Monday, December 31, 2012

Entry Surprise

You never know what's going to happen at the entrances in London. On one end of the spectrum, you have the Victoria & Albert, and the Museum of Natural History, and pretty much all the other fabulous art, history, and national museums. If it's the quality and grandeur of the Met, it's free. Special exhibits may cost you extra, but otherwise you just walk on in with nothing but a bag security check and a nod.


Then there are the churches: St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey, where the admission fee is approximately $45 per adult, and that's not an exaggeration.

But what bugs me most about the admission fee is that once you're inside the churches, they tell you not to take any photos out of respect for the fact that it's a "working church." When all 100 of the people I can see in the churches are walking around with the audio guides (which, thank goodness, don't cost any extra) and have just paid $45 each for admission, I can't say I feel like I'm really being culturally or religiously insensitive by taking surreptitious photos. I don't even feel guilty. Maybe I'll go to hell.

But if I do, I will take forbidden photos of it -- shooting from the hip and not getting caught (thanks Dad for these and other important life lessons). St. Paul's, with its famous dome:


And Westminster Abbey, even older than Notre Dame. This is where William the Conquerer (as he's called on this side of the Channel, or Guillaume le Conquerant on our side) was coronated. Coronated. Is that even a word in English? I have to look it up. I have now been speaking French long enough that coronate sounds like a real word. But I think it's coronation. Crowned. Is that what I'm looking for?

Just outside this grand room with the stained glass, which was redone in the 20th century after the original was destoryed in wartime, is this simple door -- officially Britain's oldest -- built in the 1050s for St. Edward the Confessor. $90 later (because children are mercifully free), the girls have finished their kids' quiz booklet at Westminster Abbey and earned a large chocolate coin. Frankly, for the admission fee, I was rather hoping it would be real gold...

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