The Gorgeous Amazing Awe-Inspiring Architecturally Delicious St. Paul's Cathedral  

Posted by Heidi

St. Paul's Cathedral--a stunning piece of architecture, art and place of worship.  The only thing I knew about it prior to visiting London was that the architect, Sir Christopher Wren, was still very much revered during the Regency, which is the time period in which my romances are set.  Oh, wait!  I also knew that the Bird Lady in Mary Poppins sat in front of it to Feed the Birds.  (Dad wants his children to put their tuppence into the bank.  Mary Poppins encourages them to give it to the Bird Lady, which they do.  Mayhem ensues, lessons are learned and tears are shed.)  One may not feed the birds at St. Paul's these days, a stricture I think wise.  Also, one may not take photos of the inside of the building.  Sad but true.  However, there is enough on the outside of the building to drool over for a lifetime, or, at the very least, one long-ish blog post.

But first, we had to get there.  Which we did.  Via our coach.  Thankfully, I was able to read that the man on the horse is meant to depict Wellington (my biggest clue was the word Wellington on the monument) who is a Regency-era military hero whose house I blogged about a few weeks ago.  I also got the road sign (Cornhill) and was able to look it up to learn that this is Bank Junction.  Therefore, it is safe to assume that most of these buildings are banks.  One of them might have even been the bank in the movie Mary Poppins.  (That puts me in mind of another very good song from that movie, but I digress.)

As you can see, London is a very busy metropolis that even Clark Kent could get lost in.  (The bank--I'm assuming here--on the right has a row of gold letters at the top that my personal enlargement reveals to be Anno Elizabethae R XIII Condu . .something or other.  I am fairly certain it refers to Elizabeth the I but how her year is 8, I couldn't guess.) 

The above spire is another Christopher Wren creation.  I am confident in saying that he is my favorite architect of all time.  Not just for his talent but for his vision, his cheek, his guts, his nerve, his audacity (more on that later).  He rebuilt 52 churches (he had lots of help) after the Great Fire of London in 1666.  His style is not Georgian (an architectural era that I love) or Victorian (hard to decide which I love better) but English Baroque--a style I absolutely adore without having known it.  (In my mind it was always just "fancy".)

This was my first glimpse of St. Paul's (other than the few I had had earlier that morning) as we drove by on the coach.  I didn't know what it was until I compared photos.  Either way, the above is one of my favorite photos of all time.  Just put a pink rosebush in there and I would have it made into wallpaper for my living room.  (Ha!  Have you seen my living room?  No, of course you have not.  Take my word for it, there is no place to put this where it would be visible and enjoyable.)

This is what I *thought* was my first glimpse of St. Paul's (other than those earlier that morning).  This is also a great shot of my beautiful daughter (I realize that everyones' back is turned but she's easy to spot--she's the beautiful one) taking a great shot of St. Paul's.  Notice how close together everything is.  The Victorians were prolific builders and they just built all around it.  However, St. Paul's is still the highest building in the London skyline--365 feet.  Well--it used to be until recently.  (That darn Shard . . .)

Getting closer to the lovely blue dome. 

Heading under the gate . . .Not sure who these statues depict.  Probably someones intelligent and Greek.

So much to look at  .  . no wonder it took 38-45 years to build (depending on whom you ask). 

Under the gate . .

Oh.  I just remembered about explaining about the audacity of the man--Christopher Wren.  His first plans of the rebuilt church (which was a rebuilt church of a rebuilt church--there has been a church on this spot since the Dawn of Time) (which is just me being too lazy to look up the actual year-ish) were deemed "too Catholic".  England had been a Protestant nation for about 100 years at this point and, by golly, the English liked it.  Anything too "Popish" would not do.  (BTW, I am not Popish, nor am I Protestant.)  (I am, however, religious, pretty picky about my own, but very liberal in my love of churches of all kinds.) So, the architect drafted a new building, the design of which was approved.  And then he went on his merry way and built the first one.  (Did I mention that I love Christopher Wren?)  He's pretty much a rock star.  Truthfully, he was about as close to one as they had back then.

This must have been taken when I was looking back out of the gate.  The woman in white with the gold scepter is Queen Anne, the one who built (she had lots of help) the Orangery that I blogged about HERE.

This is the other side/the inside of the gate.  Below is a detail shot of the statues at the top.  The man on the left is certainly Charles the I.

In my mind he was a sweet and gentle man.  He was also crazy about art and was the monarch responsible for bringing the Baroque style to England.  They say that he was beheaded for being a Catholic but it was as much for his uncontrollable spending on ART.  He LOVED it.  (No idea who the other guy--gal?-- is.  Maybe his son Charles II.) (Since Charles the II was the King when this version of St. Paul's was built-ish, it's a pretty good guess.)

All the delectable details. . . they just go on and on and on like my penchant for ellipses. 

The gold statue is known as St. Paul's Cross at the churchyard there at St. Paul's.  It has only been there for about 100 years.  (The statue, that is.)

I am trying to figure out a way to 1) get a column capital like the one above out of its natural environment and into mine and 2) how to use it in my d├ęcor.  If someone were to gift me with one, I guarantee you, I would make good use of it.  (That's not a hint.) (Because, duh!)

Our time inside the cathedral was undocumentable (and lamentable) (which is a word whilst undocumentable is not) due to no photos allowed.  However, I encourage you to seek out photos online or programs on the telly.  It is simply stupendous.  (It's making my heart hurt just thinking about it.) However pictures, as with everything else, just don't do it justice.  Just the sheer size and volume is such that there are no words (except ones that give dimensions but that involves numbers and they are fairly meaningless to us artistic types).  (No?  Just me?)  (I can live with that.)  The above photo depicts some buildings I loved on the way back to the coach, including the wonderful brick ruin. 

Here's a detail shot of the French Chateau-style building on the right of the old ruin.

People think that I blow up my photos so that I (and you, too, of course!) can see the detail work on the buildings.  The truth is that I have an absolute fascination for the notion of how the building you live in changes your life and I just really want to get a photo of the kind of person who lives in a place like this.  (Though I suspect whomever it is looks pretty normal, huh?)

This old ruin has not been removed but has, instead, been made into a lovely garden that people can sit in and enjoy when it is not raining, which means, Not Often but Sometimes, If You Are Lucky.

A pair of nice gents carved over the doorway here.  It always begs the question: Why?  There must be a reason.

Capitals, columns and corbels, the 3 Big C's of elegant architecture.  I want it all.

There's that lovely blue dome of St. Paul's again.  (Blue is the color of London.  If you need to give something a color and you live in London, blue it is.  Except for the phone kiosks.  Obviously.) It is a building that peeks out at you from many angles throughout the center of London.  Love it.

Here we are going by the chapel.  Not sure which one.  Not sure if you can only get in from the outside or if you can get in through the cathedral.  Just. Not. Sure.  (Sorry!)  Aren't the rose bushes lovely?

Who knew that carved stone could be so warm and alive?

I swear that these people are all perfectly healthy and still of this world.  It's just a nice place to nap.  Or, alternatively, take a photo of people lolling about on the lawn from behind a wrought iron fence. (I know which one I would choose.)

On the way back to the coach, we spotted this icon of British culture.  Some people call it a phone booth or even a phone box but it is a KIOSK (or maybe even Phone Kiosk but don't quote me).  My daughter, pictured happily emerging from said kiosk is NOT smiling b/c she just called her boyfriend.  1) She doesn't have one (hard to believe, I know) and 2) She couldn't even tell you if the phone inside works.  She remembers that there was one.  That is all.  However, as a travel buddy of mine says, it's a nice, quiet place to chat on your cell phone.  Indeed.

Goodbye St. Paul's.  Your Baroque Splendor, your tender American Chapel in honor of the WWII Veterans, your soaring domes, your millions upon millions of chisel marks, in wood and stone that labor to shape men's hearts (and women's too--I'm an equal opportunity wannabe sculptor) will never be forgot.  At least not until I get super forgetful.  (It's only a matter of time.)

I am fairly certain this is the back of St. Paul's.  Or the front.  I just don't know.  It's not where we went in, that I know.  (It's good to be so smart and well informed.) (Tell me about it sometime, will you?)

And there is St. Paul's, or a portion thereof, off to the right and another one of those spire thingies one sees around town on the left.  One day I need to research those.  For those who are still wondering what the heck the Horse Guards Hotel is and why I call it one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, I am as surprised as you that I haven't gotten there yet.  I took so many photos on this very same day, it is mind boggling.  Personally, I can't wait to get to them.  Next week--or the one after.  Maybe.

The Famous, Infamous, Wicked, White, Bloody Tower of London  

Posted by Heidi

 The Tower of London:  a misnomer since there are a number of towers on this site.  The above photo was a bit of a surprise; I doubt I was even aware of the little boy on the left when I took this photo.   But, first, a few more of my favorite photos taken of the coach ride from Westminster Abbey to the Tower of London. 

These were, once again, taken through the coach window and I have no idea what they are of.  I surely wish I knew who this statue depicts.  He looks so grand against that white (whatever it is) building.

One can never take enough photos of gothic arches.  I am pretty sure that is written somewhere (other than here).  (But don't quote me.)

I have a vague recollection of being told by our tour guide, Ann, a wonderful, lovely, witty and knowledgeable woman, that the statue of Queen Elizabeth is one of the few (if not the only) that exists in the city.  If you can only have one, this is a good un.

I adore the above photo.  That is all.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to know what this is?  It might (might Might MIGHT) be one of the Charing Cross stages, a corruption of Cher Amie, so called by the King because they were the places where the Queen's funeral procession rested on the way to the actual funeral and interment.  (I think the king was one of the Edwards--perhaps even the First.)  (At any rate, it was a long time ago.) (Seriously long.)

LOvE the way the sun is shining on the flower in Mary's hand.  (I am fairly certain the middle statue is meant to depict Mary, in light of the babe and all.)

Our first opportunity to take photos of Tower Bridge.  This was built during the reign of Queen Victoria, who instructed that it should have a similar appearance to the Tower of London.  As a result, many people think that it is much older than it is.  I, for one, am grateful that it is not, as it enjoys much more modern (and safe) technology than it would if it had been built in 1066 (like the tower).

When looking at this I had to ask myself how they arrived at the shade of blue that is used on the trim.  I like it a lot.  (Good choice, whomsoever chose it, you!)

This one makes me chuckle.  I was actually on the grounds of the tower when I took this of the bridge in the distance. 

Victoria was a woman of good taste.  The tower is a beautiful edifice from every angle.

Finally it was time to head up the walkway into the Tower of London.  This tower with the crest is NOT the White Tower, which is the main royal residence/palace, ancient building in the complex and where the little princes were held (and murdered and buried). 

This is the Traitor's Gate where so many, including Princess Elizabeth before she was made queen, and Anne Boleyn, entered the tower.  The sign higher up on the wall, though, reads:  St. Thomas' Tower which is what it was known as at the time the two ladies floated beneath the gate.

As we approached, two of the towers of the White Tower rose into the sky.  The blue cupolas with the weather vanes were added at King Henry the Eighth's orders for Anne Boleyn's coronation.  The Tower is a place of highs and lows for many of the nobility and even royalty.  Only the most high born prisoners were incarcerated in the Tower.  (In other words, should you be arrested and tried for treason, it was a super big honor to be kept here.)

Entering the complex.  It was much less crowded when we got there then it was later in the afternoon.

Yet another view of the White Tower.

The White Tower is to the left and straight ahead is the Waterloo Barracks which is the building in which the Crown jewels are displayed.  We did wait in line for that and it was certainly worth it.  They were, quite naturally, absolutely stunning.  However, we were not allowed to take photos.  (Therefore, I have none to share.)  (Though, a man in our tour group did take a few pics.  I had to cover my daughter's eyes to spare her witnessing such depravity.) 

Not sure what this tower is--I think it is pretty cool looking, though.

There are many different architectural styles to enjoy at the Tower which is what we chose to do.  This (probably) explains why we did not wait in line to enter the White Tower.  (Big mistake--I want to weep when I think of it.)

The Tower was once home to the Royal Menagerie.  Many fans of regency romance novels can read about people going to the Tower to visit the animals.  All around the Tower today you can see different animals depicted in wire (they are truly amazing works of art) hanging out pretty much where they were kept for hundreds of years.  (Not the same animals, specifically, just the same type.) 

This fine fellow is guarding the Waterloo Barracks where the crown jewels are stored.  These guys are called "bear skins" because that is what their hats are made of, and have been for centuries.

This fellow is called a Yeoman Warder or Beefeater.  No one is sure why they are called beefeaters, however, it is rumored that there was a king long ago (sorry--it's past my bedtime and I can't remember which king--but I would bet money that it was a king of England) who allowed his yeoman to eat as much beef as they liked.  So.  There are 37 of these gentlemen who act as guards, tour guides, children minders (British for babysitters) (not really) (yes, that is what British babysitters are called but the yeoman don't really mind the children) (except when they do as documented by this photo) and general do-gooders.  They also all have quarters on the Tower grounds so they live and work there, as well as go pubbing (they have their own private pub on the grounds) and do most of their living and breathing there.  That is dedication. 

There is so much history at the Tower.  This (I'm not sure what it is but my guess is that it is a tomb of some kind) is just one of many ancient things that is just lying around as it has been for centuries.  (What do you think?  A man waving a lot of flags or the symbol for a group of vampire bat worshippers?)

Lovely lovely lovely. 

This brown house section is where Anne Boleyn and the high born prisoners were kept.  This is now where the yeomen live.  In the old days, the more special you were, the higher up you were kept.  Nowadays, the ones who live at the top are the most fit.  They have to climb 50 steps just to get to their apartments.

This is a beautiful and sobering monument to the people who lost their heads at the Tower.  Most of the people executed here lost their heads on Tower Hill which is a ways away.  Prior to the world wars, only a few were beheaded on this particular spot:  Anne Bolyen and Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex were two of them.  I love the way the black names on the blue glass are reflected onto the ground beneath.  This "glass pillow" monument was installed only about ten years ago.  Around it, on the ground, is imprinted this poem:  Gentle visitor pause awhile, where you stand death cut away the light of many days. Here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life, may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage under these restless skies.

Not sure why this guard is here.  If I had to guess, I would say that was the door to the secret "yeoman only" pub.

The ancient guard ceremony coupled with the new ceremony of documenting everything on one's camera, as evidenced by my documentation of others documenting the ancient ceremony.  (You're welcome.)

Once I had my fill of what was on the grounds (minus the interior of the White Tower--though, honestly, I think it might have just been too sad and morbid for me to even contemplate) I took a look around.  The cigar shaped building on the left is called "the gherkin" which is a kind of pickled fruit.  The white building is the Neptune Wharf, complete with Neptune, the Roman god of the ocean, counterpart to the Greek Poseidon.

They just don't build them like they used to.  Why ever not? 

The building on the far right that is narrower at the top than the bottom is affectionately known as "the cheese grater" for obvious reasons.

These beflowered buildings were once the "mews" or the stables for the Tower, which was originally a royal palace/residence.  These homes are expensive and hard to acquire.  I would give my eye teeth (almost) (as in, very nearly) to go inside one of these.  sigh . .

Other interesting dwelling places around the tower grounds.

And then I looked up.  I am ashamed to admit (because I knew better) (I KNEW better) that I first thought that the top of this building was lost in the clouds.  It is called "the shard", also for obvious reasons. 

Not sure what "the vault" is but it was interesting.


Our last view of the Tower environs as we walked away.

From the coach window I took a few more photos of the complex.  It is really a beautiful collection of structures.

Same photo with a photo shop treatment.

 A slightly different view followed by some other photo shop treatments.

I hope that you feel a bit as if you have visited the Tower and have a sense of what it is like.  I can't believe that the last three blog posts have all been the same day.  And I still haven't gotten to the Royal Horseguards Hotel!  (Next time--or maybe the one after that.)  (Promise.)