Not to sound too Pollyanna-esque, but knowing I get to write about travel has made Monday something to look forward to rather than dread. Over the weekend, conversation wound its way to a recent trip to London. El Spousador, who works for a British firm, was sent to ye olde Home Office for a week last May. Naturally,
I attached myself to him like a remora to get there, then promptly ditched him for daily side trips – I mean – I Fulfilled my Wifely Duty by accompanying my Mate to offer Emotional Support and serve as his go-to Plus-One.
Duty. It’s all in the line of Duty.
Pre-riot London was two memorable things during this trip: a) one gigantic construction site, and b) unbelievably hot and sunny. As my skin fried and chaffed in the possibly-centuries-old dust kicked up by Olympian preparation, and blistering sun, I went for an epic wander along the Thames before allowing myself be drawn like a the sinner I am to the dome of St. Paul’s. There I discovered within the cool of intricate marble floors and impossibly beautiful artwork a number of extremely pleasant surprises:
1. English Baroque ain’t so bad.
2. That Christopher Wren was a pretty fabulous architect – that’s pronounced “Faaaaa-bulous!” – and kind of a gaudy, perfectionist, hardcore genius. A cone dome. Never woulda thought of that, Chris. Can I call you Chris? Love the hair. And the shoes. And the mathematics. It just works for you!
3. The scale of the place is so perfectly maintained, the optical illusions built into every angle of perspective so perfectly arranged, and the overwhelming sense of space so wide, yet so intimate, just felt so perfectly perfect (in every way) that it made me kind of embarrassingly giddy. (I may have issues with architecture, it’s true.) I walked around with a goofier expression than usual, nearly fell over a school field trip (the whole thing), and finally gave in and sat down to just be.
4. A few minutes after I sat down with my awesome little iPhone-ish tour guide system, complete with history, video, explanations of terms and mathematical quandaries, and music to just zone peacefully out to in that wonderful space under the dome, my highly unusual spiritual/educational reverie was interrupted by –
5. A woman Chaplain! Yay! And she was –
6. Explaining that, with a place this amazing, where everybody is welcome, it would be awfully nice if every hour, on the hour, everybody – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Spaghetti Monster, whathaveyou – would settle down and be silent for about 30 seconds. And that’s how I found myself sitting next to a Muslim family, each doing our respective thang, for a little impromptu prayer. In front of me, an elderly woman genuflected to the alter before sitting down (file that under: “ways to spot a Catholic 101”) and across from us, roughly 9,000 schoolgirls stilled most of their limbs for at least 15 of those 30 seconds… to pray to or about Justin Beiber? I don’t want to know.
Call me a sap, but I got chills. Luckily it was over before any of my natural reserves of Evil could bubble up to the surface. Nicely done, Chaplain Chick! I mean… Reverend Lady Sir. Don’t hex me!
It was time to head to the Dome. Clearly.
I strode confidently to the stairs. But what’s this?! One meeelion signs warning about heart trouble, breathing trouble, “not responsible”, “only if you’re healthy” and “don’t even try it, Fatty”. Okay. Listen up, St Paul’s – you are not the boss of me. And furthermore – I’m just big-boned! And also – if you are not responsible, O House o’ God, who the hell is? And in conclusion: it’s a dome. Get over yourselves. How bad could it be?
Part 2: How I Nearly Died in St. Paul’s Cathedral…
(Or… Are you afraid of heights? Are you sure? Wrong! You’re afraid of heights! Ha ha!)
Coming next week…