16.07.2014 - 18.07.2014 31 °C
Time for another update. On our way back from Dorset to Chesham we visited Salisbury cathedral - took the chance while there to view one of the 4 remaining original copies of Magna Carta, which we hadn't realised was there. Another piece of old history, which we'd learnt about in school history lessons - wish it had been that interesting to us way back then! Spent the rest of the journey trying to navigate our way home to avoid major hold ups on the motorways, which we're pleased to say we managed quite successfully. A couple of days after arriving back 'home', we celebrated Lesley's sister's 60th birthday - quite quietly, but it was great to be there for a change to celebrate with her.
After a few quiet rest days, we headed in to the bustle of London again, and spent 2 nights there. We met up with another old college friend of Lesley's - more years to fill in and catch up on! Also visited Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, which is as nearly as possible a true replica of what the original would have looked like, and the only building in London now allowed to have a thatched roof. We were fortunate enough to be there while actors were rehearsing - not a Shakespeare play, but one called Holy Warriors. Great to be able to sit there and imagine being there in the 1600s - we would probably have been amongst the groundlings, standing for the whole performance! Certainly enjoyed the Globe experience.
Then visited Westminster Abbey - found it a bit overwhelming, and seemed to be more of a monument to all the famous people buried therein rather than a church. In contrast, we visited St Paul's cathedral the next day, and were much more impressed. Even though it was smaller, it somehow seemed quite spacious, and we were very impressed with the audio commentary (on iPads, so we could walk around at our own pace, as was the case with Westminster). Whereas the Westminster Abbey commentary seemed to focus quite a bit on the famous people's memorials, of which there were lots, the St Paul's one, while mentioning some of the memorials and tombs, seemed to also focus more on explaining some of the theology relevant to the building, mosaics etc, and the relevance of the cathedral in society today. We climbed up the spiral stairs to the Whispering Gallery, then on up to the Stone Gallery, and walked round the outside of the bottom of the dome. Then more steps (about 560 in all) and to the Golden Gallery, outside around the bottom of the Lantern, on top of the dome. The view is amazing from the top, but sadly it was quite hazy while we were there, so the view wasn't as good as it could have been - later in the day it cleared up, but oddly enough, we didn't fancy climbing the 560 or so steps again!
We also did a 3 hour river cruise (from Westminster Pier to Greenwich and back), and checked out the Tate Modern art gallery - not too impressed by the art we saw, we have to say! Also took a meander through Hyde Park - hadn't realised how big it is. You'd hardly know you were in the middle of a huge city. The day turned out be really hot - 31 degrees, but felt hotter and very sticky. Not ideal to be walking round the city, but we're not complaining - glad they're turning on the good weather for us, and no more jokes (yet) about English summers!
In amongst all that we walked along the South Bank which is a very alive area with buskers and food places scattered along its length. Found a very good pub/eatery called Doggetts, tucked in beside Blackfriars Bridge. Great food and a real mix of people; just great for 'people watching'.