Sky Garden review
I used to think of this as the Palm House at Kew, 500 feet in the sky. But now I think of it as one of those giant sci-fi cities in the clouds. This is how we'll all be living soon, enclosed in a giant bio-dome.
Skyscrapers are usually out of bounds to the public but all you have to do for the Sky Garden is book a time slot on their website. Once you've made it past the airport scanners and the cold hands of the security staff you're shuffled into a little lift with ten tourists all wondering what they're about to see. Their faces are the normal mix of wonderment and puzzlement as the door slides shut and the numbers start whizzing up to 10, 20, 30 -- when's it going to stop? It's ticking off the numbers quicker than I can count them.
When you step out onto the 35th floor you're straight into a scatter of tables and chairs and people drinking Pimms and Pernod. They've got a posh bar selling cocktails and bottles of Dom Perignon for 250 quid a pop. Even their coffee costs 4 quid and the busy floor looks like a cross between a business meeting and an airport departure lounge: half of us are tourists and the other half are suits. Half of us are sitting with a kid or a camera and the other half have a ponytailed PA.
I've been a bit unlucky with the light this morning because the big window seems to have been swallowed up by the sun's corona and everything's lost in a wash of bright white sunlight. I have to shield my eyes to even see The Shard. Maybe I'll start with the plants and look out of the window later.
The greenhouse garden is what everyone comes to see but it's basically just an avalanche of mud down either side, planted with palms and tropical trees. It's never very colourful when I've seen it, just rubbery green leaves and peeling trees, decorated with purple pebbles and a bark carpet of wood chippings. They've got a few pipes that pump a bit of mist into the scene to make it seem like a rainforest, but it's just a giant rockery really, nice for a few photos while you're waiting for the clouds to cover up the sun.
The view out of the window is pretty amazing... let me give you a few landmarks to find and you can score a point for each.
Front window: everything is easy peasy out of this window. I'll give you Tower Bridge for free. Southwark Cathedral and City Hall are easy as well. Big Ben and The Monument might take you a little longer. If you're lucky then you'll be able to walk through the revolving door onto the balcony outside. They sometimes shut it if the wind is too strong (they don't want any tourists blowing over the edge) but it's the sun that's too strong this morning.
West window: St. Paul's, Tate Modern and the London Eye are all pretty easy. Cleopatra's Needle and Wembley Stadium are a bit harder. The Royal Courts of Justice and Nelson's Column are a tough challenge -- well done if you manage to spot those.
You can't see very much out of the north window because the City skyscrapers are rising up behind it.
Tip: there's still one more level above the main one if you want to climb even higher. If you walk round to the west window (the one with St. Paul's) then you'll see a flight of stairs behind the plants up to the Fenchurch restaurant. It looks like it might be out of bounds to non-diners but they don't mind you standing on the terrace.
Guest – The sky garden has got one of the best view of London. It is amazing to see at the sunset. It is free, and worth to be visited. I have some of my best shots there.
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