View from a Walkie-talkie
The Sky Garden, a view of London in the round. Or: Daze out in London
If you get off the tube at Bank and exit via Lombard Street you can see the building known as the Walkie-Talkie looming, or is it leering? over the skyline a short distance away. I have to admit to disliking its external shape despite its probably well-known and understood architectural and aesthetic positives. It is purely the height and shape I dislike, sorry.
You have to zig-zag across streets and round corners to find the entrance to the building as it is not quite as close as you thought. When you arrive at its foot you can tell it is a giant footprint but the entrance for the Sky Garden is a small lobby with smiling guides (guards) to check you have tickets and direct you into the queuing chicane where your ticket is scanned and you walk along to the security check-in. Don’t be like me and have change in a pocket, a leather pouch on my belt that has a Press-stud closure and rivets on the belt hooks! If you remember to remove all these (as I did), as well as coat and phone and rucksack you may find yourself overtaken by those less encumbered as you try to collate yourself! Another option is to forget and raise the detector alarms as well as hackles of those helping you through the system. Happily, in London I have only had pleasantries on such occasions but not so at the few airport mis-haps………
I am not good at heights, I darent go on the slightest of exposed climbs or paths despite bravado or wishful enthusiasm. Luckily I am now old enough to be open about it and was promised plenty of space between me and the glass walls, even a garden area to hide in. I had no idea what to expect as I had not even thought about checking this visit out on the internet and stepped into the lift with about twelve other people. Within a few seconds we stopped, I hadn’t realised we were moving, and we all stepped out. A fascinatingly fast ride for the storeys we had risen.
Good gracious, I was promised space but had not expected football pitches almost, with a large coffee shop and many scattered tables in front of a huge glass wall and revolving doors leading out to what must be the biggest verandah (nice old-fashioned term) in width and length along the front of the building. Actually it was the size of a mall’s marble plaza or large, high auditorium. Steps on both sides led you upwards again through sub-tropical vegetation and beside the glass walls with London sitting all around. The steps led up to a fully fledged restaurant plus another viewing area behind it. With beautiful wooden seating and ledges along the back wall (of glass). This time with a view that included the Gherkin.
Yes, I did venture out on the verandah, yes I did almost approach the edge with its high wall and higher glass wall atop. And eventually I stepped to the handrail and looked out on the wonderful view whilst keeping a firm hold of the cool stainless rail. I suppose I can regret that the sun didn’t glint off St Paul’s as it sat so far below us. Nor did the Shard look quite so ethereal in the light-grey covered sky and background of London buildings. You could see St Pancras, KIngs Cross and Waterloo railway stations. The ubiquitous BT Telecom Tower was but a small matchstick. Alexandra Palace sat almost on the horizon and assorted blocks of offices or flats littered their way out to the skyline.
Those few steps outside where the breeze slipped over the glass gave you the impression of actually being outside and not on an almost enclosed balcony made the view of the river, its assorted boats and all its vagaries of buildings and streets, look untidily impressive.
The Tower of London, quite imposing from close quarters, was peered down on and its then brown shadowed walls looked compact and enclosing, but small. Such is the perspective of time and place, I suppose.
So there it is. A dramatic view enabling much of London to be seen if you know where to look and the weather works for you. Maybe they will decide on having a model or a map somehow identifying some of the landmarks that are visible. Especially for the tourists, who seemed in the majority. No doubt it would have to be a touch-screen virtual map with the views overlaid with tags of information. Problem might be if it became more popular than actually looking at the scenes and guessing! As the tickets are few and far between, snapped up quickly when released for Londoners, it is not an easy place to visit. Well worth it though, even the coffee.
Another few seconds in the lift and we were out as if from another world and having a walk along the Thames before shrugging off the now dampening weather and ducking into the side streets again to find a coffee-cafe in one of the many railway arches. Here the coffee was delicious and their home-made cakes and open sandwiches were all a ‘must go back for’.
Question: Where was it? Looks like another day trying to track it down!