This morning we hit up the one major London attraction we had so far missed: St. Paul’s Cathedral. A cathedral has stood on this site since 604 AD but the current church dates from the 17th century when the Great Fire of London destroyed most of the city. The cathedral has always held a significant place in English national identity. The church was the location of Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria, peace services marking the end of the First & Second World Wars and the 80th birthday & Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Most famously, the church was the site of the Royal Wedding between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. We would have been able to squeeze in a visit on London Stop 1, but we wanted lots of time to see everything from crypt to top balcony so we put it off till Stop 2.
Entrance to St. Paul’s includes a handy and very informative audio guide. This guide was all on an iPod touch, which we thought was a very good but probably quite pricey idea. The guide starts by taking you across the cathedral floor (aka the church’s main floor). You enter through large wooden doors and pass by the christening basin into the nave. Here the walls and columns are finely carved white stone. There are the odd touches of gold here and there, but the focus is on the carvings. The audio commentary told us that there is such intense detail on both the interior & exterior of the church that during restorations the workers found apples in such high places that someone would never see them, but they featured detailed leaves and were carved as a 3-dimensional fruit that you could put your hand behind and hold. When you reach the end of the nave you find yourself beneath the massive dome. Here the white stone glitters with golden details and mosaics are scattered around, winking with colored glass. The dome itself is painted rather than covered in mosaics as the Protestant church was still so new at the point of construction that it didn’t want decorations so reminiscent of a Catholic cathedral. The quire is a bright mass of golden mosaics and carved dark wood. This progression is supposed to symbolize how things are grander as you get closer to God.
Next step was the dome climb…actually it was 528 steps to the top gallery. It was worth the effort for the amazing views of the city & the River Thames.
Finally we went below ground into the crypt. Here we saw the final resting places of many well known Brits. These included the Duke of Wellington, Christopher Wren (the designer of St. Paul’s & half of London and one of Kristin’s new favorite historical figures) and Viscount Horatio Nelson (remember him from the top of the Trafalgar column?).
After leaving St. Paul’s we walked the short distance to St. Brides’s church. This church is much smaller and relatively unknown but we were inspired to make a quick visit because of it’s inspiration for one of our favorite book series. The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare used this church as inspiration for the London Institute (where the Shadowhunters and main characters all live). The first time we were in London Justine tweeted the author about the location of this little church. We were very happy to get a response from her and on our return to London we quickly stopped by.
For the afternoon we decided to do another thing we’d missed out on our last trip: take a turn in Hyde Park (like they do in so many of our favorite novels). You may recall that last time we tried to do this we got stuck in Kensington Park and ended up just taking the tube to see Marble Arch and skipping the park. This time we took a nice stroll:
We also returned to Winter Wonderland for a snack and some exploration. This extravaganza is a Christmas market, combined with food stalls and a midway and a skating rink and a Bavarian Village. Basically it’s a crazy, festive adventure. We had a last german sausage and sugar crepe…you could seriously get food from any place we’ve been on this trip from stalls. That’s including Hungarian! There were also lots of drinking establishments, including Santa’s Pub and a carousel turned into a bar. The midway was packed with tons of rides for both kids & thrill seekers and they were all decked out in holiday decorations. It was a really fun place to walk through!
We had some time before we had to catch our train (we’ll explain about that later) so we hit the shops of Oxford Street, which runs along one of Hyde Park’s sides. When we say hit the shops we should really say hit a shop because we only made it to one store, Primark. This place was madness. There were people everywhere, messy piles of clothes and people striping to try things on every way you looked. But it was worth it for the prices! We each got a nice dressy jacket for £25! That’s like $40 Canadian with the current exchange rate! We also picked up a few other goodies for ridiculously low prices 🙂
This is what we had for supper:
If you think this meal look familiar then you have a very good memory! We did have this exact meal before almost 4 months ago and we have remembered it as our favorite meal throughout the trip. It was so good that we hopped on a train and rode an hour to Cambridge just to recreate it! Yum Yum Yum Yorkshire Pudding! If you are ever in Cambridge be sure to go to The Baron of Beef and have something with Yorkshire pudding and gravy…you will not regret it!!
On the train ride home to London, while rewatching last weeks episode of Glee, we realized this was our last train ride of the trip! After boarding a train over a hundred times in the last 4 months it’s odd to think we won’t be doing it again. And, as if the universe knew this was our last hurrah, it sent us some excitement…
J: “I think the guy in the last compartment was Neville.”
K: (used to us saying this but not meaning it) “Oh yeah?”
J: “No, seriously.”
K: “Well that was the first class car…aka the kind of place a movie star would sit if they took trains…which a minor movie star might. We are in the UK going to London…” (runs out onto the platform to creepily sneak a peek of the guy)
K: “It could totally be him!”
We then distrated ourselves for the duration of the train ride…well other than Justine taking this stalkeresque photo:
When we arrived in London we might have dawdled until he came walking past. At this point it was a unanimous decision that it was entirely possible that we were seeing the actual Matthew Lewis, aka Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies! We didn’t want to bother him so we just creepily followed him…except we didn’t even follow him, we went the way we would have been going anyway and he happened to be going the same way! We did have to walk fast to keep up with him though…he was practically running through the underground station and looking around all paranoid, as if he didn’t want to be recognized…too late 😉 In the end we got this stellar photo while we were briefly on the same tube:
Maybe it wasn’t him, but we are going with it was. It all fits! We’ve done our research too and he definitely could have been coming though Cambridge on his way from his home town to London and his twitter account didn’t disprove him being in London yesterday. And if it was him, we can now actually say that we chased Neville Longbottom through Kings Cross Station (too bad he didn’t lead us to Platform 9-3/4 😉 ).
Daily Wrap-Up Question:
We want you to know your favorite photos! Now we don’t expect you to go back and look through all of the pictures to find one…just think back on the pictures you remember, those are obviously the ones that stuck in you mind (either because they were beautiful or funny or random…). For points or for fun, please answer!
What We Miss:
Shopping at West Ed…all inside and warm and compacted together.
Love, Luck & Longbottom,