We were so tired yesterday. And then one of us had a terrible night’s sleep, which meant that both of us had a terrible night. So we woke up, late-ish, after not having slept much. What shall we do today, Brad asked. I just woke up, I replied. I can’t even think about it. After a sip or so of coffee, I suggest we rent the bikes at Kensington Garden/Hyde Park and ride around … but got no interest in that idea.
Eventually we decide to head towards St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is a pilgrimage that all architects must make when in London. This is, of course, to pay homage to Sir Christopher Wren, and to see his most magnificent creation.
We head out on the tube, and are starting to be able to make our way around the stations without closely examining every single sign. We know generally which direction we need to go on our two favorite lines, the Circle and the District. We locate the cathedral pretty easily, and as we walk around it to get to the entrance, we happen upon a couple getting some wedding photos taken. That always makes me smile.
The line to get in was short, so we went right inside. There was a 90 minute tour we could have taken, but opted instead to just walk around on our own. I had my very own guide, who studied this building when in architecture school. We walked around and observed some of the interesting features of the cathedral itself. No photos allowed. Then we headed up to the galleries above.
There are three galleries. The Whispering Gallery is 30 metres from the floor, with 257 steps to get there. The next is the Stone Gallery, another 121 steps, and finally, the Golden Gallery for a total of 528 steps and 85 meters from the Cathedral floor.
The Whispering Gallery was interesting. You could get a closer up view of the decorations in the dome, and get a birds eye view down into the church. Supposedly you can whisper on one side of the dome, and someone on the other side can hear you. We tried, but I think there was too much activity going on around us.
The next was the Stone Gallery. Some of you may know that I am a bit afraid of heights. I have bought a ticket to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, twice, and have only made it to the first level both times. But I tromped up the next 121 steps to get to the Stone Gallery. As we were walking up, my architect husband was telling me how the building was made, which I admit didn’t help at all. I kept thinking to myself … I know this building has stood for more than 300 years, and survived the blitz in WWII, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t fall down at any moment. We emerged from the narrow spiral staircase onto an outside area around the cathedral and I was a bit wobbly.
But the views from here were spectacular. We walked around the whole building and admired the views from above.
Then came the moment I was dreading. Brad really wanted to go up to the Golden Gallery, another 152 steps upward. I said no several times, but eventually relented and went to the door where the steps could be accessed. The guard told me it wasn’t so bad, and that the building had been standing for a long time. He suggested that I just peek in to see what it looked like … and noted that for this set of steps, I would be able to see both up and down to the cathedral floor. The steps reminded us of the steps in a lighthouse on the Oregon coast (metal, not stone or wood like the previous sets). Well, that peek in was sufficient for me to decide to wait where I was until Brad could ascend to the Golden area and bask in the glow of the top of the building. (I will note here that having a fear that the building will fall down while I am in it doesn’t make much sense, and thinking that I am somehow safer at 53 meters from the Cathedral floor vs. 85 metres, makes even less sense.)
Brad made it up and back down to me. He said it was lovely from the top, and he especially liked seeing how Sir Christopher Wren used architectural tricks to make the building.
Once we made it back down to safety on the Cathedral floor, we set off to find the man himself, Sir Christopher Wren, down in the crypt. He designed and built the church, which took from 1675-1710 to construct. His tomb marker is rather plain, which was a statement that his work should speak for itself and people should revere the Cathedral.
On our way around the Cathedral, we were approached by a young woman about asking us some questions. She had a name badge on that said she was from University College London, so I said we would participate in her survey. She is a graduate student, studying for her masters degree in something to do with museums and heritage sites. The title of her dissertation is: “How do visitors make meanings with religious object through their interactions?” We spent about five minutes chatting with her. Then we had a little bite to eat in the cafe while we developed a plan for what’s next.
Since we were so close, we headed over the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern. We purchased timed tickets to see the Picasso 1932 Exhibit, but were supposed to go tomorrow. Fortunately, we were able to head right in when we arrived. Yay!
This exhibit went month-by-month through Picasso’s work in 1932, which was quite interesting. It was a pivotal time in his life and his career and you can see that in the work itself.
At that point, we were both pretty tired and started back towards our London home. It was early, but we needed the rest. And I think I am getting a cold, so we stopped to get something to help with that. It is probably the most beautiful day, weather-wise, since we’ve been in London, so we enjoyed the moderate temperature and slight breeze as we walked along the Thames to get back to the underground.