After weeks of my plans being foiled by illness and chocolate deliveries I finally decided to take Friday off work and put in motion my long-term goal to visit Westminster Abbey.
I've wanted to visit the Abbey for years, but somehow never got round to it. When I was a little girl my parents used to take me to London to see the museums and places like the Tower of London, but again the Abbey never really featured. So since I've now been living in London for nearly two years I decided that this year is the year to start visiting all that the city has to offer!
The main entrance is the Great North Door, which actually looks quite small from the outside. There's a security guard doing bag checks, and while there was a bit of a queue it moved quite quickly. Once your bag has been checked you can go through one of two doors to pay for your ticket, luckily for me I was there quite early in the morning, 10:30 (it opens at 9:30), and a lot of the tourists in front of me had London Pass cards so they were through very quickly. My ticket was £18, and before I knew it I was through the main doors being greeted by a friendly gentleman who gave me a map and pointed me in the right direction.
They have free headsets so you can listen to a commentary as you go around, however I decided to not bother. On reflection I probably should have taken one, there's far more to see than I had expected and I got a little disorientated by the multiple memorials and little side rooms so that, on occasion, I had no idea what I was actually looking at. I was expecting a few more labels and things as I went around, but obviously these are limited as you don't want to attach too many things to the very old brickwork. You can't take photos inside the Abbey, so sadly my camera stayed in my bag. But if I'd had a camera I probably would have ended up even more lost as there is a LOT that you could photograph given half a chance.
After getting around the whole building, pausing regularly to stare up at the ceiling and wonder at the skill required to build something so elaborate and beautiful, I emerged in the Cloisters and went to the Abbey Museum. This is a very small area, but nice and warm after the rest of the building, which houses various effigies of some of the deceased buried in the main part of the Abbey. The effigies were carried at the funerals and then set up near the tombs of the dead, and were often dressed in specially made robes for the occasion. Again, photos aren't allowed here.
By this point I was pretty cold, the weather in England was still pretty chilly this week and I had forgotten to bring a scarf with me, so I went to the Abbey's cafe and had a seriously delicious bacon sandwich and a pot of tea. If you are ever near this cafe then you really have to go and try the bacon sandwich, it was made with fresh sourdough bread and had a decent number of bacon rashers in it!
I finished my trip by wandering all around the outside taking lots of photos, which are the ones I'm using in this post. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be carvings of saints or virtues or demons, some of which were hard to photograph properly and some which were closer to ground level and easier to snap. I also wandered up to the Houses of Parliament and got a few shots of Big Ben, but the Abbey ones have come out better.
In general I had a very nice time, but I would definitely recommend going on a weekday rather than a Saturday. There were a lot of tourists using the audio guides, which then caused bunching in various areas as they were stopping in groups to look at various monuments being discussed, and they proceeded to frown at me as I tried to edge past. I suspect it would be far busier on Saturday, especially as the opening times are limited to 1:30, and in the afternoon on a weekday as well. If you're going to go, then do it on a weekday and get there nice and early so you can avoid some of the groups. Probably the only problem I had was that it felt more like a museum than a church, especially since you have to go around in a specific, set direction. But it's nice to see it because it's amazing at how old it is, and contains the tombs of some of England's most well-known monarchs.
Have a nice day everyone!