I went for a long walk on this chilly Saturday, having thought to myself that London wasn't going to sightsee itself.
I've lived or spent significant time in quite a few places in my life (*deep breath* GenevaDurangoGenevaDCParisDCNewYorkCityDCLosAngelesSanFranciscoSingaporeFontainebleauGenevaSanFranciscoLondon), and inevitably whenever I've moved away from somewhere, there are always places I have failed to visit, or 'touristy' things I've wished I'd done. I have never, for example, been to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I have never visited the U.S. Capitol. Nor been inside the Conservatory of Flowers at Golden Gate Park. There just always seems to be more TIME to do these things, when you live somewhere. And so, inevitably, things get put off.
I've been especially bad about this since moving to London seven months ago. It's LONDON, for Heaven's sake. You can't throw a rock without hitting something worth visiting. Or at least, something worth stopping to look at.
Just as I was thinking that, at around 5pm this afternoon, I found myself in the middle of the Millennium Footbridge, crossing the Thames River. I turned in a circle, noticing how much I could see, just from this one vantage point.
To the North, that's Saint Paul's Cathedral. It was designed by the architect Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th century, as part of the major rebuilding after the Great Fire of London in 1666 that destroyed the city. It was also the site of Queen Victoria's jubilee celebration, Winston Churchill's funeral, and Charles and Diana's wedding.
To the South is the Tate Modern, Britain's national gallery of modern art. It's seven stories and four wings, housed in an old power plant, which explains the 99m-tall chimney. It welcomes nearly 5 million visitors a year, and like other national museums in the UK, it is free!
To the West I could see the sun setting over Blackfriars Railway Bridge, which - as it happens - is the largest solar-powered bridge in the world. It's fitted with 4,400 photovoltaic solar panels that help power London Blackfriars railway station, which can be accessed from either side of the bridge. The columns of an earlier version of the bridge - built in 1864 - can still be seen in the water, ghosts of a past era.
Finally, to the East, the skyline was dominated by the Shard, with Tower Bridge a speck in the distance. Iconic symbols of London, both new and old. The Shard stands 95 stories tall, the tallest building in the EU, opened in 2012. In contrast, Tower Bridge was finished in 1894, a combined bascule and suspension bridge that still opens about 1,000 times per year. Somehow, I've still never seen it open. One for my bucket list.
So many things to see, all from a single spot in London. It's a big world out there.