London is not just about the past. It’s skyline is filled with ultra-modern buildings with unique architecture. Among them is Skye Garden, a thirty seven floor wonder with a three hundred sixty degree glass viewing area. This unusual structure literally appears to be falling forward onto the pavement below, but it is a sturdy structure that provides some of the best available panoramas of the city.
After a long day of taking in the sights of Buckingham Palace and the Victoria and Albert Museum we rode across town to learn what we might see. Because the number of visitors allowed into the viewing area of Skye Garden at any one time is limited, we reserved six spots for the late afternoon. The venue is free, so all we needed were the tickets that we had secured a month or so before our trip. That way we were assured a space without having to possibly wait in a long line.
The ride up to the rooftop area was smooth and we were immediately delighted when the doors opened to an airy garden like atmosphere. Because the days are long in London during the spring and summer months we were in no hurry to make the circuit on the viewing platform, so we paused at the bar ordering our individual favorites among the many wines, ciders, and beers being offered. It was pleasant just sitting and looking over the landscape as far as the eye might see as well as watching the people who were comprised mostly of young Londoners enjoying happy hour after working all day.
We spoke of the things that we had experienced on that day and celebrated our good fortune with weather, knowing that the clear sky would afford us a special look at the city. After a time we scurried out to promenade around the perimeter of the upper floor. What we saw was quite breathtaking and well worth our effort in getting there. There was the River Thames, the London Eye, and the Tower. We were able to point out the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral and some of the newer structures like the Shard which literally appears to be a pieces of broken glass belonging to some giant. Of course there was also the building formally known as 30 St. Mary’s Axe but better recognized by its nickname, the Gherkin, a silly structure that is often ridiculed with rather insulting monikers.
It was incredible fun to see the city as a whole and to realize the sheer density of the over eight million person population as evidenced in the many high rise apartments. It was also astounding to view the old historical structures seemingly side by side the more modern buildings. It seems that Londoners honor both history and progress.
There is a lovely restaurant at the top of Skye Garden but it was a bit much for us on that evening when we were growing a bit weary from our many adventures, so after taking multiple photos and marveling at the beauty both inside and outside the glass platform we decided to head back to our hotel in Bloomsbury.
By this time we had already grown fond of the pub inside the Holiday Inn which appeared to cater to more locals than tourists. We had already made friends with several of the people who came each night to visit with one another, watch some football and drink a bit of stout beer. We ordered some great pub food and set up a game of Jokers and Marbles, a strategy game that is a cross between Sorry and Parcheesi.
We played in teams of women versus men. In a three out of five tourney that lasted for more than a week the women were the victors. More importantly was the laughter and fun that we enjoyed of an evening as we gathered around a huge wooden table sipping on brews and snacking on pub food like bangers and mash, fish and chips, meat pies, onion rings, or soup with bread. It was a great way to get to know the people from the neighborhood and to sample some of the traditional food and drink. Over the course of our trip we grew to look forward to the leisurely evenings in Callahan’s Pub.
We had already experienced so much of both the old and the knew in London. We had been dazzled by the rich history of this city and delighted by the friendliness of the people that we had encountered. We felt right at home in the hotel and on the Tube. In fact, I was greatly impressed by the polite behaviors that I continually encountered. Each time I entered a tightly packed train car there was invariably some young man wanting to surrender his seat to me. It was nice to see such mannerly behavior to be called “Mum or Mother” out of respect. I was very quickly learning to love this city and its people.