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5 ENGLAND: London, Day Trip #3

Harrod, Albert and Paul

sunny -3 °F
View Sandy & Vidal's European Adventures of 2004 on tacoinusa's travel map.

London_Day_3_Harrod_s.jpgMonday, July 19, 2004. It was our last full day in England before we headed back to Mexico. We had spent our last weekend in Cranleigh, having been kidnapped by our friends Lottie and Shane and had a great time. During that weekend, our friends had taken us all around to different shopping malls in Cranleigh and surrounding suburbs, in search of the one thing my mother had asked me to bring her: a long wool scarf just like the one her niece had brought her from England many years ago. As it was July, we were having no luck, and decided to head to London to try our luck at London’s famous Harrods and throw in a few more sights at the same time before we returned to pack after our 2 month trip. The Harrods motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique - All Things for All People, Everywhere; it sits on 4.5 acres of land and has something like 300 departments. If we were to have luck, that would be the place. Lottie dropped us at Mike’s house on her way to work; we freshened up and we were off to Guildford. Before heading to the train, we hit Guildford’s shopping mall, just in case… No such luck, so we headed out on the 10:40am train to London, heading straight to Harrods. Well, sort of. A few doors away from Harrods, we spotted a scarf store, but no scarf matched the one my mom had, so we went to Harrods. Harrods had a shopping angel, as the scarf department was not far from the entrance. Although I did not see the exact scarf I remembered my mom having, I bought the closest thing, paying way too much money for it (but Mom’s worth it!). Vidal wanted to go straight to St. Paul’s Cathedral, but I wanted to sneak a peek at the Royal Albert Hall before getting on the Tube…
London_DAY..RT_HALL.jpg We compromised: I saw the Hall from a block away, gave a quick Queen’s wave, it waved back and we went Underground on the Tube to St. Paul’s..
London_Day.._ticket.jpgBack when Lady Diana married Prince Charles, I was young and foolish; I got caught up in the fairy tale, staying up to the wee hours (Chicago time!) to watch their wedding, which took place at St. Paul’s. Although with the exception of that moment in history, I have never been one to get caught up in the personal stories of people who are not immediate family or friends; the memory of the beauty of that cathedral has always stayed with me, and I was anxious to walk along its aisles. So when we turned a corner with a view of the famous cathedral dome for the first time, I was expecting a rush of adrenaline. What I got instead was a rush of disappointment; the cathedral was surrounded on all sides by scaffolding, covering the great dome completely. The current cathedral is the 4th to occupy the site, on grounds considered sacred before Christianity arrived; it is believed that a stone circle once stood there. When the architect of the current cathedral began construction, he discovered remains of a pagan temple in the foundations of the previous cathedral. The 1st cathedral was built by the Saxons in wood in 604 AD, rebuilt in 674 AD, although the rebuilt version is not considered cathedral #2. That cathedral was sacked by the Vikings in 962 AD and the 2nd St Paul's was built, this time in stone. The 3rd St Paul's (now known as Old St Paul's), was begun by the Normans after the late Saxon cathedral suffered in a fire of 1087, but was not completed until 1310 AD. By the 16th century it was decaying; radical preachers enticed followers to destroy much of the interior. Soon after that, the spire was destroyed by lightning; the entire cathedral was later ruined in the 17th century Great Fire of London. It was just plain a bad luck church! The present St. Paul's Cathedral was designed by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, and completed on his 76th birthday in 1708. The dome was inspired by St. Peter’s in Rome, rising 365 ft. to the cross which adorns the top.
Photography is not allowed inside St. Paul’s, but that did not matter, as unfortunately there was indoor scaffolding as well, making it impossible to see the mosaics on the inside of the dome. We happened to be there when a great restoration project was taking place for the cathedral’s 300th anniversary. Although the main altar and many of the famous murals were being worked on, we were able to admire the great monuments to the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson.
London_DAY.._to_USA.jpgAlas, our trip to St. Paul’s was not in vain; not everything was so ancient it needed to be renovated. Behind the apse is a chapel to commemorate the members of the United States forces based in the UK who gave their lives defending liberty during WWII- the American Memorial Chapel. It has been said that originally, the idea to have a WWII memorial for Americans was first put forth by the US Air Force; the dean of St. Paul’s volunteered his cathedral as he responded, “It is not for you but for us to erect that memorial.” The chapel was funded by the British people as a tribute. An inscription in large letters runs along the edge of the floor,

‘To the American dead of the Second World War from the people of Britain’.

There is on display a 500 page honor roll of names of the American men and women who are commemorated in the chapel, presented in 1951 by General (before he became President) Eisenhower. I do not think my being American had anything to do with how much the memorial moved me, the fact that such a significant part of this cathedral was dedicated and the obvious honor the designers wished to portray moved me quite deeply; the fact that we had been in England for the 60th D-Day anniversary and the thankfulness expressed to me by veterans made visiting the chapel so much more significant.
Sir Christopher Wren is buried in a quiet corner within the cathedral, his masterpiece. His grave marker, written by his son is eloquently simple:

‘Reader, if you seek his memorial - look around you’.

As was the case with Westminster Abbey, an announcement is made every hour in St. Paul’s Cathedral for a call to prayer; although we were in the cathedral for less than an hour, we were there for the prayer time. This time it was the Lord’s Prayer which all are invited to pray together, each in their own tongue, while praying for their loved ones as well as for the needs of the world. Amen! With that, we said our goodbyes to the cathedral, looking forward to returning another time, when we could see it in all its glory.
Before saying our final farewell to this fine city, we stopped for another look at Covent Garden to pick up a few more souvenirs, and a couple of cold drinks once more while people-watching at Punch and Judy’s. We made it in time to Waterloo Station to catch the 2:50pm train to Guildford (our travel angels showed us to the plush train with comfy seats in lieu of the hard backed seats we had previously); making it back to Cranleigh in time to Power Pack and enjoy a relaxing farewell dinner with our wonderful friends.
For more information:
St. Paul’s Cathedral: http://www.stpauls.co.uk/

Posted by tacoinusa 00:23 Archived in England

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