I have been to London many a time over the years, more so this year with various blogging events but I have never really played the tourist. One thing I have had on my to-do list for a long time has been to climb up Big Ben. It is always the way though isn’t it, when you live near to somewhere you never find the time to visit. Well, this week I changed that and went along to London on a day- date with Mr F!
It was such a lovely day, the sun was shining and was the perfect autumn day to stroll along the river. No need for coats, just the two of us holding hands in the sunshine. We got the tube to Waterloo and then made our way along South Bank, our destination in the distance.
First things first though, a girl’s gotta eat so we kept an eye out for a restaurant that looked full enough to have a good atmosphere but not too full that we wouldn’t get a table. We spotted a little place called Giraffe that looked perfect!
The menu looked very inviting and we decided to go all out and order a starter too! We knew what lie ahead would need a lot of energy to we had to prepare right?
I think the starter was my favourite part, it reminded me how much I love pesto- must buy some next time I get a shop! Main courses were soon upon us though and were delicious too.
Mr F had a duck noodle dish and I had barbecue quesadillas. I also ordered a side of skinny fries but honestly I didn’t need them as the portions were really good.
Feeling very full we said goodbye to the lovely staff at Giraffe and carried on down South Bank. Now, I must say that I was content with everything I had eaten but Mr F decided it would be a great idea to have an icecream. Who am I to argue?
Look how blue the sky was!
Today was not about the London Eye though, no our destination was across the river. Quick photo of me here, joining in with the hundreds of people taking selfies as they crossed.
It was time for the main event, the reason we were in London for our day date- time to climb 334 steps to the very top of Elizabeth Tower- or as everyone fondly knows it- Big Ben. To say I was excited is an understatement, it isn’t every day you get to climb one of the most important buildings in the world!
If you follow me on Facebook you will have seen that I set off the airport style security and my bag set off the x ray! Not the best start but I was of course fine and allowed through into the main waiting area. There we had to give up our posessions, including phones and cameras as no photography is allowed inside government buildings. Such a shame but totally understandable.
Once everyone in the tour group had been checked we were taken through glass doors and shown to an escalator. What happens next is so surreal, almost as though you are part of a James Bond movie! As you go down the escalator you travel under Parliament and can see the various tunnels guarded by armed police. We took a left towards Elizabeth Tower and were then allowed through the door to the base!
The first 100 or so steps were the hardest, not because of the exercise but more so for the fact the spiral staircase has a small turning circle and at times you feel as though you lose your footing. At one point I did look down, probably not wise as let me tell you- it is a long way down! Worst still is looking up, it makes your stomach turn!
We stopped a third of the way up and were taken into a room. There we were given a brief history of the tower. The guide was so lovely and actually had me entranced with the tales of old. There is something to magical about sitting inside an old building as you hear about the history and the people who made the whole thing possible.
Another third of the way took us to another room, identical to the first but close enough to the top to hear the quarter past 4 chimes. We couldn’t hear the chimes as much as we could hear the clanging of the weights that descend the centre of the tower. It is exactly like a grandfather clock!
Upwards again and as you go round and around the staircase you catch glimpses of the world below. I couldn’t stop and look as I knew I would probably feel a little queasy so I focused and made my way to the next room- the clock faces! What an absolutely fantastic space! If you were in London at 4.30pm on Wednesday 30th September and so happened to look up at Big Ben- I was there, behind the faces, close enough that I actually touched the glass. One of the most amazing places I have ever been fortunate enough to visit.
The job was not done though and next stop was the cog room! Not exactly as I pictured it, I had imagined massive cogs as ones you see inside a watch. These were more like huge barrels, each playing a part in the cog system and helping Big Ben to keep to accuracy. One thing that amazed me was the fact that it is still wound every 3 weeks- the whole system is exactly as it was when it was first built 150 years ago. Better still, the way they keep the pendulum swinging at the correct calibration is to lay pre-decimal pennies on the top! Just fascinating!
At 4.45pm we saw the cogs turn and signal the quarter to bells. It was incredibly loud!
The very final stage of course, the pinnacle of the tour was to be at the very top, beside the Big Ben bell, as the bells rang out for 5 o’clock. We were handed ear plugs and we waited. The wind was blowing but the sun was so warm and I was in complete awe of it all. A building so old and so beautiful and I was able to stand there and be a part of its history. We waited and it delivered. The bells rang out and then the grand finale- Big Ben rang out 5 tremendous bongs!
The vibrations went on for at least a minute afterwards and silence filled the air. I could have stayed up there all evening, to see the sun setting and watch the world below.
Of course we had to climb down the 334 steps, worse than climbing as you could see below and I had to stop several times to regain my centre of gravity before starting again. It took a good hour for my legs to stop quivering!
I wish I could show you photos, I wish I could look at photos myself. All I have are my memories now. It was the most amazing experience and I would recommend it to everyone. The best part was it was completely free and any British citizen can go! Well worth an email to your local MP, what are you waiting for?