Cities / Towns Visited: 1
Countries Visited: 1
Steps Taken Today: 28,713
Steps Taken Around the World: 105,147
Our day began much the same as the one before it. Tiredly but sequentially eating our complimentary breakfast before heading out for yet another jam packed day. Our first destination you may ask, well as we were still riding high on the coat tails of last nights theatrical treats, where else but Shakespeare’s Globe. Now, some of you may not be aware that this is not in fact the original Globe theatre, that one burnt down not long after its inception, spectacularly of course. A spark from a cannon they shot during a show caught the thatched roof on fire, and within a couple of hours, the entire building has burned to the ground. Miraculously no one was injured; although one mans pants did catch alight but the flames were swiftly doused by another mans ale. The next one to be built, cleverly enough, had a tiled roof, but it was eventually closed and pulled down when the monarchy decided to be rid of theatres so they didn’t distract the masses, seemingly from paying their taxes. The one we had the pleasure of seeing today was the third reincarnation. It is rather recent, having only been completed in 1997, but they have done their best to reproduce it faithfully, to the best of their knowledge. They have even thatched the roof, although they will not be using any cannons. It is the only thatched roof in London, as any new wooden structures were banned after the great fire of London in 1666. If you ever get the chance, and you have any interest at all in Shakespeare, the theatre, or its history, I would implore you to visit. We were not able to take any photos of the interior, as there was an Actor rehearsing his lines for his part as Ophelia in their upcoming production of Hamlet, but in the end this was the best part of our tour. He was quite good I must say.
Once we had finished the remainder of our audio guide led tour of the theatre we moved on along the Thames towards London Bridge. Now for something that has nursery rhymes written about it, and is famous the world over it is a somewhat underwhelming bridge. Just a plain, unadorned structure, serving its purpose faithfully. It is shadowed wholeheartedly by our next destination; the Tower Bridge. This quintessentially British landmark, that springs to mind when most people imagine London’s famous destinations, with its soaring towers, suspended walkway, and its famous bascule design, was everything I’d hoped for. After snapping a few photos on our approach, we entered the North tower and ascended upwards to explore, and cross the walkway between the towers, with its vertigo inducing glass floor. We ended our tour at the base of the south tower, in the engine room. From start to finish it was an engineering marvel, and something I will not soon forget.
In keeping with the theme of fire and engineering feats, we arrived at our next stop; The Monument. A 61.5m tall monument commemorating the Great Fire of London. If it was laid down in an Easterly direction it would reach to the spot on Pudding Lane where the fire first began. It was the tallest freestanding stone column in the world when it was built in 1677, and remains so today, and because we are insane we decided to walk up all 311 of its steps. That being said, the view from the top was well worth the pain.
The adventure (or torture depending on your point of view) continued as we settled on fitting in St. Paul’s Cathedral before it closed. By the time we reached it we only had an hour to explore, and because we seemingly enjoy punishing our unsuspecting legs, we decided to climb the dome. After quickly looking around the crypt beneath, we hurried off to the staircase to scale the 500+ stairs to the top. The whispering alley, and the inner balcony that looks down over the interior of the cathedral was spectacular, and we were lucky enough that while we were visiting the choir were singing, accompanied by musicians. From the balcony the music simply washed over us, soothing the soul with its sound. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to linger as we needed to reach the dome before it closed. The narrow spiralling stairs were dizzying, but the panorama that awaited us at the top of the dome was even more so. The view: incredible. My only regret is that we didn’t have more time, but I am immensely glad we managed to fit it in.
We had decided long before embarking on our trip that we would ensure we had a good British Pub meal on our journey, and thus our search began as we walked toward the East End. We stumbled upon The Hoop and Grapes, and after mocking its name (which, let’s be honest, sounds like they just picked two vaguely pub related words out of a hat), we tumbled in out of the cold, to the warmth and cheer of an atmosphere that induced reminiscence of my childhood and of the home of my British grandparents. The dark woods, the barrels, the horse brasses; it was the likeness of decoration of their home that made me feel at home here. We settled into our corner table and ordered two English classics: steak and ale pie, and toad in the hole (a favourite my nan used to make when I was a child). Washing it down with a couple of ciders (including an amazing rhubarb and apple one, that I am sure I will long for for a very long time), I was in my happy place when we left to hurry off to our last activity for the day.
How else to conclude a night in the East End than with a Jack the Ripper tour. Our guide, who was both hilariously entertaining and enthusiastic, as well as highly informative, really set the scene for us and I can give him nothing but praise. Although many of the locations of the murders have been knocked down and replaced with apartment blocks, some of the street are almost identical to those fateful nights (with the addition of electric lights of course). If you are ever in the East End and are feeling macabre or simply curious may I strongly recommend Philip from The Original Jack the Ripper Tour (although I’m sure they are all great guides, as they are all experts on the subject, and many of them have even written books regarding the murders).
Today may have been hectic from start to finish but my aching legs will not deter me from fulfilling my dreams and seeing all of those things I have wished for for so long. I will not sit idle when there is a whole world to explore.