14/52 – Westminster Abbey

Ooh, look at all the lush London landmarks I’ve been visiting.

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Like Westminster Abbey. A massive beautiful building that people made with their hands. Their hands! 

It’s seriously so, so cool, absolutely gorgeous from the outside and the inside, and a pretty neat piece of history too.

Now this may sound a bit silly, but I stepped out of Westminster tube station, and I was confused. As soon as you get above ground, you come face to face with the houses of parliament, Big Ben, and a whole big mess of tourists, buses and traffic. It’s so cool to be able to see so many awesome buildings in one place, but it’s pretty overwhelming and I ended up having to look at a map to find the way to Westminster Abbey. I know, it sounds ridiculous but it really can be very confusing! Especially when the whole area is full to bursting with tourists taking selfies, and non-tourists trying desperately not to be mistaken for tourists. I was one of the latter, but my constant need to consult a map sort of ruined it a bit!

Which is why, my dear friends, I have made you guys a handy map so you don’t have to look like a tourist – who says I never do nice things for you?

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On the Westminster side of the bridge, you have the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Parliament Square, St Margaret’s Church, and Westminster Abbey. You can walk all around the Houses of Parliament and appreciate the great view of the clock, without having to go in, and Victoria Tower Gardens, which are right on the banks of the river, would make a great picnic spot surrounded by all that gorgeous architecture.

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For Westminster Abbey, head towards Parliament square (the big green square full of tourists, pictured above), and cross over the traffic islands (good spots for taking photos of Big Ben if you’re willing to be tutted at by the militant non-tourists) towards the big church-shaped building. (Okay, it is confusing but it’s not that hard to miss once you know where you’re headed) In front of the Abbey is a small square church – this is St. Margaret’s church. This is not the one you want.

Once you’ve reached Westminster Abbey, you can wander around and appreciate the gorgeous exterior, or enter through the Great West Door for worship. You can find service times on their websites, or on notice boards around the church, but I think that on most days you can enter the Abbey to worship at any time. I think it’s totally okay to spend time in contemplation, or just in awe of the amazing interior if you don’t want to worship, as long as you are respectful and don’t take any selfies. It makes them mad, and don’t ask me how I know that… To enter by the West Door you have to get past these super strict guards in red coats who will quiz you about your intentions but it’s worth doing otherwise you have to enter through the tourist door, and that’s just embarrassing.

*Note: The tourist door is actually a really good way to see the Abbey, but you do have to pay. It’s better to spend some time enjoying the abbey in private, if you want to see the inside for free, but it’s not okay to exploit this, or, I will reiterate, to take selfies, even if you are planning to write a super cool blog about it. Just sayin’*

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I chose to attend a service – it really is absolutely gorgeous, and I was surprised by how breathtaking I found it. The service I visited was the Good Friday service, so it was a rather serious affair, and we were ushered in by wardens, before the choir processed in, and the service began.

After some introductions, the choir began singing. It’s incredible to listen to, and imagine my delight when I realised that they were actually reciting, in the form of a choral song, the entire section of Luke which describes Christ’s crucifixion. and they were doing the voices! They had a narrator, a ‘Jesus’, a ‘Pontius Pilate’, and even a troupe of adorable choir boys playing the murderous crowd and chiming in with ‘crucify!’ at opportune moments.

It was awesome.

I actually had to leave half way through the service to go to work, but I had checked before I walked in that it was a kinda ‘drop in drop out’ situation. I realised, as soon as I actually walked in, that it was definitely not a drop-in-drop-out-kinda situation. Further evidence of this, beyond the fact that the lady who ushered me to my seat literally tried to kill me with her eyes when my shoes squeaked, is the fact that she also tried to kill me with her eyes when I tried to leave. (and also the fact that I literally had to beg her to unlock the gate which separates the Transept from the Nave so that I could get out).

Despite this lady, who I’m sure was truly lovely, but had some kind of childhood trauma involving people with squeaky shoes leaving early, I would definitely recommend one of the services as a way to see and experience the Abbey. For little kids, or adults with short attention spans, the shorter services are the ones to head for!

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The whole area is a must-see, and on sunny days a picnic in Parliament square allows you to enjoy three or four of Britain’s most incredible landmarks while scarfing down some good old traditional tea and cake.

Big Love, PV x

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(above: the views of the County Hall and the Houses of Parliament from the bridge)

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