Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Domes, Scones & Songs: An Afternoon at St. Paul's Cathedral


St. Paul's is one of those London landmarks that still makes my head turn every time I see it - from any angle or vantage point. It looks particularly wonderful set against the backdrop of a blue, summer sky. When I was invited to take a private tour of the cathedral and dome with a handful of other bloggers and have afternoon tea in the restaurant and attend Evensong, well ... I tried to play it cool, but I'm pretty sure I failed spectacularly.

I can't remember the last time I was inside the actual church (admission fees are pricey!) and certainly not on an after-hours basis, so it was a privilege to experience the quiet peace that fell over the entire building when it emptied. And though you're not really allowed to take photographs inside the cathedral (I desperately wanted to snap some during Evensong!), we took some "subtle" shots here and there.



But before we climbed up the steps to the Whispering Gallery (where your whisper at one end of the dome can be heard on the other - really, we tried it!) and ascended to the Stone, then Golden Gallery, we were treated to afternoon tea at The Restaurant at St. Paul's, where we met Head Chef Chris Terry and sampled his delicious menu of cakes, scones, and sandwiches served on some of the prettiest china I've ever seen, before washing it all down with a glass of English sparkling wine with a touch of russet apple juice.




(Btw, this is what bloggers looks like at every food-related event.)


After consuming our weight in sweet treats, our earlier activities caught up with us and we sat back in a dazed, doze-y silence, before our wonderful guide Ed sat upright and said, "Right! Who's ready for Evensong?"

If you've never been to Evensong at St. Paul's before, I'd highly, highly recommend it. We were super spoiled and had seats reserved in the choir itself, but if you get there early and are prepared to wait in line, that's the best way to experience it. There's something about sung liturgy (even for someone who isn't religious) that's incredibly moving and uplifting. As the harmonies filled every corner of the church, it gave us all the perfect opportunity to contemplate the beauty and the history of the building; it's awesome - in every sense of the word.

With the booming pipes of the organ still ringing in our ears (literally - the organists continued to practice after everyone had left the building!), we headed over to St. Paul's most famous staircase, and continued our tour of the dome.

Fun fact: that staircase at Hogwarts in Harry Potter? Yep, this is it:



Not gonna lie: it was a little hard work getting to the top and it's not for the particularly claustrophobic, but the views once we got there were so very worth it.



I've stood on that roof terrace at One New Change so many times - admiring the view of St. Paul's across the way. Not too many people/tourists know about that particular vantage point, so it remains one of my favorite spots to visit. This time, however, it was difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that I was actually standing on the dome, looking at One New Change!


I've said it once, but I'll say it again: London looks so beautiful from above, doesn't it? All the different shapes and contrast between the old and new make for such an interesting skyline. Your eye never settles; rather, it's encouraged to wander, continually taking in an arch here or an unexpectedly sharp corner there.

Our visit to St. Paul's on Saturday was such a privilege - a truly a memorable afternoon, and one I won't be forgetting anytime soon.

Huge thanks to Ed Holmes of the Press & Communications Department at St. Paul's Cathedral for organizing this amazing afternoon at St. Paul's, and for being an excellent tour guide! Traditional Afternoon Tea at St. Paul's is currently priced at (a very affordable!) £15.95 per person (£21.25 with the English sparkling wine), which you can book here. Evensong begins at 5:00 p.m. and you can find more information about attending here.

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39 comments

  1. It's such a beautiful building, I've never actually visited but I'll have to rectify that one say :)
    Lots of love,
    Angie

    SilverSpoon London

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    1. What, what, what, Angie?!? You have to go!!! xx

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  2. Wow! Gorgeous photos and what a lovely time to visit !

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    1. Thank you, Hannah! It was a magical hour - we were so lucky to experience the cathedral after everyone had left!

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  3. So jealous you got a private guided tour! It's always so busy inside so it must have been wonderful to have the place to yourselves. The afternoon tea looks pretty good, too.

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    1. It was definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, Stacey! The afternoon tea was really lovely - I'd definitely go back just for that ... and Evensong!

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  4. What an incredible experience! I, too, haven't actually been to St Paul's Cathedral but you've given me the itch to go!

    Lauren xx | The Lifestyle Diaries

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    1. You've got to, Lauren - it's truly spectacular. Go for Evensong if you can! xx

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  5. Sounds like a fun day! I can't remember the last time I visited St Paul's so I may have to take a trip back. Love the typical blogger snap haha!!

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    1. Haha, that blogger snap is SO REAL! Every single time. We're bad!

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  6. Your shots from inside St. Paul's are gorgeous! I visited last year with my dad and my favorite part was definitely the view of London from the top of the cathedral!

    http://thecourtneydiaries.com

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    1. Thank you so much, Courtney! I agree - that view of London is really spectacular. And it's not *too* high up like, say, the Shard, or something so you get a totally different perspective.

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  7. I am so incredibly jealous, this looks absolutely amazing. I know a couple of the other girls that went along and everyone's pics on Instagram made me so green!
    Cx
    charliedistracted.com

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    1. Haha, yes, it was a fun group of bloggers - a lot of us knew each other already and/or had been chatting away on Twitter! I'm still looking forward to when I get to meet you ...! x

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  8. Yay I'm so glad that you enjoyed your trip! I can't believe I've lived here all my life and (despite visiting many cathedrals abroad, Notre-Dame, Sagrada Familia etc) I've never even though to venture to St Pauls - what a dummy! The fact that that staircase is in the HP films makes me want to go soooo much more too, as if the cakes hadn't done it already. I'm definitely sold! I think I'm going to plan a touristy day this summer and plan re-discover London. Thanks for sharing doll! Jade x

    http://www.jadewithenvy.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Haha, not a dummy at all, Jade - I think the thing that puts me off sometimes are the crowds. I really felt the magic of it when everyone had left, and when we were sitting in silence at Evensong, so I think visiting during non-peak hours would be best! x

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  9. Thanks for the lovely words.

    Just a note on the Cathedral entry price - everyone can turn their single day ticket into an annual pass at absolutely no extra cost - so a whole year's adult entry for just £18 (or £15.50 if you buy online).

    Hope we see you again soon.

    Ed :)

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    1. That's incredible, Ed! Will be sure to mention that. Thanks again for an awesome tour!

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  10. I never knew that was the Hogwart's staircase! Though we live in St Paul's, I haven't visited the Whispering Gallery yet but love the Cathedral

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

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    1. Me neither, Suze! Oh, you have to go! You'd love it.

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  11. Oh man, what a great place for scones! You've made me seriously jealous!

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    1. I had no idea there was a restaurant! Now that I do, I'll definitely be going back for scones - ha!

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  12. Lovely photos Jaime! I've got a very old blog post to write up including photos of St Pauls, we decided to go to the top, only to get there and find out it was closed that day! ARRGH! At least I know what it looks like from up there now! ;o)

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    1. Thanks, Annmaree! Oh no, what a bummer! WOuld love to see your post though!

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  13. I've never been in the cathedral - how awful is that, but blimey it is STUNNING! And the views from the top are sensational! Completely agree re hymns being sung in a church, it is beautiful even though I'm not religious either. Lots of love, Andrea xxx

    Andrea's Passions

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    1. Haha, not awful at all, Andrea - I don't think it's one of those landmarks you'd instantly think of going into, but that you spend plenty of time admiring from afar! Love hearing music in churches, as you say xxx

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  14. Wow, I can't believe I've never been in St Paul's. Like I said on twitter, it looks so pretty :) That tea sounds great value as well - did you feel the quality was good and taste were great too? I've had a couple of great value delicious afternoon teas but also a few bad ones so was curious about this one!

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    1. I have to say that this was the best good-value tea I've ever had, Shikha! I was really surprised when I saw the price ... I thought it'd be around £25-30. Thanks so much for stopping by to read, and for sharing this on Twitter ! x

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  15. What a gorgeous building! I can't believe I've never been inside. Definitely something to do next time I'm in London. Beautiful photos, Jaime!

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    1. Thank you, Charlotte! Yes, definitely drop in for a visit (especially for the views!) next time you're in London. You'd love it!

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  16. Sounds like a fun day! It looks gorgeous! Would definitely try to visit it next time I am in London.

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    1. It was such a lovely day, Charlotte! Thanks for stopping by to have a read. You'll have to visit the cathedral next time you're in London.

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  17. It was such a lovely day! Your photos are awesome. I've forgotten about all that hard climbing to get to the top of the dome now, all I remember is the wonderful view!

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    1. Haha, I remember those narrow stairs ... eeks!

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  18. Only my favourite building in London! I love love those views from the top - and the inside - and the exterior... it's all just so beautiful :D

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    1. It's so lovely, isn't it, Jessi? thanks so much for dropping by to read!

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  19. It looks amazing!! I've never been in St Pauls, is definitely on my list though now. Glad you had an awesome time! x

    Jasmin Charlotte

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    1. Definitely "do the dome", Jasmin Charlotte! It's totally worth it. Or ... just stay on the ground with afternoon tea. Also a delight :) x

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  20. What a lovely thing to do! I had plans to attend mass at St. Paul's but maybe i'll do the Evensong instead. Can anyone access the roof terrace at One New Change?

    www.inloveinlondon.com

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