The Shard, ReadyClickAndGo

“How fast is the lift?”  I asked

“6 meters a second!”

Someone behind me said they were Ferrari lifts and we laughed nervously. We were in one of these dark futuristic lifts with smouldering lights. It felt like we were about to take off to a different planet. There were no seat belts. I expected my insides to move around a bit once the lift stopped but nothing happened. I do remember some music playing in the background but I was too scared to notice what it was. We were heading to the 69th floor to experience London’s newest attraction, the vertical beauty of London called the Shard.

We were welcomed at Reception which looked like a modern cinema, behind it a screen showed ticket availability as there is a daily limit of 400 people to visit the Shard. If you simply turn up the ticket price could be very high, up to £100, you have to book well in advance. We were lucky as we were invited to experience the Shard on a preview organised for travel agents in the UK. The official opening for the public will be in February 2013.

On arrival at the 69th floor we were left to explore on our own and there was so much to see in 360 degrees. We were lucky with the weather too and could see almost as far as Dover! The only bad things was that London City airport is too close giving you a full view of British Airways planes registration numbers. It seemed like we were flying with the passing planes. The truth is that I am not a very good flyer!

The vertical beauty of London - The Shard

Apart from that we walked around like kids in a sweet shop taking pictures of every single step. Almost 360 photos – one for each angle. The biggest game is to guess which part of London you are looking at. With such strict building laws, the London looks almost the same from the Shard as from the street. Very uniformed and well planned. It’s difficult to guess where are you so you have to follow some landmarks in order to orientate. St Paul’s looked so small from up here yet is so imposing on the ground. London Bridge is just an ordinary bridge painted blue. The Gherkin, once upon a time an architectural miracle, looks so unimportant now with the Shard in place. We had to make an effort to locate  Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. And the Olympic Stadium at Stratford looks so weak from where we stood up! The most impressive thing from the Shard, for me, is the River Thames! You can sense why London was the epic centre of trade. By the following the Thames you can see history and the way London developed. The Thames was the artery of London and the best place to see that is by visiting the Shard.

We moved up to the next level and discovered a new toy – binoculars which project images in front of you. Forget about putting 20p into a machine then spending time finding the right focus – this is a different futuristic level of seeing through lenses. I still don’t know how it works but I think a laser is cantered onto a certain view and an image is projected onto a small screen built within the machine. The question is – is that image live or is everything pre-recorded as on Google maps? I don’t know but would like to find out….

We played for a while then started running around the observation desk again. As it was a preview workers were still around, one hanging above our head on one of the spires above floor 72…It looked scary and the last observation desk is semi-open so we could feel a draft. After so much excitement we decided to test the Ferrari lifts again and go down. In the shop on the ground floor we bought fridge magnets ready to brag about a new addition to the London skyline. The ever-so-friendly guide advised us to come in the evening when the London lights are switched on.  Watch this space!

Facts: The Shard was built on the site of Southwark Towers and was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, who faced huge opposition from English Heritage who claimed that “ the building would be a SHARD of glass through the heart of historic London”. Hence the name.

The Shard building is combination of residential areas (floors 53 -65), Hotel (floors 34 – 52),  Restaurants (floors 31- 33), offices (from 2- 28) with an added Spa on the 52th floor, Observatory from the 68th – 72rd  floors and the Spire from the 73rd to 95th floors.

The Shard is the tallest building in the EC, the second tallest in Europe (the tallest is Mercury City Tower still under construction) and the Shard has the tallest viewing gallery and open-air observation deck in the UK! And the best views!

 

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About the author: Tara

 

The travel professional with years of experience in the travel industry – in guiding, reservations, operations, contracting, customer service and product development – and have travelled extensively in Asia and Eastern Europe not just on holiday but also for work, inspecting hotels, visiting attractions and seeing exactly what each destination has to offer. The only way I could do this properly was with my own guide, car and driver and this inspired me to create my own range of customised private day tours for other people to be able to explore in-depth and learn to love their destination as much as I do.

Website: www.readyclickandgo.com