The Tower of London is one of the most iconic, memorable and recognisable spots in the UK’s capital.
Here lived kings, princes were murdered, queens were executed and for a while, the entire country revolved around the great stone fortress.
Today there isn’t quite as much going on. No princes are being kept prisoner and while the Tower of London is still the home of the Crown Jewels, the inhabitants of the Tower are the Beefeaters and their families.
I ask one, fully bedecked in his traditional and official red and black livery, what it’s like to live in the Tower. “Oh, it’s incredible, I get to live in one of the royal palaces for the rest of my life.” I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous.
This evening however, the Beefeaters have finished giving tours and are wandering around the castle moat instead. The deep ravine is now empty of water and covered in the softest, green grass and filled with white tents. It is the opening night of the Tower of London Food Festival, and oh does it smell incredible.
Down in the moat we are sheltered from the wind but there is enough of a breeze to carry the delicious warms smells of chai and every other food available. They are interesting sorts of things, food festivals.
Small business owners sell and promote their goods, while the bigger established businesses act as sponsors, but they have one wonderfully uniting thing in common. The food of course.
The Tower of London Food Festival is part of the Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) Food Festivals. There will be another at Christmas at Hampton Court Palace. The stallholders tell us that these are favourite food festivals. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by such beautiful history?
There is a mixture of goods available. From specially grown grapes, to brain cheese. That would be cheese that looks like a brain because the outside is totally covered in mould. It is both fascinating and incredibly repellent to look at and the idea of trying a piece is morbidly fascinating but thankfully not that tempting. Perhaps I am missing out on the gastronomical experience of a lifetime. If so, I am not too concerned.
There are cooking classes set up in large tents near the Tower’s drawbridge. For just £12 you can take a Corden Bleu class and in the kitchen, an even bigger tent, there are free cookery demonstrations, sponsored by yoghurt company Activia.
The crowd at the festival is mixed. Professionals wander in after a day at work. £5 tickets for today only entice them in. There are families, but all older. Nothing about this festival really yells out for young children to attend.
That is until we come across traditional wooden fair games. There seems to be a lot of throwing ropes around sticks and catching things in canvas. But once again, it’s all adults. Perhaps Saturday will see the festival filled with all ages. Entrance comes with entrance to the Tower and entrance to the Tower will gain you entrance to the festival, so all the tourists in London may be there.
Tickets to the fair cost £24.70 for adults and £11.70 for children. It’s not a whole day affair, or the kind of place to spend many hours but with a trip to the Tower thrown in, the experience is well worth it.
See some history and stop and chat to the stallholders. They are friendly, welcoming and more than ready for a laugh and a chat. Also, they make pretty darn good food.