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When planning my adventure in London, Westminster Cathedral hadn’t exactly been on my must-see list. It wasn’t even mentioned in most of the travel books I had. By chance, a book I bought at the last-minute had a two sentence description of the Westminster Cathedral next to the twelve sentence description of Westminster Abbey. The book also marked its location on a map alongside Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. Seeing as it was conveniently located near Buckingham Palace, I added it to my if-there-is-time list. I was glad that I did as my visit to Buckingham Palace was short-lived and it was nice to have a place to go nearby without having to change my entire route. Even if you don’t plan to go inside the Westminster Cathedral, at least take a good look at the outer neo-Byzantine architecture before hopping on the bus to Westminster Abbey. The exterior of Westminster Cathedral has a striking appearance unlike any other cathedral in London. With its orange and white stripes, it sort of reminded me of an orange tabby cat with its tower straight up like a tail.

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According to the Westminster Cathedral website, the words above the entrance DOMINE · JESU · REX · ET · REDEMPTOR PER · SANGUINEM · TUUM · SALVA · NOS means Lord Jesus, King and Redeemer, save us by your blood. There’s also a nice video tour of Westminster Cathedral on Youtube that I find to be much more interesting, humorous, and informative than the audio tour.

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That feeling of walking into the cathedral and standing under the expansive high domes is beyond expression. The peculiar thing about the domes of Westminster Cathedral is that when you look up, it’s like looking into a dark abysmal pit. I had expected a bright beautiful dome such as the one I had seen in St. Paul’s Cathedral, but instead was greeted by a blackened one. I wondered if there had been a fire, but apparently it’s just discoloration. It’s supposed to be covered in mosaic but the cathedral is not yet finished.

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The cathedral was fairly empty so I was able to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the cathedral without being pushed along in a current of other tourists.

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In accordance to the neo-Byzantine architectural style, the Westminster Cathedral is known for its marble and mosaics. It was interesting to see the collection of different colored marbles brought from around the world. The intricate detail of the pillar capitals were lovely but I wonder why they were made from a different material rather than using the marble.

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The two elements of the Westminster Cathedral that stood out to me are the mosaics and the use of patterns. The mosaics were so elaborate in detail that I wished I could go up closer to take a good look.

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I loved the interwoven pattern of the ceiling here, but found the symbolic bird figure a little simple in style compared to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus who are depicted in detail below. I also thought that Joseph’s hand looked much too large, but maybe that’s just me.

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The Lady Chapel was the highlight of my visit to Westminster Cathedral. The glittering golden mosaic utterly took my breath away. Just think about the work that must have gone into this! I don’t even think I have the patience to make a mosaic on a single sheet of paper let alone the ceiling of a chapel. I love the archways to the right and how the natural light illuminates the mosaic detail on the inner surface. I wonder how anyone can actually concentrate on praying here. I think I would be forever lost gazing up at the mosaic; mesmerized by its beauty.

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Two other elements that I found to be part of all of the cathedrals I visited this past summer were candles and choral music. I hadn’t really connected candles with prayer before, but it seems like a nice sort of ritual to do for prayer or meditation. I keep hearing good things about meditation and how it can increase your happiness. Perhaps I’ll see if I can get the Westminster Cathedral’s choir cd and spend some time in meditation and prayer. I could use a happiness boost or two!

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I woke up bright eyed and excited to see Buckingham palace and the changing of the guards. Unfortunately, the actual visit was shorter than I had planned for. I must have misread the summer opening dates, because the gates remained firmly closed. I didn’t stay and wait for the changing of the guards that would take place in two hours, but I’m beginning to regret that decision. Apparently the Queen’s guard decided to play the Game of Thrones theme song on that very day. What are the odds?!

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Still, I got to see the Queen’s guard for the first time! I felt a little sorry that they had to wear long sleeves and a furry  bear skin hat during the hot summer. Must be pretty hot wearing a bear skin hat standing directly under the sun. I wonder how they manage to see where they’re going as it appears that the hat comes down to their eyes! It was pretty impressive watching them patrol in time to one another. They swung their arms up high and stamped their feet pretty hard when they return back to their post.

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The lamp posts were embellished with this beautiful wreath with lettering inside. It looks to be a royal crest, but I’m not entirely certain of whose.

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The Victoria Memorial is directly in front of the palace. It was the first thing I saw as I was walking toward Buckingham Palace through Green Park and it was impressively big. I happened to meet two Korean girls in front of this memorial and we took turns taking photos for each other. One of the girls had a Nikon, but hesitated and handed me her phone instead. It was an awkward moment but I completely understood where it was coming from. With all the stories you hear of pickpockets in Europe, it’s hard to trust strangers with valuable possessions like a DLSR. I felt pretty safe while traveling in London and Interlaken but was always on guard while I was in Paris and particularly when I was in Rome!

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Waterloo Bridge wasn’t something I had planned for, it was something that just happened. After seeing the British museum and resting my legs while eating dinner, I walked toward the river Thames. I was planning to walk along the riverside until I reached Big Ben, but it’s hard to see a bridge with beautiful sights and not cross it! So the Waterloo bridge was the first bridge I crossed in Europe.

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There is something about water that fills your heart when you’re near it. Lakes, rivers, oceans! Perhaps it’s that undeniable healing quality that nature holds. Sometimes it makes me wonder why I’m living a life so detached from it. I feel as though I should be living closer to nature. These days I travel four hours daily, two hours on the bus and two hours in the Korean underground. Meeting deadlines and expectations, being ‘on demand’ to every phone call and text message, jostled about in a busy crowd of commuters; it’s all very draining. Our modern lives trudge on while our souls grow weak and ill.  It’s no wonder ‘healing’ is the rage now a days. Everybody is seemingly searching for a healing experience.  I stood there, leaning against the side of the bridge looking out onto the river and feeling the wind blowing in my face. I was still in a dazed state of wonder. I was actually in London, in Europe!  I had seen the river flying in on the plane and I’d seen it from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral, but it was the first time seeing it up close. I wanted to take a photo of the other side, but there was a road in the middle of the bridge so I decided to continue on to the other side.

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This building caught my eye when I reached the other side of the bridge. The nice thing about carrying around a camera is that you can snap a shot of something you want to look into later on. I thought this building had an interesting architectural look and was also interested in the history behind this hospital for children and women. Through a little Googling I found some information about the architectural style:

The current Lombardic Renaissance-style hospital dates from a rebuilding of 1903-5. It features a Doulton-ware porch from the local ceramic manufactory, and the three-tiered terracotta loggia bears characterful lettering announcing the title and purpose of the institution (english-heritage.org.uk).

Up to this point I had rather good feelings toward this interesting looking hospital I had stumbled upon. Then I found this article and was mortified by the treatment they gave to depressed women and girls. Apparently they were drugged and shut up in a dark room where they sometimes were awake in the dark, unable to move by themselves or speak out to ask for help. It must have been terrible for the victims to lose control over their minds and bodies, I can’t even begin to imagine what they must have gone through. I sincerely hope they were able to find some solace in life after having gone through such inhumane treatment.

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