Today we’re back in London with a walking tour of a lovely sunny day. This was our last full day in London before heading to our next destination and I wanted to make sure that we spent time at Westminster Abbey.
After waiting in queue for a bit, we entered the sacred halls of this iconic church. They didn’t allow photography inside, so unfortunately I don’t have those to show you. They had audio tours that you picked up on your way in and followed a pre-laid out route to see the ground level of the church. In this way, it was not quite so intimate as exploring on one’s own, but it was more efficient. This was my first English Cathedral and it was overwhelming. It’s probably just as well that they didn’t allow photography or they might never have gotten rid of me. The cathedral itself was glorious and being aware of all the history that has occurred on that site in over 1000 years of worship was awe-inspiring. All of the cathedrals that we visited are first and primarily functioning places of worship, and at Westminster, they periodically asked that visitors maintain an attitude of silence while prayers were offered. I was deeply touched by that – several times while we were there, ministers of the cathedral would pray for those who had come from all over the world to be touched by the glory and presence of God at Westminster.
Now one area where we were able to take photographs was in the Chapter House, which had recently undergone restoration. Chapter Houses were gathering areas for monks, where they would hold meetings and receive instructions.
The entire circular space was filled with stain glass windows at the top, below the glass were medieval paintings depicting scenes from Revelations. And the tiled mosaic work on the floor was exquisite.
After we toured the ground floor, we decided to go upstairs to the Triforium (a gallery area above the nave and choir of a church) to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries. This space was renovated and a museum opened to the public in celebration of the Queen’s 60th Anniversary of her rule. In addition to offering spectacular views of the ground floor of the cathedral, there was an interesting display of artifacts from the cathedral’s history, ranging from art, architecture, daily worship, and its relationship with the monarchy. I did not realize this, but when a member of the monarchy or prominent citizen was buried at Westminster, a wax figure of the person was put on display, often wearing their own clothing and jewelry. One of my favorite items on display was a large wooden model of the spire renovations that Christopher Wren was overseeing. I also got goosebumps walking through the Triforium because we could touch the limber beams that Wren had installed to reinforce the area.
As we climbed the tower to the Triforium, we were treated to “secret” views of Westminster, not seen from the outside of the building. One of the views was this roof-line that had been decorated with scores of stone-carved beasties – some realistic and some fanciful. It was enchanting and a personal look at the stone carvers who decorated the cathedral and lavished attention on spaces that most people would never see.
Once it got dangerously near to closing time at Westminster, we decided to walk around London for a while since we still had several hours of daylight left to enjoy.
The Houses of Parliment are very close and this is a view of those from Victoria Tower Gardens. I loved walking in this area – the buildings were all magnificent and looked like gold with the afternoon sunlight drenching down.
We walked to the Thames and over the pedestrian bridge to admire the views of the river. From there we turned our sights to Buckingham Palace. We walked the length of St. James Park to get there and it was a beautiful open space park with tall mature trees and sculptured monuments.
We stopped to admire the palace, and the gates and light fixtures (I won’t tell you how many photos I took of those) and got our pictures out front. Then my attention was distracted by another set of gates which we just had to explore:
Aren’t they gorgeous? I was easily enchanted by gates that day. These beauties beckoned us to Green Park, and we happily obliged. It’s one of the Royal Gardens that is open to the public and we enjoyed strolling through the beautiful green spaces in London. We also walked the length of Buckingham Palace Garden. (though we couldn’t see much of those gardens because they were hidden behind a tall brick wall. But we did have fun finding the security cameras and waving at them). The far end of these gardens terminates at Wellington Arch.
Wellington’s home was right across the street – at Number 1 London. And turns out that Hyde Park was just right down the street as well. So we walked through some of those gardens as well – they were beautiful!
It was a warm and sunny evening, so we took advantage of an obliging bench to do a bit of knitting in the rose garden and rest our feet.
Once the sun started setting we turned our feet towards the nearest Underground Station and made our way to our bed and breakfast and a tasty dinner at the pub downstairs. Although the walk after Westminster was completely unplanned, it turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. I loved walking through London – people watching, admiring the architecture and the green spaces, the monuments and the tall trees, the sun and shadow and how they played over the buildings. And we managed to walk through five parks/gardens that afternoon. A perfect day!
Blessings to you,
With all that walking I bet you two slept like babies! London has so much history, it boggles the mind.
Such beautiful pictures! I’m a little jealous, I haven’t been in London for so long 😉