As the rosy fingers of dawn stretched across the sky outside my window, I start to stir underneath my covers and think about my itinerary for this day. My hostess up until this time has been gracious with her time in accompanying me and showing the ‘lay-of-the-land’, driving me and here and there on occasion and ‘holding-my-hand’ through the tricky navigations of the Underground and those charming double decker buses. Today though I will be on my own for the first part as the real world has snatched her back and she must go to work this day. I believe after the aforementioned ‘tutelage’ I was given the preceding days, I can strike out on my own with a certain amount of confidence. Before I do that, I must address some corrections in a couple of the entries of previous blogs.
Kensington Palace is the official London home of Prince William and Kate Middleton, (among others) not Prince Andrew. They are officially titled the ‘Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’.
My meal at Harrods was Sea Bass and Samphire, rocket, remember we here in the states know rocket as arugula, and samphire, also known as ‘sea asparagus’, was the make-up of my side dish with the fish. I have no idea how my host remembered that. Well played. Right, now on with the day.
We meet at my hotel early and walk down to the nearest ‘Chube’ station. We jump on a train headed for the Thames river area near the Globe Theatre and go our separate ways on a bridge span over the Thames. I was headed to that stately dome known around the world as ‘St. Paul’s Cathedral’. It’s pretty amazing how the dome of St. Paul’s looks like our own Capitol dome in D.C. I stop to take a few pics of the outside of this grand structure and admire its form. Since its construction in the form we see now (completed back in 1711) and for all this time the church has withstood the bombings of WWII and financial hard times. It’s an Anglican Church also serving as the home to the Bishop of London. Many ceremonious events have been held here; the diamond jubilees of both Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II, the funerals of Nelson and Churchill and the wedding of Charles & Diana to name a few.
So with those reverent thoughts I venture inside. I snap a photo in the front and of the entrance way as I enter, but after paying the rather stiff admission, 17 pounds, (around $28 or so), I ask respectfully if photo taking is allowed inside. I’m informed politely ‘No’. Oh bugger. I shall have to rely on subtlety and subterfuge to snap a few but I must keep it on the down low. I see many ‘hall monitors’ walking and standing about on patrol and I would not invite being caught and receiving a possible expulsion and forfeiture of my ‘princely’ admission charge but not before what I would believe to be a thorough ‘dressing down’ by one of the monitors; Made all the more humiliating being given to me in terse condescending proper English. Oh possible the indignity.
So with my ‘official’ one photo of the entrance to the magnificent building I venture inside. I’ve been in a few churches around the world and some of repute too. The Duomo in Milan, Notre Dame in Paris, St. Vitus in Prague, St. Basil in Red Square and even church #1 for me, being brought up Catholic, commonly known as the St. Peter’s Basilica. Can’t forget Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City, both of them; New and Old, and some of the many fine ones in the states and more I haven’t mentioned from around the world cuz’ I’m starting to realize I’ve been to a lot. I’m humbled to add St. Paul’s from London to this list.
The wide nave that is ubiquitous to this kind of church with its great columns standing and its high arched ceilings is breathtaking. I go straight towards the area beneath its great dome and take a seat in the chairs set up for viewing and reflection. But not before I genuflected. Old habits die hard. I sat there a good 10 to 15 minutes just taking it all in and looking up every now and then. I did notice other people taking pictures with their cell phones, some being a bit obvious about it but I still preferred the more subtle manner of snapping one. I did manage one pointing up at the dome but not at the beautiful walls and adornments around me. Having just completed a multimillion pound renovation not too long ago, it showed. The golds gleamed and the colors were rich.
I went up the stairs towards the ‘Whispering Gallery’. From there I can look down to where I was sitting. I snapped some shots here too. After some more reverent ruminating I wanted to see London from the ‘Stone Gallery’. This is the space outside the dome and you can see all of London in a 360 degree view if you walked around the circumference of the dome. Here I was free to ‘snap-away’ with my phone and I did. London with all its history and desire to preserve as much of it as they can is a mash-up of old and new architecture that I think works quite well. It’s on good display from where I’m standing and it’s no wonder this city is a major attraction for tourists.
I descend to roam around the other parts of the nave, can’t go into the Apse or choir area cuz’ its restricted but I do take a gander at the various statues and monuments to Heroes and statesman of England’s past and read their plaques. I didn’t go down in the crypts where Lord Nelson is buried, I mean I should’ve gotten my money’s worth and done it but I felt satisfied by what the structure and the main interior had to offer. Pretty grand I’d have to say. Beauty like this is food for the soul. I exit the cathedral and take a few more photos of the exterior from street level. I’ve spent the better part of almost 2 hours here and I figure it’s time to be going.
I walk down to the Thames and sit on a bench along the river walk here and I have a quick snack while looking at the bridge I’m near and watch the runners jog by. Made me kind of want to join in with them but I was not outfitted for it. I sat and serenely ate and observed. Lovely. With the Tower Bridge to my left and Big Ben to my right, although I couldn’t see it, I started off for Tower Bridge by way of the river walk.