It hasn't been long since I've thought of buildings as more than just places you 'go in'. I know, the architecture buffs among you will likely be curling your toes by now, but I was of the school that triumphed ivy-framed doorways and rickety staircases. Not glass, steel, and multiple stories! Alas, when you have a budding architect for a boyfriend it isn't long before you end up using phrases like 'cladding' and 'facade' in normal conversation...
Snug isn't a stranger to a beautiful building or two, but they usually come in the form of country estates and palaces. This trip, however, wasn't to honour me but my chap on his birthday! What was I expecting from The Sky Garden? Not a lot to be honest. The reviews and blog posts I'd read in the run up didn't fill me with confidence in my choice. 'Underwhelmed' was the reaction I was expecting, and yes if you're talking about the 'garden' experience then I'd have to agree. But come on guys, how can you feel anything other than awe when stood 35 floors above London on a clear day with the sun bathing the world's most iconic skyline in gold?!
After a delicious birthday dinner at 'The Folly' (a review has to come in future if only to justify a return trip), we headed to 20 Fenchurch Street. Well, it said it was 20 Fenchurch Street, but after 15 minutes spent going through security (body scanner and all) it did rather feel like we were making our way through an airport. I joked that we were taking off abroad from a helicopter on the roof. (If only!). The airport feeling didn't quite finish there, as the main atrium does have a 'terminal' feel to it, multitude of tourists included. That said, you'd be an idiot to step out of the lift and notice this first. The view. I mean, gah! Just look at that view!
It's absolutely stunning and I was dearly hoping it would be. I checked the sunset times before booking our time slot to ensure we were there for the big show - it was beyond worth it! I'd been reading a lot about 'The Golden Hour' hailed by photographers as the best light to shoot in. Pfhhh, I thought, how good can it be?! So good is the answer. I actually reverted many of these images back to their originals as the natural light did a better job than me.
Remember me mentioning 'sponging' in my last post? Well there was a whole lot of that going on here! We worked our way around the central atrium up and around the garden before heading onto the balcony for an unadulterated view of The Shard, Tower Bridge, Southbank, Canary Wharf - I could go on! I felt full up with joy. And had a strange out-of-body experience where I was convinced Alan Sugar was about to walk into shot and announce I had a business task to complete in an area only loosely related to where I was standing.
It was a little annoying that we were chivvied off the balcony at 6pm (when the sky was showing off big time and demanded that all cameras turn its way) by brusque security guards. Why this is I cannot possibly speculate, however it is most likely to do with health and safety. Yawn.
At this point, we lamented not having the forethought to bring a paper aeroplane...
The sun, newly appointed Britain's reigning champ for chasing off winter's toil, did a bow before us all and slowly sank behind Shepherd's Bush. Hell, even the distant concrete cubes of Slough looked romantic when cast in such a light as this. With a gentle pitter-patter twinkling softly around the garden, the plants were given an evening drink. Which, naturally, prompted us to do the same.
As the sky switched off, the city switched on. Not being one to upstage the main attraction, the lamps in the Sky Pod Bar are softly lit in warm, golden tones. We picked up our drinks and took a seat amongst the greenery, which was the only time I truly felt like I was in a park. The garden area has a few little nooks overhung by tropical trees, a stone bench and blocks of wood that serve as minimalist furniture. Away from the noise below and gazing down over London I felt an odd sense of calm and tranquility. I was warm. I felt mellow. I had a good glass of red wine in hand. I was sat next to my handsome one. I was hovering over a thousand lights and it all felt very special.
The Sky Garden is a feat of engineering, despite the 'public garden' aspect being somewhat compromised by a need to commercialise the space. However, the unique experience it offers is a treat and offers a perspective of London that I don't think you can take for granted. Verdict? Go before it gets taken over by corporate events!
- Book the sunset slot (you'll get daytime, sunset and London at night!). It's free but you'll need a ticket!
- Have a look around, soak up the view, then get a drink and find a nook for a chat.
- Go expecting little and let the view set its own standard.
Have you visited anywhere that was totally different to what you expected?