I watched the progress of the Shard, soaring into the London skyline, for about a year. It was half built by the time I first clapped eyes on it. But still, it was fascinating to see how it grew that little bit, each time I visited London. Until progress finally stopped, as completion arrived, not so many months ago. I watched its construction with a tinge of sorrow. I love tall buildings. More to the point, I love being at the top of tall buildings. I have a very healthy fear of heights, but also a desire to clamber on top of things.
I’ve climbed some of the worlds tallest buildings. The Great Pyramid of Giza, in 2000. Well, a few blocks up it. Until a policeman with a gun asked me not to. My journeys up the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon in Mexico were more successful. The Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpar, as far as the sky bridge. The Willis (nee Sears) Tower and Hancock Centre in Chicago. The Empire State Building. The Angel of Independence, Torre Mayor and Torre Latinoamericano in Mexico City. And more. If it’s there, and if I’m allowed, I’ll climb it.
Yet, even as I watched the crane lift the next piece of the puzzle up to the summit, I knew I’d not get to see the top of the Shard. They did build a viewing gallery. A generously proportioned gallery – why not? It’s not like they’re going to sell or rent much of the place in the current economy. But it’s opening date was so far away. Further away than my departure date. Or so I thought. The latter has been delayed, repeatedly. And now….the Shard is just a couple of weeks away from opening. I’ll be here. It was clearly meant to be.
I’ve been to the website. Clicked on the ‘Book tickets’ button. Entered all my details. Typed in my card number. And then
pressed submit…paused. It costs £25 per person. That’s absolutely extortionate. Seriously. Let me put that into perspective. It costs the equivalent of about £13 to go up Willis Tower. The Hancock Centre is free – you just have to buy a drink at the bar. A coke will do. The Empire State Building is a shade over £16. Before anyone mentions any of the more expensive tickets available at any of these locations that surpass the Shards, you should know that if you turn up at the Shard on the day to buy a ticket, you’ll be charged a cool £100.
The capitalist in me accepts the right for a company to charge what it feels the market will pay (although I suspect as time goes by, they might find the market won’t pay), whilst the commie in me finds it just slightly bothersome that a company can get away with such extreme overpricing and social exclusion. The plain old non-political Gary just baulks when he feels he’s being ripped off.
The Shard is the tallest building in Europe, let alone London. It’s also perfectly placed for decent views of the best of London. It’s unique. But, there are other London summits to ascend. All of them are unique in their own ways. There’s the Harvey Nicks restaurant at the Oxo Tower (photo above). Eat cheap and you’ll get your views of the Thames from the South Bank for £20 for two, plus a little feeding and watering. The active and adventurous could climb over the O2, properly climb over it, for £22 a person. The famous London Eye is less than £18 per person. Best views of Westminster. Worst queues.
The Nat West Tower, or Tower 42 has some seriously lofty views that are free to see. Providing you book in advance and buy a drink or two. The best value in my list would have to be the Monument. Decent views, a good healthy climb and a certificate at the end of it, all for £3. Lastly, but perhaps the most easily recommended building with a view, is St Pauls Cathedral. Not just a view, but a glorious piece of architecture that oozes history, an enormous whispering dome and it has a crypt full of the good and great to boot. And all of that for a trifling £13. They all put the Shard’s pricing into context. I might just re-christen it the Shark.
Will I or won’t I? I honestly haven’t decided. Can you imagine the views, and the photographic opportunities?! Awesome. Equally, can you imagine the look of disappointment on my face if I existed the elevator to be greeted with enveloping cloud cover? I have time and sufficient funds. At the same time, my time and funds are limited. I do need to choose what I do carefully, and want to get maximum value. Heck, the Shard should just give me a pair of tickets in exchange for the post I’d write, which by it’s very nature would be as good as an advert! We’ll have to see. If I go, it’ll be on Monday November 4th. You won’t find out till the following Sunday though. When Mrs P and I return from our holiday. When you’ll also find out if we chose sand or snow…