This was perhaps one of the more random weekends I've had; and, to be honest with you, that's saying something. It all started at Westminster Abbey, a place I obviously knew of, but had never felt the urge to visit. This is more than likely due to the fact that it feels so familiar and engrained in the British psyche that we all already feel like we know it.
My wife and I were invited there for the launch and celebration of the Ride London Classic becoming a UCI World Tour event, a big deal for the organisers and London as a whole what with being the only event of its stature in the UK. As worthy of celebration as that is, to be perfectly honest the primary reason we accepted was because it was being held at Westminster Abbey and there was promise of a private tour. This was very astute of the organisers as I have a feeling that's why most of the attendees were in attendance.
It was a fairly eclectic mix of people, and all thoroughly charming, I bumped into Will Butler Adams, CEO of Brompton, and as ever he gave me a great deal of pleasure in asking me, after meeting Brian Cookson, 'What is the UCI?'
After the formalities were completed the tours began, Nicole and I were in the first, the moment we walked through the side door into the main atrium it became apparent that my imagined familiarity with Westminster Abbey was exactly that. Our tour guide said it normally takes her two hours to complete the tour, and even then that only scratches the surface, what was more surprising was the fact even for her it was rare to walk through the Abbey empty of people.
I won't bore you with the details, because it would take pages and pages to recount the small amount she showed and shared with us, all I can say is that it's awe-inspiring. The size is perhaps the most surprising, I have always been a sucker for a cathedral (although this is an abbey), the architecture blows my mind, but more often than not the process of shock and awe begins from the outside. That is not the case with Westminster Abbey, perhaps because it is slightly lost in the centre of London and next door to Houses of Parliament, so the outside is never really given the perspective it deserves. It is maybe because of this that stepping inside presents such a powerful impression.
I'd say it's like a living museum, only it's exactly the opposite, it is a thousand years of British history told through the memorials of the 3000 who were bestowed the honour of having it their final resting place. There are 30 Kings and Queens buried there and countless other people of repute and note, including poets and artists.
Although it is fair to say that the most moving memorial is that of the The Unknown Warrior. It is in the centre of the main nave, in the middle of the passage from the great west door to the alter, and it is the only memorial stone in the abbey that it is forbidden to walk upon, not even the king or queen, who's abbey it is, may set a foot on it.
Westminster Abbey, even if you weren't a history buff when you entered it, you'll leave a historian. So that was a good way to start the weekend.