Last weekend we had champagne cocktails on the 52nd floor of The Shard. Rather than pay to go to the viewing platforms on the levels 68 to 72, we paid to have delicious drinks a few levels down.
The views were spectacular with the River Thames snaking below us, ribbons of roads and railway tracks, London landmarks seen from a new angle and perspective. A relatively grey, stone coloured urban landscape coloured with patches of green, and a stunning splash of red (more below). Well worth the visit.
From The Shard, we walked along the South Bank, past HMS Belfast, Hayes Galleria, City Hall, each with its own history and story.
We walked over Tower Bridge, the iconic Victorian bridge that spans the Thames with its two towers, high level walkway and bascule or draw bridge which opens occasionally to let tall ships upstream.
On the north side of the river we walked around the outskirts of The Tower of London, a World Heritage Site.
“In 1066 William the Conqueror established a tower here to keep the hostile Londoners at bay.” The tower was extended over the centuries as royal connections grew. Significant names throughout English history have links with the Tower – Thomas Becket, Geoffrey Chaucer, The Princes in the Tower, Guy Fawkes, The Kray twins.
Our Tudor Kings and Queens walked the corridors and pathways. Anne Boleyn was beheaded here, Lady Jane Grey was executed, Elizabeth I was imprisoned. A vivid chapter of history back in the fourteen and fifteen hundreds.
The Tower has such character with the Yeoman Warders or “Beefeaters’, the ravens, traitor’s gate, the crown jewels and the constant line of tourists.
Now an art installation is transforming the Tower and it’s moat for a few months this year. To mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, 888,264 ceramic poppies are being placed to fill the moat by Remembrance Day. The poppies have been created by Paul Cummins and the setting designed by Tom Piper.
I have visited the Tower four times now since early August and have seen the sea of poppies grow with each visit. The colours change depending on the weather, a bright stunning red on clear sunny days, a more subtle red when it is cloudy. On windy days you can see the poppies sway on their metal stems, giving the impression of a field of real flowers. You see the carpet of colour but you can also see the individual poppies, each representing a life. It is a compelling visual commemoration and I feel privileged to have seen it evolve this autumn.