There are a few major sightseeing stops that I’ve been putting off until the tourist crowds go home; Westminster Abbey was one of them. I decided to give it a go today, though. Yesterday marked the halfway point of my trip, and I’m really starting to get anxious that I’ll leave with things unfinished. So, no more putting things off for this traveler! 🙂
The first thing you should know about Westminster Abbey is that it doesn’t really exist. I’m serious! No monks and nuns have lived here for ages, so it isn’t technically an abbey anymore. The church’s official name is the Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster. No one, not even the official website, calls it that, though. Most of what you see in terms of architecture dates back to the 1200’s, although there was a church here before that. Monarchs have been crowned here since 1066, and Westminster Abbey has even played host to a royal wedding or two. 😀
When I first visited the abbey in 2009, I was absolutely blown away. I hadn’t seen any pictures or video of the interior, so I went in without any expectations as to what it would be like. It felt sort of spooky and gothic; the place was crammed with graves and monuments, and the lighting was kind of dim. The whole place was hushed, and (I know that this is going to sound crazy), I got the distinct feeling that something was there that I couldn’t see. Everything about the abbey was JUST SO COOL. My experience this time was a little different. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still an absolutely amazing place. It’s just not possible to replicate that feeling I got, walking into it the first time. Plus, there were a lot more people around this time, which detracts from the eeriness of the place. I DID get an audioguide this time (they’re free), and the English version is narrated by none other than Scar the lion himself, Mr. Jeremy Irons. While the information in the audioguide is interesting, I found that having one detracted from my visit a bit. I spent so much time listening and looking at what Jeremy Irons told me to look at that I didn’t discover as many things for myself as I did last time.
Poet’s Corner (where a lot of writers have their monuments) is a big draw for a lot of tourists, and I have a rather unusual connection to it. According the research I’ve done into my family tree, Geoffrey Chaucer (author of The Canterbury Tales) is my great x 20 grandfather, making me (and my siblings) direct descendants. I need to do a little more digging before I can be 100% sure, but all signs point to yes as of now. That strong chance of a connection was enough to send me to his tomb to pay my respects. 🙂
I think Westminster Abbey is one of those places you have to see for yourself. TV doesn’t do it justice, and neither do photos. There’s just something there that can’t be captured on film. The admission fee is steep (although it’s less than both the Tower of London and the London Eye), but all that money goes towards maintaining and supporting the church. Service are always free, of course! If you happen to stop by anytime soon, tell Grandpa Geoff that I say hi. 😀