Just me talking about costume-y kind of stuff
St Paul's Cathedral
Rob and I loved St. Paul's the last time we were here in 2018, but we stayed firmly on the ground and only ventured down into the crypts. The students climbed all the stairs to the top, but we knew better than to even try at our age. Sylvan, however, was determined to do it as soon as he heard about it and didn't want to do it alone, so I humored him and up we went. It's 257 steps up to the first stopping point, the Whispering Gallery where, when you are done, you are at the bottom of the dome on the inside of the cathedral looking down at the floor below. It's a circular walkway around the perimeter of the dome with a lovely bench for sitting and resting and whispering. If you whisper into the walls anyone else next to the wall will be able to hear you, even if they're exactly opposite you, 33 meters away. Christopher Wren didn't intend for that to happen, it was just a happy coincidence. Unfortunately, the Whispering Gallery was closed on the day we were there, which was a huge disappointment to me because I wanted to climb the least amount of steps and figured I could talk Sylvan into stopping there. No such luck.
There are two more galleries above the Whispering Gallery so, Sylvan insisted we keep going to the next gallery, another 119 steps. The thing about the steps is that they are stone and circular, so wider at the outer edge and much narrower toward the middle. Which is fine if this cathedral had been build in the USA where we walk on the right side of anything, because that's where the handrail is to assist you when you are coming down those same steps, not going up. Going up you have to walk on the left hand side, where the steps are very narrow, WITH NO HANDRAIL. And the reason us Americans were forced to walk on the left side is that while you are still going up, everyone else in the world is already done and coming back down on your right side on the same circular staircase. So we rested on benches by the closed door to the Whispering Gallery catching our breath for the next bit of the climb. By this point the air is getting thin, and we are sweating and out of breath. It's getting hot and our legs are becoming rubbery.
Here's perhaps a better explanation from Travel with Kat.
The next gallery is the Stone Gallery. Once you climb the additional 119 steps on the inside of the dome, the actual gallery is on the outside of the dome and gives you a great view of London, plus a chance to catch your breath. The gallery goes all the way around the outside and has benches and a defibrillator and employees who know how to use it. We stopped and took photos, rested, drank water, enjoyed a very nice breeze and by that point I was really hurting. Sylvan still insisted that he'd come that far, he wasn't leaving until we'd gone all the way to the top, another 152 steps to the Golden Gallery.
This is where the climb gets scary. No more stone steps with a wide end that you could cheat and hang onto its handrail. These steps were a very old looking wrought iron spiral staircase that just went straight up. At that point Sylvan made me walk in front of him in case I got dizzy and fell, he would catch me. When we finally made it up there, an employee with her defibrillator greeted us, asked us how we were, made sure we'd caught our breaths, and then let us through the tiny gate to the outside of the dome. The Golden Gallery is very small in circumference and very narrow and hard to get around with other tourists there. It's got stone pillars all around it, so you're really having to peek in between to see the view and get some photos. And at some point you've all too quickly gone all around the top of the dome, back to the entrance, and are faced with going back down the 528 steps.
At this point, Sylvan told me that he was going down first so that if I fell, he'd catch me. We were both hurting and our legs and lungs were giving out on us. I felt lucky that I'd made it back down to the ground. We were both dizzy, nauseated, and exhausted. We grabbed some lunch right outside the Cathedral and sat down on the steps to eat it. Unfortunately, it took us so long to do that, that the rest of the group had already left for the Tower of London without us, so we had to play catch up the rest of the day. By the time we got there, the Tower was closing in an hour and there was no way we could have even walked to the entrance. Luckily that wasn't the plan anyway. We were meeting my former student, James and his partner Laura at the Paul's Patisserie right outside for a visit. We hadn't seen each other since he'd left the US to do his MA in Dublin pre-pandemic.
FYI, at the end of the day my fitbit reported that I'd done 21,859 steps total that day which included 44 floors totalling 8.83 miles.
Costume Designer Catherine Zuber
Live Design Interview with Catherine Zuber on her costume designs for Moulin Rouge: The Musical.