LONDON — Walking from Shakespeare’s Globe to Trafalgar Square sounds easy enough ― perhaps for someone less directionally challenged. That’s not me. However, I had been in London two years ago and managed to get around on foot just fine, so what could go wrong?
Besides, if there’s one thing I love about traveling it’s getting lost and all the adventures along the way.
I had three hours before I had to meet my group at Victoria Station so I set off across the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral. While I’d been there before, I did not climb to the dome. As I entered the cathedral I was enveloped by soft haunting sounds reminiscent of Gregorian chants. This was Evensong, a daily choral service that begins as the day ends (17:00 hours, or 5 p.m. in American) and lasts about 45 minutes. Evensong has been practiced at St. Paul’s Cathedral for centuries. It’s an opportunity for people to take a break from their busy lives and reconnect with the divine or more spiritual aspects of themselves.
While the interior of the cathedral is definitely awe-inspiring, it was the sounds, the soaring voices, which touched my soul and made me feel connected to everyone in that space. “God gave us eyelids, but not earlids,” American musician Steven Halpern said. Even when my eyes were closed (and many people did have their eyes shut) and I could still hear angelic voices singing praise and adoration.
After the service, I headed for Trafalgar Square, but my sense of direction was off and I found myself in Fleet Street. Another wrong turn took me to Drury Lane where I paused to buy an ice cream (not a muffin from the muffin man) and on to Floral Street. As the name suggests, tall buildings were lined with floral garlands hung from the second stories and draped across narrow alleyways (called “twittens” in Southern England). I stumbled upon the Infinity Chamber, an arched passageway filled with colored lights which changed every few minutes, creating a rainbow effect. I must have walked through the chamber a dozen times. It was fun and I loved watching people’s reactions as they found, and then explored, the chamber.
After leaving Floral Street, I walked to Leicester Square where I strolled slowly through a small park. A 19th-century statue of William Shakespeare stood in the center, accompanied by busts of Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Joshua Reynolds, John Hunter, and William Hogarth, positioned on each of the four corners. A band played while I enjoyed the sights and the artists.
I walked down Haymarket Street to Trafalgar Square, I was greeted by a new sight ― a sculpture of a winged bull. It is a replica of one that stood in Nineveh, near Mosul, in 700 BC; it was destroyed by Islamic jihadists. The replica statue is a testimony to the destruction of Iraqi culture since the United States-led invasion, which began in 2003. Artist Michael Rakowitz, who is of Iraqi Jewish descent, made the statue from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans. Rokowitz calls the replica “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” ― a tribute to something good in the human spirit. Rokowitz’s mission is to recreate thousands of artifacts that were destroyed or stolen in war-torn Iraq and Syria.
An event called “West End LIVE” was being performed and the square was filled with song, music and lots of people. The event is free to all and hugely popular. It was fun strolling throughout the square, watching people sing and dance among the beautiful statues and water fountains.
Walking is the best way to get from Shakespeare’s Globe to Trafalgar Square. London is one of the most interesting and entertaining cites in the world and none of these little adventures would have happened if I wouldn’t have gotten lost along the way.