One day in 2021, Megan Clawson was walking home from a night out when she was inspired to record a video on her phone.
“Yo, can you imagine that Henry VIII used to come home steaming to this, and I come home steaming to this?” she said to the camera, eyes wide, laughing.
Then, Clawson turned around her cell phone to show what “this” was: the imposing stone turrets of the Tower of London, bathed in an eerie darkness.
Later, she posted the video on her TikTok: “Walking on the cobbles sober is hard enough; when you’re drunk it’s an Olympic sport,” Clawson wrote.
The Tower of London is located on the banks of London’s River Thames. Once a royal palace for infamous Tudor King Henry VIII, the fortress has also acted as a prison and played host to 900 years of British history, from the grisly and dramatic to the romantic.
Today, it’s a tourist attraction and most people only cross the waterless moat and walk through the gated archway during the daytime – tickets in hand, on their way to see the Crown Jewels or the Tower’s famous ravens.
But around 150 Londoners call the Tower home. And midway through 2020, Clawson became one of them.
Clawson’s father was a Yeoman Warder or “Beefeater” – one of the ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. He moved into the Tower several years ago and when Clawson started studying at Kings College London, she’d pay him regular visits – often rocking up, laundry in hand, and staying for a cup of tea.
Then, in the wake of the Covid pandemic, Clawson decided to move in with her father permanently.
When she first hauled a suitcase over the cobbles, ready to make the Tower home, Clawson wasn’t sure how to feel. Her college experience had been upended by the pandemic. Everything felt scary and miserable. She didn’t know what the future held. And while Clawson was grateful for his love and support, living with her dad at the age of 20 had never been the plan.
“I wanted to live with my friends, and be able to go out in the middle of the night and come back in the early hours,” she tells CNN Travel today.
Instead, London was quiet. All the pubs, clubs, restaurants and museums were closed. The Tower of London, usually humming with tourists, was shuttered to everyone but its inhabitants.
Clawson’s early days in the Tower were defined by complicated emotions.
“It was both amazing and exciting. But it was still underpinned by this idea of, ‘Oh, it’s because I needed more help in a global crisis,’ more than just ‘Oh, this is my new fairytale adventure.’”
But, slowly and surely Clawson got used to life in the Tower, and London gradually woke up from its Covid hibernation.
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