Friday, May 22, 2009

Listen to London

As I roll over in my bed, before I even open my eyes to see the sunlight pouring in through my window I can hear the sounds from the street below. The voices, bus engines, ambulance sirens and car horns echoing through my window make it feel like the city is alive with its own heartbeat and breathing. Walking around the East End streets of London yesterday, what intrigued me most was how one moment you hear the roar of traffic and then you turn down a alley and hear the soft rustling of someone sweeping their front stoop.

We walked down one such ally on our way to lunch at the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Located right on Fleet Street, the former headquarters of the British Printing Press, the dark exterior gives a deceptive impression as to how far the building dates back. On the inside, the creaky floor boards, narrow steps and passage ways leading to more tables in the dimly lit basement give tourists a feeling of entering into another time. Portraits hang commemorating famous writers like Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens who once drank here. Looking at an original copy of a Tale of Two Cities open to the page where Dickens mentions the pub, I felt like if I was quiet enough I would hear Dickens pen scratching against the paper, writing in the corner behind me.

After lunch we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Walking through the revolving door into the Cathedral it read, “This is a House of God.” A seemingly obvious statement for a Church but this church was like no other I have ever seen. Organ music played as when made our way to the center of this completely jaw dropping, architectural masterpiece. If God truly were to have a house on this earth his address would be St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Climbing up the 257 steps to the Whispering gallery (No I didn’t count I just read the sign) gave us an incredible view looking down into the Cathedral. Named the Whispering Gallery because the acoustics of the dome are so perfectly sound you can whisper into the wall and be heard on the other side of the room. Next we climbed even more spiraling stairs to the Stone Gallery, which runs along the outside perimeter of the dome giving you a breath taking panoramic view of the city of London. The photograph does not do justice to the incredible view.

Our final stop of the day was an exceptionally long but also exceptionally informative Blitz tour of the bomb damaged done by the Germans during WWII. The guide showed us stone stumps that once supported churches and buildings before the bombing. She told us incredible stories of men and women buried for hours under the rubble of what once was their homes, and the people who taking shelter in the tube at night continued on with business as usual during the day.

Our tour took us right back to St. Paul’s Cathedral. From the onset of the war, the Cathedral was watched over round the clock by a group of men who put out firebombs. The Cathedral sat in silence, (the only bells that could ring were those warning of an air strike) for the duration of the war scarred with shrapnel. St. Paul’s became a symbol of hope for the British people; as long as their magnificent Cathedral could make it through the attacks so would they. Today the bells of St. Paul ring out proudly, to remind the people of London of their spirit never broken and their city never silenced.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely done, I especially like the beginning. Be sure to self edit before posting. There are a couple of misspelled words, and periods in spots they aren't supposed to be. What rule was that on Scully's list? I can't remember, but I know it was there.

    You do a great job of weaving your personality into the story -- which is what travel writing is all about. It's about using yourself as the drive to your narrative. Good work.