The Sky’s the Limit on a trip to London

The Sky’s the Limit on a trip to London

15/03/2019 Off By Deborah Welsh

Reaching new heights on my London trip

Not being a romantic at heart, mid-February wouldn’t be my first choice of calendar date to take a city break but February 2019 for me wasn’t about strategic planning. In short, I had managed to get tickets for Hamilton and for this, one can’t be choosy. My flying visit turned into a belter of a trip and I discovered two new things to do in London while I was there.

A year or so ago, I saw the phenomenon that is Hamilton the musical for the first time. Now, I am no stranger to the theatre, and musicals in particular have been a constant source of joy in my life from a young age but nothing prepared me for the effect this show would have on me. It was just epic and I was desperate to see it again.

Having camped out on Ticketmaster for days, I finally got my wish and I checked out with my Row A Royal Circle briefs safely in the bag. Only eight months to wait and I’d be seeing Lin Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece once more.

River Thames from The Shard

River Thames from The Shard

What has this got to do with a London travel blog I hear you ask. Well, dear reader, it goes something like this…

One of the many songs that I have fallen in love with from the Hamilton soundtrack is a chirpy, cheery number called “Helpless’ and there’s a line in it “I look into your eyes and the sky’s the limit …”  Sometimes I visit places around the world and I get the feeling that if something magical is going to happen to me, it may well happen there. There’s just a vibe about certain cities or towns that gives me hope for the future, inspires me, and shows me that life is full of possibilities and opportunities. Chances taken, chances not taken…but they are there. Travel does that to me and my latest London trip was no exception. It’s funny, no matter how many times I visit a place, I see or feel something different every time. I think I could visit London every weekend for a lifetime and still not cover every nook and cranny that could show me something new or make me see things from a different perspective. I suppose that’s one of the appeals of travel and why we all take off on holiday to experience different cultures and see a little more of the world.

What to do in London if you’ve got a head for heights

Recently, I had the pleasure of taking in two London attractions that I had never been to before –  the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street (the walkie talkie building) and The Shard. I hadn’t really planned to, but flying in over London they caught my eye – you can’t miss them, and I thought I might head up for a nosey.  Yes, the main purpose for my trip was to see Hamilton again but I had just under 48 hours in one the greatest cities in the world. Did you think I was going to sit in the hotel bar all day until it was time for curtain up at the Victoria Palace Theatre? No chance…London was there in all her glory, tempting me with her wares and I was up, showered and dressed early doors to make the most of my time before my second date with Alexander Hamilton.

Sky Garden London

London Sky Garden View

London Sky Garden View

Giving breakfast in the hotel a miss, my son and I made our way across rush hour London to our first skyscraper of the day. First stop, 20 Fenchurch Street in the historic City of London’s financial district.  This quirky structure stands at an impressive 525ft.  The Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden, encased in a glass dome featuring a lush display of indoor foliage, an observation deck and an open-air terrace. This beautiful space provides visitors with an oasis of calm in a noisy city but also shows off London from a different viewpoint. As a treat, we had breakfast in the Darwin Brasserie – a delightful bar and kitchen on the 36th floor.  As we tucked into tasty pancakes and croissants washed down with freshly brewed coffee, we sat in awe of our surroundings and just how high up we were. I don’t think I’ve eaten at this height in my life except when I’ve been on a plane. It felt surreal, yet at the same time relaxing and we were happy gazing over the city on a bright, crisp February morning. Who knew winter in Britain could be so scenic.

How to get to the Sky Garden:

The nearest Tube station is Monument and you can book tickets and check opening times on the website.
Access to the Sky Garden is free but places are limited and only a restricted number of tickets are available each day and MUST be booked in advance.

View from The Shard

View from the Shard Building London

View from the Shard Building in London

Giddy with excitement at being able to experience London from such a height, I wondered if anything could top this feeling? Could we go any higher? Looking across to the other side of the River Thames, another skyscraper glistened in the early morning sun and seemed to whisper back to me in response to my question. The Shard had read my mind and beckoned us to come over and step inside.

A few years ago, on a different trip to London, I watched The Shard being built. In its infancy, it just looked like any other building under construction shrouded in scaffolding. Never could I have imagined just how awesome this building would grow up to be.

Already smitten by elevated views of London from my Sky Garden experience, I was itching to get up there and I didn’t have to wait long. The high-speed lift whisked us up to Level 68 in a flash – my souvenir book tells me there are 49 elevators that travel at 6m per second.

A short walk up the stairs brought us out onto the observation deck in Level 69. Having this new-found head for heights, we braved it to Level 72 and the only word I could utter was “wow”. It took a few minutes for the sight before me to really sink in, mentally ticking off the famous landmarks that make up London’s instantly recognisable skyline that we are all so familiar with, yet the all seemed so small. Magnificent structures like Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral reminded me of LEGO versions or small replica souvenirs for your kitchen shelf.  Let me give you a bit of perspective-  At 1016 feet, The Shard is the highest building in Western Europe. Try comparing the height of some of London’s landmarks and you’ll get my drift…

London Attractions ordered in height

London Skyscrapers Infographic

Or to put it another way, according to my handy booklet, the view from the top of The Shard stretches 40 miles – the equivalent of 5800 London buses end to end!
Mind. Blown.

That feeling I mentioned earlier swept over me once again. Love it or loathe it (and I love it), London, for me is one of those places where anything can happen and something exciting might just come your way. I looked at this view and felt like I had the world at my feet and the sky really was the limit. It ended up one of the best days out ever and I was lucky to make such amazing memories with my teenage son who soon might not want to go sight-seeing with his old Mum. We spent an hour or so in companionable silence, smiling and just gazing at the jaw-dropping views which was made all the better by the weather being kind to us. Maybe on a cloudy, drizzly day it might not be as impressive and British weather is pretty unreliable.  Don’t worry though, even if you did get unlucky with the elements, you can go back – According to the website FAQs if you cannot see at least three of the following landmarks –  The London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, 20 Fenchurch Street (The Walkie Talkie), Tower Bridge and One Canada Square – on the day of your visit, you are allowed to return within 3 months for free.

How to get to The Shard:

The nearest Tube station is London Bridge. To book tickets and check opening times check out their website. It’s best to book in advance as on the day prices will be more expensive.

We were in no rush to leave and there’s no time limit on your visit but we had more of the high life to live and needed to head back to Victoria and get changed for our evening’s entertainment. Eight months we had waited in anticipation of seeing Hamilton again and the time had flown by as quickly as this five star, beautiful day spent with my favourite guy. I did smile to myself as Angelica Schuyler and her sisters Eliza and Peggy burst onto the stage to perform ‘Helpless’.  Today I looked London right in the eye and the sky was indeed the only limit.

Monday 11 February 2019, you were perfect.

How to get tickets for Hamilton the musical in London:

Hamilton the Musical

Hamilton the Musical

Hamilton operates a paperless ticketing system (powered by Ticketmaster), the only official source. There are strict rules in place in order to keep pesky ticket touts out of the way/and or resale of tickets at exorbitant prices. This is a good thing. When your tickets are confirmed you will receive an email which you have to bring to the theatre on the night along with ID and the credit card used for the purchase. The cardholder must be present and be attending the performance. It sounds complicated but it works a treat and the venue staff have this down to a fine art. Please be sure to read the information and FAQs on the Hamilton musical website ahead of your visit.

(And please do try – it’s the best show you will see this century)

It’s now booking until July 2019, you can get tickets for Hamilton on their website.