Visiting The Shard in London
I’ve had a week off this week. Not only has it been much needed, it’s also been great fun. Visiting The Shard was probably the highlight.
Work has been demanding recently, and although I go back on Tuesday to a backlog of work, having some time off has certainly clarified some issues in my head, and I have a better idea of what my next step is.The week has been divided in two, with the first part spent in London with Elaine after she travelled down by train last Saturday.
We spent three nights in a Travelodge in Holborn (I know, you can’t buy class) and used our time together to do various things that we’d had planned out.
The first stop was a visit to The Shard, which Elaine had bought as a birthday present for me at the start of the year. We got to the front desk of the “View from The Shard” reception and spoke to the well-dressed guy who greeted us.
He asked for my surname and confirmation code, and when I gave him these, he asked with surprise if this was a gift. I replied that it was and that my girlfriend had bought the tickets for my birthday several months before.
He smiled and printed out the tickets. As he’d correctly identified they were a gift, I was expecting them to be labelled as such (similar to when you get gift receipts from shops that allow the gifts to be taken back without revealing the price) and was disappointed that despite this the tickets clearly showed the cost. £24.95 each.
The viewing platforms are seventy odd stories up, and though you have to get two lifts to reach the destination, they each take less than thirty seconds.
The view, as you’d imagine, is phenomenal. I’ve been in love with London since I was a kid, and to have the city laid out in from of me, with a reputed forty miles visible in every direction, was an amazing sight.
The first viewing platform has telescopes all the way around, and though they aren’t fantastic (I assume because of privacy issues they only magnify a little) they allow you to see things in a little more detail.
Each side of the Shard is labelled showing you what features you should be able to see from each window though you need to buy a £3 map to get an indication of where each landmark is, which is handy as things aren’t always as obvious as you’d expect them to be.
The City’s skyline is always changing, and even in the short amount of time since the Shard has been opened, buildings such as the Walkie Talkie have shot up, and these aren’t referenced at all in the guides.
Ambient music is piped softly into this level, and it certainly adds to the charm. The majestic and euphoric melody reminding you just what a feat you’re experiencing.
Moving up, there is an additional viewing level, which is slightly more open to the elements.
As you’re closer to the top, the upper parts of the windows and walls are built in such a way that you can feel the breeze flowing through, and small metal barriers at the top of the windows are the only preventative measure to stop anyone mad enough to climb up and over from doing so.
There are no labels on the upper floor, and though the sights are the same, it’s more pleasant given the breeze that blows through.
I think we spent as much time up here as we did on the previous level, gazing out across the city and home counties. Elaine later described my reaction as being “the closest I’ve ever seen you to being excited”, which for an emotionally-barren guy like me is quite something.
It took a little time to get used to being so high, and it was revealed later that the building is built so that The Shard sways in the wind, because “it’s better than it snapping in half” which seems an extreme example, but that also accounts for the seasick feeling you can get when you’re near the top.
Overall it’s well worth doing. I love London, so perhaps I’m biased, but to be able to be so high and see so much of this beautiful city is a steal at £25, especially when compared to the London Eye, which is time restricted, doesn’t offer as good a view and is £19 each.