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14 June 2015

Inside Big Ben ● by Jess

Almost exactly six months after trying to get tickets in to see Big Ben-- we did it! Aaaannnnd, it was free.


The sad news is that we weren't allowed to take photos inside. They even took our phones away so I couldn't even take any sneaky pics! In the end I'm glad they did though... it would have been so irritating to deal with everyone stopping every third step to document the experience. We started off, by entering across the street. After going through security they held us in a security area until our guide came. Then they locked up our bags and headed through the passage under the street to get to Big Ben. Now, technically speaking, Big Ben is only the name of the bell at the top. The actual building and clock itself is called the Elizabeth Tower. Still, I like thinking of the tower as "Big Ben" like butler that just stands around watching over London. But I digress....Poor Jon had a rough go at the beginning. But he managed to squelch the fear of heights enough to make it up 334 steps. We made inside the clock tower which looked like this: 
Image Source: Scales of Perception
There was a narrow passageway in front of each clock face. We got right up next to the glass and touched it. You could just make out a haze minute and hour hand if you stood back. The rungs you see in the photo (opposite the clock face) are still here, but instead of those little spickets (which once emitted gas to be lighted), there are now giant light bulbs. Afterwards, we got to see the actual mechanism of the clock. 
Image Source: Wikipedia
Apparently, it is all the exact same bits that the Victorians put there to begin with. It is an phenomenal bit of engineering and (I believe) the most accurate timepiece in existence.  At long last they took us up to see the bells.
Image source: CBS news
We were in the tower, about two feet away from the bells when it hit the top of the hour. They gave us earplugs, but the vibrations were immense. It is pretty difficult to put into words how thrilling it is to be looking over London from above, while your whole body is reverberating from Big Ben. It's like being able to literally feel the pulse of the city.

Afterwards, we decided it was high time we took a proper tour of the city. One of our friends is a tour guide, so we hopped on his bus and got the full schpeal. So much incredible information!

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