I’m not very good about doing the typical touristy things. Museums are a walk-through for me. I don’t like standing in lines, waiting for admittance. I’d much rather just wander, see the sights and watch the people. Lucky for me, my husband is a wonderful vacation planner, so I’m somewhat forced to see many of the typical sites through his planning, but we also get in a fair amount of wandering. Today, we started out to do the “typical” London tourist events: the changing of The Guard at Buckingham Palace and a tour of Westminster Abbey. Even though it’s March, it’s been cold and snowy in London ever since our arrival. Today started out looking nicer, but by the time we reached Buckingham Palace, almost an hour before the changing of The Guard, the temperature had dropped, the wind had picked up and the snow had started to fall. I was ready to call it quits, but my husband and at least one of the six children convinced me to stay. Forty-five minutes later, cold and shivering, we learned that there would not be a ceremonial changing of The Guard because of the weather. Disappointed, damp and cold, we set out for Westminster Abbey only to find long lines waiting to get inside. I nixed that with the support of all six kids and we set out for the London Eye Ferris Wheel. There were no lines, it was wonderful and the mood of our day turned around. Afterward, we had a lovely time wandering the waterfront, going through an art museum and walking across the River Thames on a pedestrian bridge.
As we came across the bridge, the weather took a turn for the worse and we debated whether we should just hop in a couple of taxis and head back to the hotel or continue walking. As we discussed the options, we rounded a corner and there to our right was St. Paul’s Cathedral – what a beautiful building! The Cathedral was closed for tours for the day, but people were heading up the stairs and inside, so we followed. We found out that even though tours were no longer available, the Cathedral was open for a free public concert. The kids found seats while my husband wandered around looking at the inside of the building. I stood in the back, in awe of the beauty and energy that filled the space. The beauty, along with the music coming from the choir, overwhelmed me and I found myself standing there with tears running down my cheeks. One of my daughters saw me and was concerned that something was wrong. I had to simply walk away and compose myself; I couldn’t explain the intensity of the feelings that had overcome me.
As we mature, I think we come to a deeper understanding of the beauty of life, the appreciation of all that we see and know. Yesterday, in St. Paul’s Cathedral I had a religious experience that had nothing to do with religion. It was an experience of appreciation, wonder and joy that I never would have understood a quarter of a century ago.