Your Amazing Race: London Calling

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Parliament and Big Ben

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Headed Across the River Thames
Arriving at the stunning London Tower Bridge, the racers were greeted by some true characters in some unique clothing to say the least. The greeters at the bridge are known collectively as Pearlies. The men are Pearly Kings and the women are Pearly Queens. The Pearly tradition started in the 19th century when a street sweeper decided to start collecting money for charity. Working class, street traders of the time were known for decorating their pants with pearl buttons that they had collected from other market traders. The street sweeper took this fashion trend to the next level by creating a pearl studded suit to draw attention to himself and his cause. Today, the organization aids many charities and has representation in many cities. This group is very similar to the Shriners in America.

Pearly Kings and Queens Credit: Wikimedia CommonsThe Pearly King on the bridge mentioned Cockney to some of the racers. If you’ve never heard Cockney rhyming slang, you might think the speaker has gone mad. If you decide to visit the East End during your trip to London, you might come into contact with someone speaking Cockney. The dialect is kind of like a code and also dates back to the 19th century. The “code” substitutes a word with a rhyming phrase; however, the trickier part, typically omits the word that rhymes. Here’s an example from Wikipedia:

"The word “years” can be replaced with the rhyming phrase “donkey ears,” but to throw people off the scent, only the non-rhyming word is used. Thus, “years” becomes “donkeys.”  Sometimes the word doesn’t even technically rhyme but it’s a made up language, baffling even Londoners, so there really aren’t any exact rules."

While we’re on the subject of local dialect, here are some common British words. While the US and the UK speak the same language, our words don’t always mean the same thing!

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Tower of London


Wikimedia Commons

Don’t Forget the Tower!
Now if you are tracing the steps of this season’s racers, don’t scurry away too quickly from this area to the detour. The Tower of London is a must. The history of this behemoth goes back many centuries and the displays inside have something for everyone. Those looking for London’s darker past can take in the prison cells and the Traitors Gate. Those who would rather be amazed by the royal glitz can take the opportunity to check out Her Majesty’s crown jewels.

Family tickets for the Tower are £59.00 at the gate. Visitors to the Tower do receive a discount if they purchase tickets online. This rule applies to many of the historic sites in London. Admission times vary based on season and day of the week so you’ll want to make sure to visit their website to help plan your trip. For more information about the Tower of London, click here.