London Lantern

Putting the Spotlight on London

A Look At London

29/04/2004, By Candice Caster

Reader Rating: 2.8 from 761 votes


London lay all around us, shimmering against the wintry white sky, parts of the city easily identifiable, others unfamiliar, but all vastly interesting and beautiful. We were on top of St. Paul’s Cathedral, our feet firmly planted on the Golden Gallery, bracing ourselves against the strong winds, but exuberant at the sight below. Breathless after the climb (530 steps to the top!), we stood back and feasted our eyes on our favorite city.

This was what we called “unfinished business”, for we had been to St. Paul’s Cathedral - that magnificent structure and symbol of wartime strength and fortitude - many times previously, but somehow we never had time to wend our way up the staircase – first, to the Whispering Gallery within the Cathedral itself, then outside onto the Stone Gallery lying at the base of the Dome, and lastly up the spiral steel steps to the final destination, the Golden Gallery.

Before ascending the final set of steps, we did not fail to peer through the peephole looking directly down onto the marble floor beneath the Dome. Perhaps this was not wise, for it had a dizzying effect, but what a fantastic glimpse it was!

And now there was London, lying literally at our feet – the labyrinth of streets and passageways making up the old City of London in one direction, sweeping over to the steadfast Tower and Tower Bridge, the rolling River Thames and, south of the river, the Globe demanding attention in all of its restored Tudor glory.

And what a pleasure and a privilege it was to take time out of our activity-packed itinerary and simply stop and look at London! We are inclined to tear around the city at a frenetic pace as we fly from museum to art gallery to theatre, and in our haste, we miss the beauty of London the city. We need to remind ourselves that London is itself a museum, a gallery, a theatre!

Of course, one doesn’t need to make the tortuous climb to the top of St. Paul’s in order to enjoy a view of London; there are innumerable places from which it can be done. How about atop a London bus? It’s amazing what can be seen by merely climbing one flight of steps to the top of a bus – details of the wonderful architecture are brought closer to the eye.

A tour bus experience is not only informational, but a way of gaining an amazing perspective on the size and scope of the city not possible from the Underground. We’ve found that riding around on a tour bus on the first day of a visit to London is a good idea for several reasons: it is relaxing, restful and an excellent way to see a great deal of London in very little time.

A ride on the London Eye (the Millennium Wheel) is a thrilling way to see London – particularly Westminster, with the Houses of Parliament and the spires of Westminster Abbey; those well versed in London landmarks can even detect stately Buckingham Palace in the distance.

Located on the South Bank by the London Aquarium in the intriguing County Hall, the London Eye takes thirty minutes to complete its cycle, with each capsule holding up to 25 people. The largest wheel in the world, it stands 27 metres taller than St. Paul’s Cathedral. I’ve never ridden on the Eye myself for we are always in London in January when it is closed for annual maintenance.

But our daughter spent several days in London one August and found her “spin” on this famous exhibition wheel exhilarating.

Restaurants can provide a delightful view of parts of London. We had lunch at the impressive restaurant in the National Portrait Gallery, sensibly called The Portrait Restaurant, on the fifth floor overlooking Big Ben and the Lord Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square towering above the rooftops of that well-known and much-photographed area.

Nearly spartan in its simplicity, yet elegant and sophisticated, this restaurant is a “must” at the middle or end of an exhausting day spent among the alluring canvasses of the Portrait Gallery or the National Gallery.

The food and the service were superb, although we were dismayed when we arrived for the blinds were drawn across the windows to keep out the glare of the sun – but with the dual purpose of obstructing the view as well!

Fortunately, as the afternoon progressed and the sun sunk lower in the sky, the blinds were (thankfully) raised, and we were treated not only to a divine crème brûlée, but to the unique view we had come to see!

These are only a few recommendations for an opportunity to see London. Numerous places throughout the city offer similarly fine views.

Although countless others have for years discovered each vista of delight, nevertheless, when we discover it for ourselves, it becomes very personal – ours and ours alone. And it is as if our heart takes its own personal snapshot, and, for that moment, London belongs to us.

Candice Caster

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