The Shard review
The Shard is #9 in my London Bucket List
I hate heights but I'm going to brave this one, just for you. If I die then I'm blaming you. If The Shard falls down with me in it, then it's all your fault. Obviously I'm not scared. I'm a man, so I don't get scared. Rather, I'm simply concerned about the relative tensile strengths of the various building materials when subjected to the swirling and billowing winds at such extreme heights. And that is totally understandable when you consider that I'm about to be standing on top of it. I am also rather interested to find out whether the lift cable is capable of withstanding my weight (because I had a big breakfast this morning).
Ah well... here we go. I've paid my thirty quid now so I suppose I have to do it. It's not going to fall down (of course not). No, that's just daft. If it was going to fall down then it would have done that three years ago, when it opened. Because they build things to last in Britain. We built Stonehenge for chrissakes -- and that has been standing since before the dawn of time. Look at what happened to Hadrian's Wall -- it fell down. That's because the Italians built it. If the Romans had hired some local Brits to build it then it would still be standing now, like St. Paul's Cathedral The Germans dropped some bombs on that but Christopher Wren knew what he was doing. He built it to be bomb proof -- and they hadn't even invented bombs back then. That is how totally amazing British builders are. And it's the same with The Shard -- it was built with British concrete, British steel, British nails and British sellotape. So it's 100% safe.
Okay... now that I have totally and utterly convinced myself that it is safe, I am heading into the reception area...
The reception area is very posh. It's all polished glass and polished metal and beautiful staff with polished shoes and polished teeth. It looks like a nightclub. It's all neon lights, spotlights and movie music on the speakers. It's how I imagine a space station of the future to be. Soon they'll be sending space shuttles to the moon, and this is where we'll buy our boarding tickets. It certainly does get you in the mood for an adventure.
The lifts in here are more like space rockets. The first one takes you up 31 floors in 19 seconds flat. Then you have to exit that one and board another, which shoots up to level 68 in 22 seconds. Put it this way: your ears will definitely pop. My eyes went pop as well. If something is poppable, then it will probably pop. Then you have to walk up a short flight of stairs to level 69 and step out into the sky.
The view is just... insane. It's not unlike flying over London in a plane. (I'm being serious!) But because I'm such a wuss with heights it always takes me five minutes to steady myself before I can approach the window. I have to stand at the wall like an idiot until I work up the guts to come close to the glass. To make things even more terrifying they've decided to install floor to ceiling windows, so your toes can touch up against the edge like you're standing on the edge of a cliff. If you suffer from vertigo then prepare to feint. There were moments when I thought the building was actually moving! I suppose it's possible that it was just my jelly legs (which is more likely), but something was definitely moving.
The buildings that you already know are high, like the tall chimney of the Tate Modern, just look like toy building blocks on the carpet. They are all down there, when they're supposed to be up there. There is nothing around you that comes close to your height. Usually when you climb a tall building like The Monument, or the bell tower of Westminster Cathedral, there are lots of buildings around that are hidden by the office blocks, but up here you can see the whole of London. Distant hills are drained of colour and fade away to nothing. The horizon is so far away that it blurs into the sky like a smudge. You can see miles and miles of train tracks, from Waterloo all the way up to Greenwich. You can stand here and watch the little white worms (the trains) meandering up their muddy brown train trails to some distant station. Cars are just dust. It's a people-less city up here -- the men and women are too small to see.
If you know your geography then you can pick out the suburbs and the bend of the river past the Isle of Dogs -- plus a couple more bends beyond that. You can follow the Thames all the way past Docklands, the Thames Barrier, and probably a fair distance towards the sea.
If you're feeling brave then you walk up another few flights of stairs to level 72. This is the open-air level, but it's not really open-air at all. It still has window walls and a roof on top, but they've removed a few pains of glass to let in the wind. At the time of writing they've got some fake grass and a bar up there as well (I think they're doing a Pimms promotion). They've even installed a little croquet lawn! People are just lounging around on the lawn with a bottle of Pimms and a plastic cup of frothy beer. It's a bit like sitting in a beer garden -- 72 floors up.
I've just had a terrifying thought: what if somebody smacks a croquet ball too hard and shatters the glass? Jesus Christ... I'm getting out if here quick, before the building falls down.
So is it worth a visit? Definitely, yes -- it's one of the best views in London (as long as you don't mind stumping up a fortune to get inside). If you're scared of heights then bear in mind that so am I, and I can handle it okay. You might have to stand at the wall for five minutes before you dare to approach the window, but at least you'll have that in common with me. And they've got a bar up there now.
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