St. Paul’s Cathedral in London finishes 15-year restoration

After fifteen years and £40 million ($65 million), a massive restoration of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is finally finished.

The timing is perfect because it coincides with the 300th anniversary of the cathedral’s original completion.

Much of the restoration was actually a cleaning to get years of accumulated soot and grime off the structure. This dirt is acidic and can damage the fine white stone, as has happened at many historical buildings. Architectural details and interior decoration were repaired and restored to their original luster.

Located at the end of the Millennium Bridge on the north bank of the Thames, St. Paul’s is one of London’s greatest landmarks. A church has stood here since 604 AD, a time when much of England was still pagan, and this spot has remained spiritually important for Londoners ever since. A later version of the church burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. Christopher Wren, the leading English architect of his day, was commissioned to rebuild it and made it his masterpiece.

A complete visit takes at least two hours, preferably three. One highlight is the Golden Gallery atop the dome, reached by climbing 530 steps. I think the view from here is the best in London. While the London Eye is taller, St. Paul’s is in the middle of the historic heart of London and so the view from here is more interesting.

The crypt holds the remains of many famous people such as William Blake, John Constable, and of course Christopher Wren. In his later years he used to sit in St. Paul’s and admire his masterpiece. His grave is marked by a simple plaque that reads in Latin, “Beneath lies buried the founder of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived more than 90 years, not for himself but for the public good. Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you,”

To celebrate the remodel, St. Paul’s is hosting a photo competition. Take a shot of the exterior of the shiny new/old building and you could see your work displayed in one of London’s most visited buildings.

[Image courtesy user Diliff via Wikimedia Commons]

Explore London with Sherlock Holmes

In anticipation of the Christmas Day release of the new Sherlock Holmes movie (starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law), Visit Britain has developed a microsite to help guide fans to the London locations used in the film. The site also offers possible itineraries for a Holmes-themed tour of London.

The list of London stops on the Holmes tour includes St. Paul’s Cathedral, Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, Freemason’s Hall, Brompton Cemetery, and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. The site also suggests a drink at the Sherlock Holmes Pub (decorated with Holmes memorabilia) or walking tour, “In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes”, offered by London Walks.

For those venturing out of London, there are additional filming locations in Manchester. Cheshire, Kent, Leeds and Suffolk in England, plus spots in Scotland and Wales.

Largest cruise ship to have football field-sized park on deck

When I think of a cruise ship deck, I think a swimming pool, shuffle board and lounge chairs–maybe a tennis court. I’m not that imaginative, but those who design ships for Royal Caribbean certainly are. The latest undertaking of this company that already boasts the world’s largest luxury cruise liner is another ship that will be large enough to have a park as big as a football field. Think town square with eateries, entertainment and large trees. This deck will be only one of the ship’s fifteen others, according to this article published in The Daily Mail.

When complete, this liner will weigh 220,000 tons. And by the looks of one of the mock up drawings, if placed on the Thames River, it will dwarf London. St. Paul’s Cathedral looks small next to it.


As the airline industry is going through its woes due to fuel costs, and whatever else seems to be ailing it each week, cruise lines are doing swimmingly swell. Passengers’ desires to enjoy luxury and the wow factor when they head out on the high seas are adding to the push for bigger and bigger cruise ships.

Genesis, being built in Finland, will be ready to set sail in 2009. Its home port will be Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Join the other 5,399 paying customers who’ll be climbing aboard. There will be space since it can hold 5,400 passengers. I don’t think you’ll have a hard time spotting it because it will be 40% bigger than the other ships–until someone gets the urge to build a bigger one.

If you have an urge for a monster cruise ship trip before then, here are other options.