Cathedrals, Crypts, and Cakes

Actual Date: March 12th, 2012

We took the metro again today to visit war correspondent Martin Bell at St. Bride’s cathedral. On the way there, we passed by Fleet Street, which was once the center of the biggest newspaper companies and where journalism thrived. Due to change in laws, the street no longer holds the same reputation, but a lot of remains of that period still persists. Plaques can be seen on some walls that address that part of history. It was interesting to walk down the street where a major part of journalism developed to what it is today and earned its importance in history.

We arrived at St. Brides, another building of indescribable beauty and magnificence. Even though there seemed to be an impressive building at the end of every road in London, they still never cease to intrigue me. This church is said to have been the inspiration for the creation of tiered wedding cakes. As a wedding caterer who has personally cut and served dozens of tiered wedding cakes, I was very amused and impressed. Only in a place like England can you find the origin of things as simple but culturally impactful as a tiered cakes.

The inside was even more beautiful. Compared to Westminster Abbey, the church was much more modern in its design due to the fact that it was practically destroyed during the London Blitz and was rebuilt. We met up with Martin Bell, in his well-known white suit, and sat down in the basement of the church. He elaborated on the dangers of journalism and some cases in which he himself was under threat. I see all the war correspondents of WWII with unmeasurable admiration, as I can’t imagine sacrificing what they had in order to document one of the most chaotic and tragic periods in human history. The war journalists we’ve had throughout history do not receive the recognition they truly deserve.

After the talk, we were given a tour of the church and got to go down to the crypt where apparently more than two hundred centuries-old skeletons laid, organized into boxes by categories of bones. He even opened a door to reveal a dug room where tons of skeletons still laid, unorganized. Apparently they discovered that the church has been a place of burial for centuries when they dug underneath for the rebuilding. The guide said all these things in such a casual and jokingly matter, unbothered by the eeriness, making us feel complexed on what emotions we should be experiencing. The whole time we were listening to Martin bell talk, there were two hundred dead bodies in the next room? Just don’t think about it.

Undisturbed, we had lunch at the Old Bell, a friendly local pub by the church, then moved on to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral.

I thought I couldn’t get any more impressed after Westminster Abbey and St. Bride’s, but St. Paul’s proved that completely wrong. The size itself was overwhelming, but it was topped off with the most beautiful murals and paintings that decorated every inch of the building. I’ve never been inside a structure with a ceiling so high, and I felt like I could no longer breathe normally. The acoustics of the building echoed the church choir rehearsing in the background, making them truly sound like angels. I craved to just lay down in the center and soak it all in. I had to convince myself several times that I was conscious, and that this building was real. How is it possible that people created something this magnificent? My neck hurt from constantly staring at the incredible ceiling. I think I could’ve spent decades in there with total contentment.

During the guided tour, we were taken to a spiral staircase by the front entrance where the entire intro scene in Sherlock Holmes and a scene in Harry Potter was filmed. All of our jaws dropped in awe and disbelief. Our guide was very nice and he even let us take photos of it despite strict rules against it.

We all left the Cathedral with overwhelming satisfaction and amazement. I still feel emotional every time I even think about that structure and the angelic music that echoed within. It was so surreal.

After we were released, I met up with an old friend I met in Taiwan while being volunteer English teachers who was attending school in London for the semester. She introduced us to a restaurant and I had the best Indian food I’ve ever had. We visited her dormitory that was only a five-minute walk from the Warren Street tube stop. Her dorm room was incredibly small with blindingly bright turquoise walls and she shared a kitchen with five other American students. She said she hasn’t been able to make a lot of local friends because most British students think that these International students just come and go anyway, and that there’s no point to befriending them. I guess even studying and staying here for a semester cannot earn you the life as a local here.

We departed around nine o’clock since she still had exams to study for. We got some snacks and wine from a local Tesco-like shop on the way home and called it a night.

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