Another day of exploring the sights on my London pass while the others were off touring Pairs. Started this time at St Paul’s cathedral which is even more impressive on the inside. Firstly, its huge. The dome in the centre is about 60/70m high and painted with scenes from the life of St Paul on the inside. Its then covered by an even larger dome that is 111m high so as to be more imposing when viewed from outside. The smaller domes and walls above the quire and high alter have every available space covered in glistening glass mosaics and the nave is full of monuments including a huge memorial to the duke of Wellington.
The dome houses 3 galleries. The Whispering gallery (anyone familiar with the Whispering Wall can probably work out how they came up with that name) allows you to walk around the base of the dome and get a closer look at the murals on the interior. The Stone and Golden galleries above are both on the outside of the dome and offer spectacular (if chilly) views of the city. The Golden gallery is the higest point you can climb to at 85m and the view is definitely worth the 528 steps up from the cathedral floor.
Under the church is the Crypt where many notable Britons are buried including Wellington, Florence Nightingale, Alexander Flemming, Henry Moor, William Blake and the architect of the cathedral and many other buildings after the Great Fire wiped out most of the city, Sir Christopher Wren. Also buried there, and I was so busy looking around at all the other beautiful memorials that I nearly walked straight over him without noticing, is Sir Arthur Sullivan, the musical half of Gilbert and Sullivan so it was really special for me to pause there for a moment.
Next, headed up to the Tower of London which was very cool. Picked up yet another audio guide (I think I’m starting to go a little loopy from constantly having very well spoken people chattering away in my ear) to learn more about its history and that of the people who lived there, either by choice or as prisoners. Saw the Bloody Tower where Sir Walter Raleigh lived during his various incacerations and where the 2 little princes where allegedly murdered, an interesting exhibition on various methods of torture, a display of Henry VIII’s military and sporting attire and the Beauchamp Tower where many, including Lady Jane Grey waited to be executed. Just outside is Tower Green with a small glass pillow which is a memorial to those privileged few like Lady Jane, Catherine Howard and of course,, Anne Boleyn who were lucky enough to be executed in the Tower and they were buried in the small chapel nearby. The highlight of course was the Crown Jewels (the actual jewels too if the super thick vault doors are anything to go by) displayed in all their sparkly glory.
Spanning the Thames outside the Tower is, naturally, Tower Bridge so I braved the increasing rain and headed over there. Climbed more steps to the level of the upper walkways where there were films and displays on the history of the bridge, as well as what has got to be the oldest tour guide in London (but who clearly loves his job) pointing out the models of workmen high up in the girders in the few seconds he has free between video loops. Under one end of the bridge are the engine rooms where you can see the enormous steam powered pulleys that originally raised the bridge for ships to pass.
Quite sick of climbing stairs by this point I next headed to Wellington Arch on Hyde Park Corner where you can take a lift up to the observation deck just below the huge sculpture of a 4 horse drawn chariot, to enjoy a view of the surrounding park lands, including in one corner the lovely Australian memorial.
One last flight of stairs to finish off the day. The Monument is a 61m high pillar standing 61m away from Pudding Lane where in 1666 the Great Fire which destroyed much of London started. 311 spiral stairs up to a viewing platform at the top. I’m sure if it ever stops raining the view would be even more spectacular but hey, at least I got a certificate for my efforts.