Westminster Parliament

Conversation with political tragic husband went something like this:

“What do you want to see in London?”
“I want to do a tour of the Houses of Parliament, and other touristy stuff.”

And ‘stuff’… So. First thing we hit this morning is a tour of house of Westminster Parliament.  I hadn’t actually in before – obviously had been past Big Ben (currently under an inordinate amount of scaffolding) many times and taken photos of the famous building, but it never occurred to me to actually want to go IN.  😀

That’s Big Ben – you’ll just have to take my word for it…

It was a very interesting tour actually and wandering through the houses of Parliament was treated with far more reverence and than your average cathedral visit these days – no photography, quiet library-style voices all round and please do not touch pretty much anything.  It was just like how touring churches and cathedrals used to be back in the good ol’ days.
Our tour took us through Westminster Hall, then in through St Stephen’s Cathedral to the Central Hall, down the Peer’s Corridor and around through the State Officers’ Court to the Chancellor’s Court and the Monarchs Entrance.  We then went to the Royal Gallery where the Queen gets dressed in her Robes of State, to the Royal Court where she opens every Parliament, before making our way into the House of Lords then doubling back through to see the House of Commons.

The Palace is very elaborately decorated as you can imagine, with the House of Lords being doubly impressive with lots of large frescos, elaborate ceilings, royal portraits, red leather, fancy damask wallpaper, gilding and heraldic display everywhere, making for a dramatic comparison with the stone, oak panelling and deep forest green leather of the House of Commons.  The tour was very interesting – I learned that at 92, the Queen has only just started coming up the elevator to enter the Royal Gallery and up until now she has climbed the well worn 32 marble steps on her own.  We also learned that each time the monarch is required to open parliament a senior member from the opposition of the day is required to attend Buckingham Palace and is effectively held hostage until the Queen’s safe return (a throw back tradition to days when the relationships between Crown and Parliament were not quite so congenial… yes, we are looking at you, Charles I).  I did however know about the treasonous gunpowder plot, but was unaware that every time since that occasion that the the monarch is going to be entering Westminster, the Sergeant at Arms has his men search the cellars for any potential reattempts to blow up the Queen.

Forgive my jaunty angles… *cough, cough*

We had made our way to our 9am tour in the very quiet streets of London only to spill out afterwards into what felt like a cross between Times Square and Tiananmen Square with equal numbers of loud and pushy American and Chinese tourists. (Q: why do Chinese tourists favour matching fluorescent yellow t-shirts?  Have they not yet figured out that every other Chinese tour group is also dressing their pax in bright yellow too, thus making each Chinese tour group blend into the three other Chinese tour groups right beside them?  It’s a puzzlement.)  So our plan to make our way to Westminster Abbey next (with it’s one hour queue of yellow shirts waiting to enter) was quickly dumped in favour of heading towards the British Museum.

Whereupon we were greeted by an equal number of yellow shirts.  Oh well, in we went.

I have visited the British Museum several times before and had many many wonderful hours of quiet contemplation wandering the halls of antiquity there – marvelling at the beautiful objects on display, wondering about the people who made these amazing items, and pondering the ethics of the museum keeping these things that perhaps should be repatriated (if they can be kept safe)… today, well, today was not one of those visits.

It was a mad house.  Mr K wanted to see the highlights of the Museum’s collection, as you do, and of course, so did everyone else in the place, so we did what I would call the 50c tour and then got the hell out of there.  It was noisy and noisome – and the Museum didn’t help this by having some sort of performance art thing on in the Great Hall that was blaring on loudspeakers at a volume that you could still hear it in the rooms of the Waddell Collection. People were pushing and shoving to see things and literally pressing their noses up against display cases.  It was not pleasant at all… we may go back later in the week for a decent look, if time permits, as it is just around the corner from our hotel but this, this was not visiting the British Museum.

Yes…  :/  Tring tiles – simply fabulous!
After this we head back to the hotel for a few hours work to prepare for meetings next week before heading out to an amazing dinner at Cosmoba which is a very tiny family run Italian restaurant that has been operating in London since the 60s.  The food was amazing, the staff were fabulous, the wine was plentiful and the conversation was diverting – as I knew it would be.  🙂  We had a wonderful night with Steph and her Beloved, and Paul and his lovely lady, Jo and it is always great to catch up with friends when you travel.  Thanks for making time to hang out with us, beautiful people <3

I stumbled home way more pissy than I had anticipated being, and slept the not-so-righteous sleep of the ever so slightly tipsy and still horridly jet lagged!

Tomorrow – Hampton Court Palace!

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