‘Do you want to come up the Shard?’ said the invitation from my friend. ‘Are you insane?’ said my brain. ‘You are afraid of heights.’ Obviously my body isn’t wired right though as at the same time as I was thinking that, my fingers were typing ‘Yes, count me in.’
For those who aren’t UK based The Shard is a building on London’s Southbank. Tall, spiky and made of shiny, shiny glass it’s the tallest building in Western Europe measuring 1016ft (310m). And handily they’ve popped a public viewing platform on the 69th floor overlooking London – that would be at 244 metres. A viewing platform that only opened Feb 1st so to get up there now even has your ‘not easily impressed’ London cabbie going ‘what, you’re going up it…..cool’ when you say where you’d like to be dropped off
He’d have been even more impressed if he’d known that I’m actually scared of heights! I try not to let it stop me. I have been up most of the world’s tall buildings – the Empire State, The Eiffel Tower, Auckland Sky Tower, some UFO thing that looks like it’s going to invade in Bratislava. I survive by staying by the middle until I get over the initial panic. I hang onto walls and pillars, and if I do go to the edge I stand at arms length. I never look directly down – just into the horizon. I absolutely NEVER look up and when my palms to start to sweat I head to the lift sharpish before I lose it.
The only time I’ve ever really come unstuck was up the temple in Bangkok that looks like corncob – Wat Arun as it’s officially known. I went up fine, then realised that to get down I literally had to take a step off the side of the building to reach the stairs. Twenty minutes I sat there. I had a little cry. I then went down on my bum with the aid of a Thai taxi driver. It wasn’t my finest hour.
So, back to the Shard and my fear of heights. The invitation had come via Rescue Remedy – and they promised that they would have some on hand if you were scared of heights. They didn’t but thankfully I’m a huge fan and I’d packed my own. If you haven’t tried this stuff before, it’s brilliant. It’s a mix of different flower remedies designed to modulate your emotions and, don’t ask me how, but I honestly think it works. I use it regularly when I get stressed out – and this was a time of stressing out. One large glass of red wine and three drops of Remedy later I was in the lift. It takes seconds to get you to the 38th floor, then you cross to a second lift which gets you to floor 68, again in seconds. This really helps. You don’t have that ‘omg, how high is this’ feeling you get in other lifts that creep up ticking off the floor numbers as they go. I actually felt like I’d only gone up about three floors.
The view told me otherwise – twinkly, sparkly, teeny, tiny London all laid out in front of us. We went at 7pm at night and again I think that helped – for some reason, my fear of heights didn’t seem to register in the darkness. I did my normal hang back round the middle for a while, but I wasn’t getting any of my normal wobbly leg sensations – I don’t know if was the wine, the Rescue Remedy or the layout of the place. There’s a really large expanse of solid floor between you and the windows and so you feel really grounded. I didn’t quite get close to the windows, but I did manage to get to a pillar and hang on for long enough to have my photo taken. I even went up to the open air bit on the roof. This requires climbing stairs – something else I find it hard to do at height, but the Shard designers seem to have avoided the thrill factor so many tall buildings love to add of designing big gaps between the stairs that you can see through.You do get a glimpse of view but it wasn’t enough to trigger a freak out – again, this could have been mellowed by wine!
There was only one point when I did nearly lose it – off to the right hand side was a set of cables. Don’t know if they were an external lift or something to strap on the window cleaner or what, but every time I saw them swinging my head started to swim. I certainly couldn’t walk toward them. If you are nervous, avoid that area.
So, if you’re thinking of going up The Shard with a fear of heights I would say risk it – but follow my lead. Have wine first, try some Rescue Remedy during and maybe go at night. I’m glad I did it, I may even go again and take The Boyfriend (shhh, don’t tell him).
If you do pluck up the courage to go up The Shard, you can buy your viewing ticket in advance direct from The View from the Shard itself, or, book tickets with added experiences like heading up for the view and getting a glass of champagne while you’re at it. I think if you’ve overcome your fear of heights to go up there, it’s only right you celebrate with some fizz!
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