In London, not only can you find black taxis, 500-year-old buildings, and loads of pubs- you can also find an enormous amount of stairs. It’s hard to find lifts (elevators) anywhere, and if you do find one, they have a sign that says to keep them open for the disabled. In the States, we usually see the stairs on the way to the elevator and perhaps walk faster towards the elevator in order to avoid the guilt of not using them. For Londoners, many take the stairs and escalator without question. For Americans, this is a killer on the quads.
There is one place in London that holds the record for the most stairs. I’m not exactly sure if that statement is true, but it surely puts your local gym’s stair master to shame. That first place winner is no other than St. Paul’s Cathedral. While St. Paul’s is absolutely breath taking, it is also very old (last renovation dating back to the 1660’s.) Which means there was no wiring for anything of the sort to put in an elevator, so a person could find stairs leading all the way to the top of the Cathedral dome. That’s exactly what we did! We first started by climbing up to the Whispering Gallery, 257 steps, which is roughly, 100 feet high. There we were on those steps, huffin’ and puffin’ only to be in awe of what we saw. Extremely detailed artwork and architect work, enough to make you stand still and try to focus in on every detail, and make you feel so small.
The next stop, if you had the courage, was the Stone Gallery, 376 steps up, and about 170 feet high. These stairs were a tad more intimidating. Also, just a tip, if you’re anything like me and think just because you conquered 257 steps already that you can do anything… save yourself the trouble and don’t get cocky, because within the first staircase you were put in back in your place. The employees working there warned people that the staircases were narrow, but goodness, you were in a beige concrete tunnel-like staircase that was shoulder width, and about 6 feet high!
The stairs finally opened up, and in the distance I could see a glimmering light of hope- a small bench. After I caught my breath, I finally arrived at the Stone Gallery where the city of London was handed to me on a silver platter. I could see all of London, all the skyscrapers, the London eye, Thames River, and every ancient building in-between. And, of course there was an option to go even higher. I got a little cocky, Only 152 more steps!? Watch out London, I’m coming up.
My stomach dropped immediately as I gazed upon the stairs. Climbing up made my legs and hands tremble, cold sweats blocked my vision, and I could feel my thick hair suctioned to my sweaty face. I had no control. For it was the spiral steps that were big enough to only fit my toes and the ball of my foot that set my fight or flight response in a frenzy. The see-through cast iron stairs didn’t do much for my crippling anxiety either. I look down and see my death! I look up and I see how far I have left.
I think that picture captured my pain.
So, lessons to be learned- great difficulties lead to unbelievable rewards, and also, don’t under estimate the quality of stretching.