So after our complimentary English/continental breakfast (we weren’t too impressed by the black pudding…but I love the salmon/cream cheese bagels!), we set off feeling pretty confident about getting around on the Underground. There are three lines that run through the Westminster stop (and I have to tell you, I’m still not getting tired of walking past the Houses of Parliament every day…we’ve all seen pictures of them, but I’m telling you the pictures do NOT do the building justice! College Student and I just stand there and marvel at the architecture every day)…two of the three Underground lines are shut down today, tomorrow and Monday for repairs!
Our plan was to hit the Globe Theater this morning and then the Tower of London this afternoon. But because of the Underground situation, we had a longer walk to the Globe than we expected and it was clearly going to be more complicated to get to the Tower of London than it will be on Tuesday and Wednesday. Plus we weren’t too far from St. Paul’s Cathedral, so changed the plan and decided to do Globe in the morning and then the cathedral in the afternoon.
I LOVED the Globe! It’s not the original, btw…(I didn’t know that before I got here)…it’s actually the THIRD Globe. And as we overheard one of the tour guides saying, “it took an American to get it built!” The original Globe burned down in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII. A stage cannon was fired from the turret and a spark ignited the thatch roof. Everybody got out safely.
I don’t know what happened to the second one…the third one began with American actor/director Sam Wanamaker arriving in London in 1949. He went searching along Bankside for a monument to the original Globe and all he found was a blackening bronze plaque on a brewery wall. He thought Shakespeare deserved better than that, so he made plans to rebuild it.
It’s a pretty amazing place…as a mother of a theater kid, I can only imagine what Junior High Kid would think of performing HERE. He’s done plays at the Riverside outdoor theater at home for several years (we call it the “Shakespeare stage” because we always try and take in one of the summer Shakespeare festival plays there, too)…this is the REAL “Shakespeare Stage.” It’s all wood and plaster and it’s got a thatch roof (just like the original)…the stage is covered to protect costumes from rain and sun. The show goes on here no matter what. There aren’t much for lights…and if you’re onstage here, you’re not going to be in the spotlight (there isn’t one). Lighting is used just to simulate night/day in the play. The benches are wooden, but not as uncomfortable as I would’ve thought. The theater holds 1500 people (500 of them stand in the middle to watch…and if you pay for a standing ticket, you MUST stand…they won’t let you sit down). We didn’t see a play here today, though…(JUNIOR HIGH KID, IF YOU’RE READING THIS, STOP READING NOW….YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY…) I promised College Student that I’d take him to see one show while we’re in London…he wants to see Wicked. So we’re going to try and get half-price tickets on Monday…and if we don’t get them we’ll go back and try again on Tuesday. If we don’t get tickets to that (or Lord of the Rings or Spamalot), THEN we’ll come back and see something at the Globe.
I was especially interested in the music part of this museum…I LOVE Medieval/Renaissance music and instruments. Though I’ve always been interested in lute, I don’t think I’d really take it up…it’s pretty different from the mandolin. But being here and seeing the cittern makes me even more inclined to take THAT up…the cittern is not that different from the mandolin (basically, if you can play one, you can play the other). But I couldn’t spend the rest of the day gawking at the music, so I bought a CD of music from the Globe and we moved on…to lunch!
We found another little hole in the wall place for lunch and had yummy falafel wraps (whoever told me about ethnic restaurants in London wasn’t kidding!). Then we headed over to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
I have to admit, I hadn’t intended on visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral originally. I knew it was a big fancy church…I knew Charles and Diana got married there…I knew Diana’s funeral was there (so was Winston Churchill’s)…I didn’t think I needed to see it. Not when we’re so close to Westminster Abbey (which we haven’t actually gone inside yet)…if you’ve seen one fancy church, you’ve seen ’em all, right? Wrong.
What convinced us to give St. Paul’s cathedral a try was 1) going past it on that bus tour the first day (it’s pretty impressive looking!); 2) finding out there’s a crypt we can visit in the basement; 3) finding out that the view from the top is just as good as the view from the top of the London Eye, but we’d have to climb 431 narrow, winding steps to get there (Hey, we like a challenge! And better to get a little history with your view, right?). We were NOT disappointed. What an amazing place! The art, the architecture, the sense of history…it was almost overwhelming! We bought the audio tour (I much prefer those to live tours) and got a little more of the history that way. The audio tour was supposed to last us 90 minutes, but we were in the cathedral 2 1/2 hours and still didn’t see everything. (We didn’t get to the crypt…but they’re very nice here at the cathedral and they stamped our tickets so we can come back and finish without paying again if we want.) College Student and I are the kind of people who when the audio tour has an extra segment that you can sit down and listen to or skip, we will always choose to sit down and listen to the extra segment.
We also got hung up climbing the stairs. The line kept stopping. But wow…what an interesting climb that was. The first half that led to the whispering gallery wasn’t too bad…it was narrow, but I didn’t know narrow until I climbed the second part up to the top of the dome (where you can go outside). By the way, there’s a sign before you go up warning you that the stairs go one way…if you start up you CAN’T come back down. So if you experience vertigo or you have a heart condition or you’re pregnant, they recommend you NOT do this. But like I said, the first half wasn’t too bad…the line kept moving, so I actually got a little winded by the time we got to the whispering gallery (and it’s true…you can stand at one wall and whisper something and someone on the other side of the gallery will hear it! Not that I actually tried it, but I heard everyone else trying it!). There was no time to sit and take a rest, though, because they were going to be closing the top level…if we wanted to go, now was our chance. So, up we went! Up an extremely narrow, wrought-iron, spiral staircase. (I have never in my life climbed such a narrow spiral staircase!) Two hundred some more stairs. (This is where the line kept stopping.) I normally do not experience vertigo (and I really only experienced it on the way DOWN this time…we came down much faster than we went up…and all that round-and-round did make me a little dizzy), but I held on to the rail on one side and the post of the spiral staircase the whole way up and down.
Right before you get to the top the stairs come out on this narrow little tunnel…it’s barely as wide as I am…and College Student had to duck to make his way through there…(oh, and somewhere in here we got to look through little windows at the top of the dome…and we got to see where bombs from World War II hit)…but once you get to the top, oh man, the view is SO worth it! I took a bunch of pictures all the way around…then we started back down. We had ten minutes to see the crypt before we had to turn in our audio sets, so we took a whirlwind walk through it…if we’ve got time, we will come back!
It was only 4:45 when we walked out of the cathedral (they had a service starting at 5:00…that’s why they closed so early), so we decided to do a little self-guided walk along the London Wall. We knew it started around the London Museum, so we trekked over there. The lady inside must’ve thought we were crazy (or just Americans!)…she wanted to tell us about the museum and I said, “but aren’t you closing?” (it was 5:00 by the time we got there) She said, “but you just walked in here?” So I said we wanted to walk along the wall and just needed to know how to get to it…our first clue that this was a bad idea was the fact she had no idea what I was talking about. Somebody else there knew what we meant, though…he gave us a little map, which wasn’t very helpful. We soon found out you can’t just “walk along the wall” like we thought (I have a guide book that claims there’s a 1.75 mile London Wall walk)…we started out okay…we found a couple pieces of the original wall…it took us a while to orient the map and find the ampitheater, but we found it (there’s a line on the brick courtyard that shows where there original wall stood…the buildings surrounding us were the outside walls of the ampitheater and supposedly if you were there when the art museum was open, you could see part of the lower level of the ampitheater, but it wasn’t open). We were having such a hard time with this walk since we weren’t actually walking along a wall and the map didn’t actually tell us where to go…it just pointed out about six points of interest related to the wall between the London Museum and the Tower of London…that we decided to give up on the walk for now and go see a little bit of the London Museum (since it was actually open until 6:00). College Student and I split up in here…I wanted to read about the London fire and he wanted to see all the Medieval stuff, so we both managed to see what we wanted in that 25 minutes.
I know there IS a London Wall walk…we actually passed a plaque that was labeled London Wall walk 21…but apparently the London Museum is NOT the place to start it. We might have better luck with that on the day we visit the Tower since more of the wall is intact over in that area.
So…then it was time for some dinner. Most of the little hole in the wall places are only open until 4:00, so we have to work a little harder to find dinner. Whoever recommended Wagamama to me, THANK YOU!!!! We found one of those and decided to try it tonight. We LOVED it!!! (I’m in heaven with all this ethnic food!)
Tomorrow is our tour to Bath and Stonehenge…