[dropcap]S[/dropcap]t Paul’s Cathedral is one of those iconic London landmarks that many people, myself included, have walked past and made a mental note of visiting properly one day. I’ve been up the Shard, in that stomach lurching lift of the Heron Tower, and even in the Sky Garden at sunset, and with each view I’ve always tried to find St Paul’s in the distance- a beacon of Old London amidst all the glass and concrete towers. I was invited to spend the afternoon at St Paul’s with a guided tour followed with an afternoon tea hosted in the cafe onsite. St Paul’s is stunning by the way, and I had this date circled in the diary for ages!
After meeting at the front steps of the cathedral, like some kind of blogger style Gossip Girl scenario, we had a guided tour inside…
I just felt like I was always wanting to stare upwards, as the ceiling is beautifully guilded in gold- ordered by Queen Victoria to jazz the place up. True story.
We wandered down below to the crypt, taking in the plaques and walking past enormous stone statues that were incredibly lifelike. You can literally feel the history in the air here.
In all honesty, you aren’t supposed to take photos inside the cathedral. I made sure to be discreet so as not to disturb anybody, so forgive me! But when you’re presented with this jaw dropping view, you can’t help it…
From up here, you get a breathtaking view straight down through the cathedral towards the choir. It was at this point, looking around me, taking in the sheer scale of the cathedral and it’s rich history and beauty, that I felt incredibly lucky to have the chance to see it from here.
Before we were to make our way to the top of the Dome, there was a little matter of settling our appetites inside The Restaurant at St Paul’s for afternoon tea.
It was a lovely spread- dainty cups of Darjeeling tea, finger sandwiches of cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon, egg and cress and Yorkshire ham and mustard. With the crusts cut off, of course. After demolishing my share of sandwiches, I got stuck into the plate of treats; mini lemon meringue pies, bakewell Battenburg slices, raspberry cheesecake and a very rich chocolate orange delice.
And then, scones. Smothered in rhubarb jam.
This was all accompanied by chilled glasses of sparkling wine and elderflower. The Head Chef, Chris Terry popped over to say hello, and as we left, we were all given a bag of goodies with macarons and shortbread (which didn’t even last the train journey home, they were delicious)
Our tour continued, through locked doors and stone floor corridors and into the room where The Great Model is kept. Made from oak, plaster and limewood, it was designed by Christopher Wren in 1673 for Charles II. Surrounding it are sketches and plans for building the cathedral, but this model was created as a permanent record Of the intended outcome, providing the architects with a visual reference.
This model is from 1673…let that sink in a bit…
We walked through more corridors and locked doors- and at one point I peeked through the keyhole of one door that I swear was covered floor to ceiling in books and parchment and looked magnificent- and winded our way towards the top of the Dome.
You can get a lift fairly close to the Stone Gallery, but from there, it’s all steps. Prepare to feel the burn! Once you’re up there and catching your breath, the view is pretty good…
…but apparently, not the view we had come to conquer! We climbed onwards to the Golden Gallery, on top of the highest point of the top dome.
Those stairs nearly defeated me. The terrace running the circumference of this section of the dome is small and definitely not for those afraid of heights. Even I felt a little wobbly looking down. But the views…the views up here are so worth it.
We had one more treat in store, and that was the unique experience of attending Evensong. Navigating the stairs down was a little knee trembling, but we made it in good time. Even if we all did stop and fangirl over these steps for a little longer than intended…
Look familiar? As in, hey it’s time for Divination/where’s Professor Trelawney? Well it should, because this staircase was used in Harry Potter when they walk up the castle tower to class. A terrifying fact, the stone steps are only wedged into the wall by an inch and a half and being stacked in such a way is the only thing keeping them up. Nice to know as you make your descent.
For Evensong, we had seats reserved within the quire itself, towards the high altar- just where you can see the glowing red dots in the photo above. It was incredible watching the choir enter the cathedral and even more mind blowing listening to them sing. The service was 45 minutes long and as it ended, the song was quite upbeat and celebratory- almost fairground like- and I learnt afterwards that the boys had chosen to sing that particular song because it was their last day of school. A choral kind of “School’s Out” if you will…so cute!
St Paul’s is so uniquely London and so enriched with history. I did the Dome, I ate a scone, and I felt so lucky to have been able to see the various galleries and views and find myself in the midst of a Evensong. If you would like to tackle the Dome and explore the Cathedral- and you should, it’s stunning- you can book your tickets online here