Running through London

Taken from the courtyard of the Cathedral

The view of St. Paul’s Cathedral from the courtyard  

As soon as I stepped off the plane in London, I could feel the change in the atmosphere. Everyone was in a hurry everywhere they went. Stand on the right if you’re not one of the people running up the escalator because stairs that do all of the work for you just aren’t fast enough. It was so easy to be swept up into the Londoner mentality – to rush and rush and rush. Over the course of five days I saw Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral (Three times. By the third time I saw it, I finally had the lay of the city), the Imperial War Museum, the HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, St. James Park, the Globe Theater, Westminster Abbey, the cavalry guard, Big Ben, Parliament, the Churchill War Rooms, Bletchley Park, rode the London Eye, finally figured out the Tube, and walked (rather quickly) through miles and miles of London. I’m getting exhausted all over again just reading that list.

It was quite easy to get lost in the city – especially since the only cell service I had in the city was the occasional free wifi from Starbucks. I wanted to get lost, though. I wanted to get lost in the history of the city. Instead of rushing from tourist trap to tourist trap, I wanted to take in the city (which is hard to do while sprinting across the city). One of my favorite moments in London was laying in the grass, looking up at St. Paul’s Cathedral. This beautiful cathedral was rebuilt nearly 400 years ago and is the one that stands today, but the original cathedral was built in 7th century. I was absolutely in awe of the history at which I was looking. St. Paul’s Cathedral was untouched by the bombs that rained down on London throughout World War II. As I laid in the grass, I tried to imagine looking up at this building, still standing, as smoke billowed from the rubble of buildings throughout the city. It was difficult to imagine since now the city is filled with modern, glass skyscrapers, and there were no clouds in sight – nothing reminiscent of the smoke that would have filled the city throughout the war (except maybe the cigarette smoke from Londoners walking by).

There’s so much history throughout London, it’s easy to miss if you’re always hurrying to the next destination. After touring the Tower of London (which was PACKED with tourists and an hour long line to see the crown jewels), Taylor and I decided to look in an old, nearby church. There were only a couple other people touring the church, which was really quite surprising since we were so close to the Tower of London and since this happened to be the oldest church in London. We made our way to the basement where we saw the original tiled floor – built by the Romans in the 2nd century! A little further down the hallway, there was a memorial to William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, who had been baptized in this church. Then in a small nook, there was a memorial to the members of the congregation who had been killed during World War II. In the middle of this ancient church was a somber reminder of how much was lost during the war. Buildings could be rebuilt, redesigned, or refurbished. That’s evident by the hundreds of new buildings surrounding the ancient landmarks of the city. These men were lost forever. This was also the first time I’d seen any memorial in London that listed the actual names of British soldiers that died during the war – in the basement of an old church of all places. I’m so glad Taylor and I wandered in off the street and took a little time out of a hectic day to discover such rich history.

Found in the basement of  the oldest church in London

Found in the basement of the oldest church in London

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