Long day today.
I got up, had breakfast, struggled with my still wet clothes then headed to the library to read for today's class. After reading I had a snack out on the "campus" courtyard while I waited for Chao (another EPA student also in my class) to meet me so we could go down to the river together.
We met up with our class and went on our way for the day's field trip. First impression - our professor walks very fast. He is a tall man who is used to these surroundings. We are short, comparatively, kids who are new to the area and constantly taking pictures. In today's class we visited a lot of churches designed by Christopher Wren, some city buildings, the Globe and St. Paul's Cathedral (which took up the bulk of the three hours).
St. Paul's is absolutely gorgeous. It is quite a large building, but tucked quite snuggly between many other buildings, preserving the medieval street designs. The majority of the nave (the logger section of the cross, into which you enter the church) is white stone with some dark blue/black accents. Once you arrive at the center of the church, beneath the dome, you see many mosaics of gold and dark colors along with the dark wood of the choir and altar, which seems out of place with the rest of the building. This is because it is. Those elements were added after the cathedral's completion, and Wren's death, by the Victorians. The mosaics are absolutely stunning, with lots of gold making them sparkle. It reminded me a lot of the Cave Cathedral in the Valle de Los Caidos in Spain.
After walking around and seeing numerous monuments (just like the cathedral in Sevilla, Spain) we went up the dome. A key fact to know, there are actually two domes. There is the interior timber one which is painted, then a cone which does all of the structural work, then an exterior cone of wood and lead.
There are three levels for public access. The first being the Whispering Gallery. This is an interior gallery at the base of the interior dome. From here you can look down to the cathedral floor or up, at the painted dome. To get to this level we had to climb a wide, closed in, wooden spiral staircase up 257 steps, or 30 metres. This was done at a brisk speed too, following our professor. After briefly stopping in this level to talk about it (and sneak a few photographs) we continued on.
Up another 119 steps (23 metres), these ones being stone in very narrow passageways, brought us to the Stone Gallery. This is an exterior gallery at the base of the exterior dome. From here there is quite an amazing view, though we didn't stop for very long.
Up again. Another 152 steps (32 metres). This third leg was the most treacherous. These staircases were metal, small, open, rickety and of course, spiral. At this point we were in between the cone and the exterior dome. The final 15 steps or so had to be done hunched over, as the ceiling was rather low. All was worth it once we reaches the top: the Golden Gallery at a total of 528 steps, 85 metres from the cathedral floor. This gallery was an outside gallery at the top of the dome. All that remained above us was the bell and lantern (no public access). From here we had a virtually unobstructed, 360° view of the City and surrounding Burroughs. This uses to be the highest point in London, and still remains as one of the tallest buildings (apart from the new commercial buildings). It was absolutely gorgeous up there and the wind and light English rain were gladly welcomed after our hike up.
Here we stayed for quite awhile, admiring all around us. Then we started our descent which while it was easier on the cardiovascular system, seemed more treacherous with gravity helping you down.
Of all the things I've climbed up (lighthouses, Olympic buildings, towers etc.) this was by far the best, and most treacherous, experience. It did take my legs a little while to feel normal again but it was all worth it.
Once our trip was over I made my way back to the flat and relaxed with the ever delicious combination of hard cider and strawberries. Yeah right was I going to go on the run I had intended on doing after class (this was before I knew the intensity of our trip [powerwalking and dome climbing]). Then I made a nacho concoction for dinner using the fake meat I found (which passes inspection beautifully).
Then we all hung out watching a British sitcom and now it is time for me to get my still sickly self to bed.