The View from The Shard


London is a bad habit one hates to lose.

— William Sansom


After barely three days in the Cornish countryside, we were back in London town to round out my family’s visit on a thoroughly urban note.  The city welcomed us back with open arms, determined to win us back and make us forget the fresh air and sea breeze we’d been so enjoying.

We spent the morning after our return walking through Kensington Gardens to the Albert Memorial, making a brief stop in to the Science Museum (I need to go back for a more thorough visit!), and enjoying a leisurely pub lunch.

After a few helpings of spiced cider, we bundled up against the wind and made our way to London Bridge tube station to experience London’s trump card: The View from The Shard.

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The Shard is one of London’s few true skyscrapers and was completed less than two years ago.  It’s the tallest building in the European Union at only 87 stories high – 16 fewer than the Empire State Building – giving a bit of perspective on the difference in urban architecture over here.

London isn’t built upward like New York is.  It’s built outwards – sprawling and spiraling around the city centre.  As such, an 87-story building here gives the impression of much greater height than a 103-story building in New York!

We hopped in the lift and zoomed upwards to the observation decks, which stretch between the 69th and 72nd floors.

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You have to book your arrival for a certain time, but then you’re allowed to stay as long as you like.  We timed our visit for just before sunset, so the city was fading from vibrant daylight to the gray air of dusk.

Being so high up gave us an amazing vantage point on to certain parts of the city, like this huge tube junction:

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After about half an hour, the sun had nearly fallen below the horizon.

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She’s a pretty lady, all right.

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Little by little, the buildings began to light up.  We made a game out of trying to actually focus on signs and windows as they burst into light, but it happened so gradually that you couldn’t catch it in action.

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Tower Bridge was as lovely as ever.

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Before we knew it, the entire city was lit up!

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We lingered a bit longer before zipping back down in the lift, heading back to my flat, and ordering Chosen Bun as per my brother’s request.  As he said, “I am not getting on a plane home until you get me one of those delivery burgers.”  Can do, little bro.

On my family’s final morning in London, we went to brunch at Granger & Co. in Notting Hill.  It’s a little bit posh but not overly so, and the food is unbelievable.  I thought it would be a good note to end their visit on.

I was feeling sad about bringing them straight to Heathrow after brunch, but the bad weather worked in my favour and delayed their flight by a few hours!  This meant we got the majority of the afternoon to chill out in my flat and watch the premiere of Sherlock (my dad’s officially hooked – mission accomplished) before finally heading to the airport.

They keep talking about a “once in a lifetime” trip to London, but I’m determined to get them all back here before long.  As William said at the beginning of this post, you can’t break this habit!

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