Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Eye, The Dome & The Teapot

Wednesday morning, Chad and I caught a bus to the London Eye. From a distance, the London Eye looks like a trumped-up ferris wheel. It's giant at 443 feet tall. The pods are enclosed viewing stations that can hold 20 people with a large oval bench in the center. The Eye moves so slowly that you don't feel it, taking 30 minutes for a full rotation. I got a bit of vertigo when our pod reached the very top of the rotation, and was glad for the bench. The view was amazing. Interactive screens located around the pod let you tap on a building's image for the name and a brief history. The London Eye may be a silly tourist activity, but I enjoyed it.

We walked a few blocks and caught a bus to St. Paul's Cathedral. The Cathedral was hosting an art exhibit of life-size donkey statues on parade, each donkey painted by a different artist. Some of the donkeys were elaborate and beautiful, some more political in their adornment. As for the Cathedral, I was struck by the intricate mosaics and all the glittering gold tones along the ceilings. The outer loop of a small remembrance chapel behind the choir was dedicated to the American allies of World War II. Standing and reading the words of gratitude on the plaque made my eyes a bit misty. St. Paul's Cathedral is impressively huge with many areas open to explore. A narrow, winding stairway leads up to the base of the dome, known as the whispering gallery. The vantage point from there satisfied my need for views from on high. Still feeling a bit of vertigo from the London Eye, I didn't want to climb higher into the dome.

Just across the street from St. Paul's Cathedral, we reserved a spot for afternoon tea at Bea's of Bloomsbury. Bea's felt a bit narrow and claustrophobic, especially after climbing a tight spiral staircase to our table. Chad's Earl Grey tea was divine, but I chose poorly with my smokey-tasting Lapsong tea. The tower of snacks for afternoon tea had caprese sandwiches, two scones with clotted cream and jam, two cupcakes, two little meringue cookies, four brownie bites and two blondie bites. The treats were all too buttery and a bit bland in flavor. We were offered a to-go box for leftovers, but declined. We chose Bea's of Bloomsbury, because the website claimed the atmosphere to be unstuffy and casual, and because there was a reservation available on the day we wanted. Bea's lacked the grandiose ambiance, beautiful silver and fine china service that is part of a stuffy four-star hotel, and maybe that's part of what proper English afternoon tea should embody. I still prefer the tea service at The Steeping Room in our neighborhood at home.

Feeling the need to burn some calories, we crossed the pedestrian bridge over the River Thames for the walk back to our apartment. After such an indulgent afternoon tea, we had a late, light dinner of ready-packed salads from Sainsbury's. Being able to walk easily to so many interesting and useful places certainly was an endorsement for metropolitan life. Maybe if we win the lottery...

Tomorrow, read about our last full day in London - my favorite day there.