I lived in London for two years before moving to the U.S., but due to night shifts, shorthand classes and complacency, I never got to know it. But today I finally took my new Today’s The Day I attitude to my old home.
Ryan and I jumped on a train (some are finally working!) and arrived in London Bridge. After wandering along the river and past the Tower of London, we headed west through the deserted streets (it’s Boxing Day innit) to St Paul’s Cathedral. The last time I was here was when I was covering the Occupy Wall Street protests, which were staged at the front of the cathedral – but I never went inside.
I can’t believe what I’d been missing. My breath has been taken away this year by the sheer size of some buildings in New York, including St John the Divine, but this was grandness like I’d never seen it before. Not only did it have the massive height of some of those buildings, it had added intricacies and color – the entire ceiling and huge dome was covered with mosaics and gold leaf. These photos just don’t do it justice!
After wandering the length of the cathedral – our audio guides to hand – and looking at the stunning altar and dark-wooded choir pews, we began the long ascent to the top of the dome. First stop: The Whispering Gallery.
You can see this gallery from the floor of the cathedral – it’s a ring dotted with tiny people at the base of the dome. Once you get up there, you can see the pews beneath as you walk around the ring. And, if you pick a spot opposite your fellow tourists and whisper something directly at the wall, they can hear you on the other side.We took more stairs – which became narrower and narrower – until we reached a balcony around the dome. But again, there was still more!
Architect Sir Christopher Wren, who began construction on the building in 1675, wanted a dome that was both magnificent from the inside and one that could be seen from across London. Once the dome was completed, it was stunning for worshippers on the cathedral floor, but he was concerned it was not high enough from the outside.
So he built another dome on top of the one you see from inside. Not only does it boost the height of the building (to 365 feet, making it one of the tallest domes in the world), it means that us climbers had to take stairs in this odd sort of limbo – above the dome you see inside and beneath the dome you see on the outside.
The whole visit took us a little over an hour and even though tickets were £16, they were worth every penny. The building is so stunning and you really have to see it to believe the opulence and beauty of the design. And the trek to the top of the dome was brilliant – I couldn’t actually believe they left us to our own devices to explore the tiny staircases and mini balconies.
I really think this blog has tremendously improved my appreciation for the places I go – I lived in London for years, and yet I never made the effort to get to know it. But I loved this.