We started our day on the tube as usual but this time we headed in to London early and survived the commute crush. Egad – how do people do this day after day? We crammed ourselves on to a car and at the last minute Amber got left at the station! We were all messed up then. Patrick and I were on one car – and we both had a set of apartment keys, but Amber was on another totally separate “train” and she was the only one who knew where we were going – and she had the map books showing our routes as well!
Luckily, Patrick figured we’d just get off at the next stop, wait for the “train” behind us and hope to find Amber on it. Thankfully it all worked out just fine. Whew. And I have to admit, the people crammed into the second “train” smelled a lot better than those on the first train. It was standing room only, everyone all smooshed in together for mile after mile.
St. Paul's Cathedral
We arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral just as the steps to the upper levels opened. This has to be The Best church I’ve ever seen – including Notre Dame and Westminster Abbey. First, the place is huge – 515 feet long and 250 feet wide. Second, it’s tall – the top of the dome is 360 feet high and the only church dome higher is at St. Peter’s in Rome. And third, it’s beautiful. It’s hard to describe the interior. While there *are* stained glass windows – most windows are clear glass that let in a lot of light. The arched ceilings are covered in amazing tile work that looks like tapestries woven with gold threads. Pictures aren’t allowed inside, so I have no pictures of my own to show. No picture will do it justice anyway.
At St. Paul’s the three of us climbed 259 steps up a wooden spiral staircase to the Whispering Gallery. This is a railed section up inside the dome where you can stand, whisper something to the wall, and people on the other side of the dome can hear you. And it worked! Amber and I sat in the Whispering Gallery while Patrick trudged up an additional 119 more steps to the Stone Gallery – which is on the exterior of the dome. Then, ever onward, he walked up another 152 more steps (530 total) to the Golden Gallery that gave him an amazing 360 degree view of London. Patrick took over 100 pictures while up there and we’re hoping for some great panoramic pictures!
St. Paul’s is England’s national church and there has been a church on the same location since 604 AD. There was a great fire in London in 1666 and the church was rebuilt then.
Historically in the 1900’s, St. Paul’s was considered Britain’s symbol of resistance since it withstood 57 nights of bombing by the Nazis. Winston Churchill’s funeral was held here in 1965 and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diane took place at St. Paul’s in 1981.
We had planned on a quick 30-minute visit (not knowing how fantastic it was going to be) but St. Paul’s was so amazing that we were there for an hour and a half.
After St. Paul’s we walked across the Millennium Bridge made famous in Harry Potter The Half-Blood Prince. This is a pedestrian-only bridge that crossed the Thames.
Even though it wasn’t noon yet, we jumped back on the underground and rode to a stop near our final destination for the day: The British Museum.
The British Museum was established in 1753, has 94 galleries and walkways totaling 2.5 miles. Rick Steves says it’s the “greatest chronicle of civilization… anywhere” and we all think he’s right.
We were there for 2.5 hours and were exhausted. We saw mummies, Chinese jade, great Assyrian art work, historical clocks, coin making, Roman and Greek statues, a statue from Easter Island – and yes, we saw The Rosetta Stone. The oldest object in the museum was a rock hand tool – 1.8 million years old. The Assyrian winged bull statues were among the heaviest things in the museum at 17 tons each. It was an amazing place and we didn’t do it justice. I’d estimate we saw about 10% of the items and actually studied less than 1%.
Throughout this whole day you have to remember that we were walking. Again, things like elevators or escalators seem to be almost non-existent. We walk down to the tube; transferring a couple of times means it’s up and then back down, then up and back down, then finally up to the street level. And the “up and down” can be two or more floors – all on concrete. St. Paul’s Cathedral was a climb up stairs to the Whispering Gallery, a nice walk across the Millennium Bridge, and back, then down underground for another tube ride, and back up. Then all around the British Museum… and finally back down to the tube again and a long ride home.
You can bet that we’re sleeping well at night now that we’ve adjusted to the time change!