Similar to Westminster Abbey, photography wasn’t allowed inside the baroque church designed by Christopher Wren, St. Paul’s Cathedral. 10.30 in the morning, the queues were manageable, perfect for the late risers. We paid £18 each but £2 less when purchased online.
Words could not describe the awe-inspiring architecture. The striking mosaics, impressive dome, the simple memorials and grandiose tombs, all give a combination of solemnity and spirituality despite the number of people walking around with their audio guides glued to their ears.
Challenging to those who rarely exercise was the spiraling staircase to reach the Galleries, the Dome. After climbing 259 steps to the Whisphering Gallery, I was still fine. We took the time to look down at the chairs and people below us.
Feeling quite good with ourselves, we climbed the 378 steps to the Stone Gallery, where we had a great view of part of the London skyline. *Warning: Not for those with asthma or breathing condition.
Seen and Heard
British, curled over himself, fighting for breath. Classmates look on calmly.
Classmate 1: Mr. Russell, Xx (name of boy having breathing problems) is not all there.
Me (in my head): Whoah, Brits train their kids to be unflappable at a young age.
Finally, 528 steps later, we reached the smallest gallery, with a narrow passageway that wrapped around the outer dome. 360° view of the city but people were herded to keep going since it was one-way.
We wouldn’t feel the burn in our legs and calves until the next day.
It was lunchtime when we exited and we wanted to try pub fare.
We picked All Bar One after comparing menus. Great choice for us. They had 2nd floor cushioned seating. I had the crispy duck salad, H had the steak sandwich, we shared crispy calamari between us. Feeling a tad bit adventurous, I ordered an apple cider that came in this very tall glass. I gulped. The food was tasty, the vegetables were fresh and crispy, so were the duck pieces, enough tanginess to give the salad a sharp flavor.
Aside from watching the lunch pub culture, I also discovered cider, aside from making me woozy, was worse than tea in inducing bathroom visits. 15 minutes later, while going around Leadenhall Market.
Leadenhall Market was not a market but a collection of retail stores and cafes.
Onward to the London Tower. Tickets eere £24 with donation but H paid £21.50 because he read the fine print. You must tell the ticket staff, no donation. It sounds a bit rude but it is a choice.
I didn’t expect to be wowed by the Crown Jewel exhibit (no photography allowed), expecting it to be similar to the Crown Jewel display at Versailles. I was terribly but wonderfully wrong. Yes, there was a long introduction about the different monarchs and the different coronation artifacts but the end with all the jewels was worth the time queuing. Diamonds, gold, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds glittered behind their glass enclosure.
From there, we walked around the battlement, saw more exhibits, including the diamond replicas of the Crown Jewels, and took photos of the two ravens perched on the baluster. I thought they were one of the art installations until they moved their heads. Wikipedia states that their presence was due to superstition they protect the Crown and Britain. They are bred in captivity and their wings clipped to prevent them from flying away. Cue Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.
Outside the Tower Gates was a clear view of the Tower Bridge, the familiar tourist attraction. Note that London Bridge is different from the Tower Bridge.
Since the darkness hadn’t fallen, we checked out Harrod’s. The department store was as opulent as many reviewers had described. Contrary to other people’s opinion, none of the staff we met were rude or snotty. The first floor designer area had some of the loveliest staff we’ve met. They were friendly but not obsequious. They respect your no’s. We traded laughter with the great staff at Eskander, loved the clothes, tried them on but they weren’t my style.
Going back this Sunday. I hope.