When the earth shrinks beneath you at a rate of knots and you're not quite sure if your head is still above your shoulders, you know something's afoot.
This is the experience had by those (aka me, last weekend) who willingly climb into a glass elevator which sky-rockets them to one of the trendiest cocktail bars in London. Sushisamba. You will find it perched on the 39th floor of the Heron Tower, or the Tower of Doom, as I have since renamed it. A trip not for the faint hearted, as this dedicated elevator shoots up to it's lofty destination in just over 30 seconds. Your ears pop, your palms sweat and you suddenly find yourself thinking about the glass elevator/roof situation in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Entirely understandable. BUT - is it worth it? Hell yes. It really is.
Feeling out of my depth in the London metropolis, I was grateful to have a friend showing me round the hot spots. It's a different place entirely from the Scottish cities I know and love and it takes some getting used to. One doesn't quite 'belong' somehow amongst the tottering heels and sharp suits with impassive faces. But it's a whole lot easier with the help of a friend.
Upon our swift ascent up Heron Tower my eyes snapped shut of their own accord and my lips closed around my breath. Granted, not every bar or office in London is on the 39th floor, but many of them come close. How can this be a standard experience for the people who live and work here? Sushisamba is incredibly impressive (I was awestruck), but here, it's just another part of the scene. As is the underground - to me, a terrifying invitation to get utterly lost at every opportunity - but here people don't even see the signs, they just follow their feet down the familiar tunnels. They effortlessly navigate their way through pressing throngs of commuters, all one and the same. It's an assault on the senses at best and it's a wonder to me that they don't seem to feel it.
It's not just Heron tower that offers thrills and kicks, oh no. The bar at the notorious 'must-reserve-ones-square-foot-of-body-space-for-a-drink' Shard serves it's money on ice to it's glistening guests 52 floors up. You heard me. Thank goodness, in hindsight, we did not think to reserve said body space for a drink, and instead were gracefully turned away at the door. I might not have lived to tell the tale!
The Londoners are of different stock, for sure. Nevertheless, our cocktails were pretty spectacular... and the sweeping views even more so. It took my breath away (and my legs nearly went with it) when I tottered down the curve of transparent stairs between the two floors. Our experience was only enhanced by the presence of a large paper-craft tree, bedecked with twinkle lights, and sat bam-smack in the middle of the flame-lit balcony. A rather pleasant way, I'm sure you'll agree, to spend an evening atop this cloud-scraping monster of a building.
I know I could never live here, but the breath-taking views are well worth the visit. There's a lot more to see than that. Strolling around Trafalgar Square in the midday sun, Nelson peering down at us from above, there was a certain peace to be found amidst the hustle and bustle. The galleries and museums alone should be enough to bring you back for another visit - we simply did not have the time to take them in. The Museum of Natural History, the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A are first on the to-do list the next time I have a couple of hundred quid I'm willing to throw at London.
But for now I am happy to escape the madness, breathe clean air, and have my feet back on very solid ground.