's because the sun was out. Who knows. But it's still basically the same stuff inside apart from the glass floors.
The first thing they do is take you up to the top of the bridge in a lift (or you can walk up the stairs if you're feeling a bit daft). Then they plonk you down in front of a cinema screen to show you a ten-minute film about the guy who designed it. It's not the worst programme in the world, but it's still ten minutes in front of a TV isn't it. Everybody is itching to see the fantastic views at the top, so you're basically just waiting for it to end so you can move on to the next bit. But it's got some decent information if you're prepared to give it a chance.
After that you are allowed to walk through both of the top-level walkways and take in the views. They've nailed up a load of information boards along the walls with pictures and paintings of the bridge, and some old black and white photos of the engine rooms. They've got some bits and pieces about famous bridges around the world as well.
They've tried to make the whole thing a bit more exciting by installing a small glass floor halfway along the walkways. (Who's stupid idea was that?) They don't span the entire length of the walkways, just about ten metres-or-so (I'm useless at judging distances), but it was enough to give me vertigo. They look straight down onto the concrete roadway below so you can see all the buses and cars going past, plus a little sliver of the dirty brown river.
After the first walkway you go into another little movie room but this one is a total waste of time — it's just five minutes of architectural drawings. If you manage to sit through this one to the end then very well done -- you did better than me. The second walkway is basically the same as the first, with some more pictures of famous bridges and another glass walkway (looking straight down onto the road again).
The views out of the side windows are what you came for. The first one just looks across to Canary Wharf whilst the other one takes in The Shard, City Hall and HMS Belfast, plus the Walkie Scorchie and Gherkin. You can see the dome of St. Paul's and the London Eye as well. See if you can spot The Monument and the top of Tate Modern, too. My favourite bit was looking down into the grounds of the Tower of London next-door. If you know where you're looking then you can actually see Tower Green and the glass monument where the chopping block used to be.
After that you have to come downstairs and walk along the roadway for a bit until you reach the engine rooms. This bit sounds more exciting than it actually is because it's just a load of industrial-sized motors and pistons that have been sanitized and locked off. It would be a lot more interesting if they were feeding coal into the ovens and the place was boiling with steam and heat and flames, but of course it's all very safe and stale these days. Only one wheel is moving and that's been roped off behind some barriers and made super-safe, so you never really get the feeling of what the engine rooms were like.
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