I’ve decided to skip to now since it’s fresh in my mind, then I’ll post about the last few places we visited later on.
So, today I wandered London with a few places in mind. It’s great sleeping in and not having to rush breakfast – thanks Amy and Lee for having me!
So, about 11 I headed into the city, wanting to visit St Paul’s cathedral. It’s right next to a tube station so wasn’t hard to find. I took a few photos out the front, and was heading to the entrace when some officials came out and told everyone to get off the steps. I thought that maybe they just didn’t like people on the steps and wanted to keep it clear, but once everyone was off the steps they wanted everyone back on the street. A few minutes later a police car turned up and they moved us all to the other side of the street, then put up police tape and started to clear the whole area! I don’t know what was going on, but there was no hope of getting inside so I decided to find my next destination.
I’d been looking in the Lonely Planet guide book on the train and had planned out my day, but the map was a bit confusing. Probably what was most confusing were the maps around the city – each one was oriented differently, depending on the direction of the sign. So at one stop St Paul’s was below where I was, then at the next sign it would be above! So lunch was going to be near the Guild Hall (where there’s a burried Roman Colosseum) but I got a bit lost and ended up at the London museum. Entry was free, and it was an interesting stop. There was info about ‘London before London’ which wasn’t so exciting, but the Great Fire and Black Plague displays were interesting. There was a short film showing how the fire started (a backery in Pudding Lane) and how quickly it spread. It burned for 5 days before they were able to get it under control! It was interesting later on as I continued my journey because there are a number of small parks scattered around the city, and quite a few of them had signs explaining they had been built on the site of a building destroyed during the fire. There would be occasional remains of original walls and things like that, particularly from churches.
I stopped in one of these parks to eat a salad from a nearby shop then pulled out my Lonely Planet book again hoping to find Guild Hall. I ended up making a wrong turn, and before I knew it could see the dome of St Paul’s. Since I was so close I figured I might as well try again, and there were no barriers up at all.
I headed inside and checked out the lower floor which seemed nice. It wasn’t until I’d moved further into the cathedral to under the dome that I realised how impressive it was. The dome was huge, and the decorations below very elegant. There are three levels to the dome, all of which can be accessed by stairs. So up I went! The first level is 257 steps up and is called the Whispering Gallery because if you stand on one side and talk to the side your voice carries all the way to the opposite side (I saw two people trying it out, and it really did work!) This level is inside the dome so you can look down on the cathedral. On my way back down from the top the choir was singing with the organist so I stopped for a bit on the look out to enjoy the music – it was amazing! Anyway, up another 119 steps and I was on the outside of the dome looking out over the city. The view was amazing, but I didn’t linger too long because you can go higher! Another 152 steps and I was at the top. The stairs were really narrow, and took a while because there’s limited space at the top so we had to wait until people had gone down again (fortunately there’s a second set of stairs to go down…) The view from the top was incredible. You could see the whole city. I went a bit crazy and took heaps of photos, and got someone to take a photo of me as well.
Under the cathedral is a crypt with tombs and memorials. It’s also the way out (via the shop and cafe!). I wandered through, but had had enough by then so didn’t spend much time there. I did stop for a coffee though (it did seem a bit wrong having a cafe down there though).
My plan for the day had been to visit Leadenhall Market where Diagon Alley was filmed in the Harry Potter films. But it closes at 5, so I’d realised there was no hope of getting there by then. Instead I thought I’d try for Guild Hall again. After getting a little lost again (ended up using the map on my phone – much better than upside down city maps!) I found it, but it was 4:35 and last entry was 4:30. I took a photo from the outside, but didn’t see the colosseum (not sure if I’ll get back, just depends where I end up I guess). Nearby was the Monument, a memorial for the Great Fire. I caught a train there only to find it buried under scaffold while they carry out restoration work (which is due to be complete some time next year!)
Near there is the Borough Market (apparently the Leaky Cauldron was filmed nearby). I found the market (fresh produce etc) but couldn’t find anything that looked much like the Leaky Cauldron. Another Harry stop was Australia House which was used for Gringotts. It was the inside used in the film (it’s the Australia Commission so you can’t just wander through as a tourist) but I wanted to see the outside anyway. It was a bit Gringotts-like, but not as tall or wonky…
After that I decided to call it a day. It was a hot day (about 28, and quite muggy) and I was exhausted. I hot, crowded tube ride later and I was back at Amy’s. Subway for tea, watching ‘Love Actually’ and then it was time for bed.