The London Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral and PHANTOM!

Wednesday, June 20th

Today was awesome!  We headed first thing for Leicester Square, so we could get our tickets for Phantom of the Opera (yay!).  Then we went to the Museum of London.   We really only wanted to go to the Museum of London because they have one of Kevin’s favorite pieces of clothing – a leather jerkin from the 1600’s.  But, when we got in there, it turned out to be a really cool museum.  It was arranged chronologically, so we started out with some of the very first settlers to the area  Turns out, this particular bend in the river has been popular a long time, and they have found everything from hand axes through Bronze Age swords and Iron Age offerings.  Incidentally, Bronze Age stuff is a lot better made than I though it would be.  Partly, I think, because it holds up better over time, so it still looks all shiny and new and sharp, but their work was pretty impressive.  They’ve also found evidence of what would be the first ever London bridge, which was a length of pilings hammered into the riverbank, with a deck sort of lashed on.  Cool stuff.

Iron age swords and shields! The cool part is, all of this stuff is from London, so you’re really getting a window into one place, at that particular time.

From there, we went through the Roman period, where London (Londinium) got its name, and a lot of the infrastructure.  See, even though the Romans had basically gone when the medieval people got here,  a lot of their buildings and foundations and roads and so on remained, and the medieval people just went and built on top of a lot of it.  Some of the artifacts that they have found from these early time periods are really impressive, in that they have survived this long.  For example, they had this hairnet, essentially, from the medieval period, and it was almost totally intact.  Apparently, the London clay is really good for preserving things, because it doesn’t allow much oxygen in.  Anyway, we found Kevin’s favorite jerkin, which is a really well preserved article of clothing.  It’s punched all over with little tiny stars and hearts, and in general looks pretty cool.   They even had a reproduction of it out that you could put on and touch and things like that.

The leather jerkin!

And the version to try on. It fit Kevin surprisingly well

16th century eating and cooking stuff


I like this jug. That is all.

We continued through the time periods, ending up in Modern London, and then out the doors into actual modern London.  The museum is pretty close to St. Paul’s cathedral, so we headed there next.  St. Paul’s was built, or rather, rebuilt, after the great fire of 1666.  Christopher Wren was the architect in charge of its design and building, as well as that of some 50 odd other churches in the area.  Some of the things he did were pretty cool.  For example, he wanted an impressively tall dome on St. Paul’s, that could be seen from many different places, but he wanted the inside to look well balanced.  So there are actually two domes on St. Paul’s – a tall one on the outside, and a shorter one inside, and this weird cone thing in between holding them both up.  If someone didn’t tell you about it, you would never know.

In St. Paul’s, they let you go into a lot of places, if you are willing to climb stairs.  So we started out on the floor of the cathedral, wandered around there for a bit.  This audio guide was via iPod, which was cool, but it definitely wasn’t the best audio guide ever.  They seem to have gotten the idea that since they had lots of space, they should fill it!  The commentaries were a bit… long.  Anyway, we wandered around, saw where shrapnel in WWII had punched a hole in the wall, saw the truly awesome mosaics on the ceilings, and then headed up into the dome.  The first level, right inside the dome, is called the Whispering Gallery, because you can whisper and someone on the other side can hear it, because of the shape.

Then, we decided to head up one more level, to the outside of the outer dome.  This was achieved by yet more (increasingly narrow, stone spiral) stairs.  There is a balcony all around the outside, and you can get a really good view of the city.  But!  There was still one more level up.  This time, we were climbing a metal staircase, in that space between the upper and lower domes.  There were a couple places where the ceiling was so low, they had put plastic things to prevent you from braining yourself.  About halfway up, there was a tiny, foot square little window, that looked down into the cathedral.  Definitely vertigo inducing, if you didn’t have it already from all the spirals.  Finally, we were on the balcony surrounding the spire of the cathedral, on top of the dome.  The views were TOTALLY worth the climb, and it was cool to see all the different landmarks and things in all directions.  All told, I’m pretty sure it was in the neighborhood of 530 stairs.

Hello, London!

Looking down from the second level

Us on the tippy top!

The view across the Thames. That’s the Millennium Bridge, and the Globe is right across the river and to the left a bit. 

Downtown London, the Financial District

The rest of St. Paul’s itself.

So, most of the way up to the top of the dome, there was a tiny window in the floor. In the reflection of the glass you can see the spiral staircases we have yet to climb, and in the very middle – that’s the floor of St. Paul’s. Waaay down there.

Tiny stairs! Tiny!

And spirally. Was definitely getting dizzy on the downward journey

When we made it all the way back down, we decided to keep going down into the crypt.  The crypt is interesting because it is where all of the people are buried, unlike at Westminster where you can’t move for standing on someone’s memorial.  So Wren himself is down there, and Wellington, and Nelson and so one.  They are so comparatively modern to the ones in the other churches and things, it was weird.  Nevertheless, definitely a beautiful place to visit.

After St. Paul’s, we headed back to our little apartment, to have dinner and get ready to see Phantom!  The show is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre, which is old enough to have been His Majesty’s Theatre, and Phantom is currently in its 25th year playing at this theatre.  We kind of thought that on a Wednesday night it wouldn’t be too crowded, but the theatre was TOTALLY full.  The theatre is the sort of very tall, rather shallow kind, where all of the seats are in balconies of one sort or another, practically hanging over the stage.  I think we were in the third of five levels.

Her Majesty’s Theatre

Yay for Phantom!

It was a very fun show.  Kevin had never seen it before, outside of the terrible movie that came out a few years ago.  Christine and the Phantom were very good, and the staging was excellent.  Kevin tried to buy some candy at the interval, and came back with JellyBabies, which are these extremely strange candies.  They are rather waxy on the outside, and then like soft gumdrops in the middle.  When it  was over and we left, we both had songs stuck in our heads for the rest of the night.  So fun!

One Response to The London Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral and PHANTOM!

  1. Auntie fay says:

    Factoid : Christopher Wren’s mother so wanted her son to be an architect that she decorated his nursery with prints of famous buildings including, I believe cathedrals.