Sunday, July 15, 2012

London calling - part 4

 After two days of traveling out of town, I was ready to spend Wednesday exploring London.  I started the day by visiting the re-created Globe Theater on the south bank of the Thames.  The original Globe (of Shakespeare fame) burned down in 1613 and a second theater of the same name was built in 1614 closed in 1642.  The current theater is a reconstruction that was completed in 1997 using the same materials and building techniques that would have been used during Shakespeare's time.  Plays are still performed here for much of the year, and theater-goers can still buy cheap "groundling" tickets and stand in front of the stage.

There was a docent-led tour of the theater and an exhibition hall that showed what life was like in London when the original Globe was in operation and how the costumes, sets, and special effects (it seems no 17th century play was complete without at least one ghost, one sword fight, and one execution) were designed and built.

These are pictures from the inside of the theater.  

After The Globe, I stopped in at the Tate Modern, which was right next door.  It was... um... strange.  Maybe not quite as strange as the modern art museum in San Francisco (if there was a shopping cart full of popcorn, I missed it), but the featured piece at the museum was a diamond crusted (real) human skull.  And check it out, you can buy a t-shirt:

Then I walked back across the river and, after a stop for lunch, went on a tour of St. Paul's cathedral.  

St. Paul's is the big church in the city of London, while Westminster Abbey is technically not in London but in the city of Westminster.  It also has its fair share of famous people buried there: The Duke of Wellington, Horatio Nelson, Alexander Fleming, Christopher Wren, and John Donne, among many others.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, photography wasn't allowed inside the building.

The highlight (or not, depending on your perspective) is a climb to the top of the dome to look out over the city.  The first stop is the whisper gallery, which is on the inside of the inner dome.  Then you climb up to an outer observation area, which I think is about where the dome changes color.  Then you climb up a terrifying metal grate spiral staircase to the third outside observation level, right under the spire.  Or if you're me, you can decide you've had enough after level two and sneak down the back stair case.      

I was really glad that I took the docent tour rather than getting an audio guide because we were able to go into a few areas that are normally off limits to tourists.  There is a lot to see, and I was probably in the cathedral for at least 2 1/2 hours.  This is the one picture I was able to take.  It's the Juliette staircase in one of the bell tours.

After St. Paul's, I walked down The Strand all the way to Piccadilly Circus, where, exhausted, I decided to take the tube back to our hotel and call it an evening.

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