One of the nice things about going to London on a regular basis is that there’s always a nice mix of the old and new. I love revisiting the old, familiar and timeless treasures, and take delight in all the new things that London offers. This year’s trip was no exception. I discovered some enjoyable new ways to view London from a high vantage point. One has been available for ages, one has also been around “forever” but with a new twist, and one is fairly new to the London scene. I thought it would be fun to share my experiences with each.
First stop, the timeless St. Paul’s Cathedral. I’ve been there many times. I’ve known about the whispering gallery but never gave much thought to seeing what it was all about. Maybe I thought this experience cost extra, or perhaps I didn’t feel like climbing hundreds of steps. Maybe I was with my husband, who definitely didn’t want to climb the steps. So, I stopped dreaming about what was “up there” until this year. That’s because this year I was with my teenage niece, and this year, I’ve been working with a personal trainer. And so finally, I was going to tackle the stairs and see where they led me. And they did not disappoint. First stop, the whispering gallery (257 steps up). My niece and I positioned ourselves on opposite sides of the dome and made attempts to hear each other whisper something. Although fun to try, it unfortunately didn’t work for us; I was simply a victim of “imperfect whispering technique.” But all was not lost, as we had outdoor dome circling adventures to look forward to.
Yes, there are quite a few steps, and the higher up you go, the narrower it gets (which was challenging with a backpack and camera gear). But in the end, it was worth it. At the Stone Gallery (376 steps up) you have a generous area to walk all around and take in great vistas – Tower Bridge, the Shard, the Thames, Millennium Bridge, Tate Modern, Fleet Street, etc. It’s a tighter experience at the tip-top gallery (Golden Gallery) but well worth it if you are physically able to manage the extra steps (total steps to here -528). I’m keeping in shape so as to be able to go back. By then I may have the whispering perfected. https://www.stpauls.co.uk/
The next adventure was a visit to the Tower Bridge Exhibition. The main purpose in stopping here was to see what it was like with the recently added glass floor walkways. We timed it perfectly, as while there, the bridge was raised. So, we got to stand atop the water as a ship passed under us. We heard staff talking about the features of the glass – there are tiny dots in it; I believe it’s an optical trick to make it feel less scary to walk on. And there’s a sacrificial layer – the top could shatter and nothing disastrous would happen. Attendance has been way up since they put these floors in. It certainly makes it more fun (the views are nice but not the most spectacular in London). As I’ve noted in my book, it’s nice to come here if you can get a discount on the entrance fee. And if you want to go, look that the bridge’s website beforehand for the bridge lift schedules, and see if you can time your entry to a time that the bridge is scheduled to open. http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/lift-times/
Finally, off to the new kid on the block, and that’s the Sky Garden. Located in the building that Londoners refer to as the “Walkie Talkie” (based on its look), the Sky Garden is essentially an indoor/outdoor viewing venue with places to relax, have a drink, or enjoy a meal, in a lush but urban landscaped environment. Best part – totally free! You do need to book tickets, though. And you can’t book months out – only a few weeks in advance. I booked mine about a week before the day I knew we could fit the trip into our schedule, and hoped for decent weather. Prayers answered. It’s open and bright, and the views are terrific. For example, you can look right into the Tower of London. Some argue that you’ll see just as much from here as you would from the Shard right across the river (where the entry price is steep). I’d agree. We didn’t sample the food or drink (just pretended to with our photos) so that will be something to try next time. http://skygarden.london/plan-your-visit
All in all, these were fun things to experience that won’t break the budget and provide wonderful photo ops. I’ll be sure to be chatting up these experiences in the 2016 edition of my travel guide!
Passionate about everything related to London, this frequent visitor enjoys keeping similar minded people up to date on sightseeing, history, royalty and more!