Friday 21st January

Go awry or change constantly, well, they do for us!  Today we had planned to head to the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.  First we headed off on the tube toward Westminster Abbey, we arrived at the station to find that there were four exits to choose from, all signposted with tourist attractions to visit except the Abbey!   What is a girl to do?  Ask a friendly London Bobby, that is what she should do.  And that is exactly what I did.  He not only told us which exit to take, he escorted us out to the road to show us exactly which way to go, we chatted away for a bit as he was keen to know about NZ.  Just as we were about to leave he asked us if we knew that the Houses of Parliament were open today and as he also usually worked there he knew where to get in, told us which entrance to go towards and to ask for a “green pass”. 

Bonus, we thought so off we trotted.  The Houses of Parliament are an amazing collection of buildings.  First we were of course right beside Big Ben, and with the London Eye in the background it rewarded us with a great close up view. 

 big ben Big Ben from a different angle

We were screened on entry to the building, surrounded by a large number of police.  We then proceeded to the Great Hall.  This is the largest building of its type in Europe.  The magnificent roof is all timber and is absolutely stunning.  The Hall itself is used for major gatherings and events, both historically and today.

hallThe ceiling of the Great Hall

In a number of places within the Hall there are plaques set into the floor.  These mark places where historic and more recent events have taken place.  Deaths of famous people, conviction of traitors, lying in state of monarchs.

plaquesLying in state location of George Sixth and The Queen Mother.

We  then had to wait our turn to be admitted to the public gallery of the House of Commons.  No photography was allowed from this point onward.  We were led through to the gallery in the House of Commons.  This is situated above the back of the room and above the floor and above the floor of the house.  It is screened from the house by a glass wall.  When we were there a second reading of a bill concerning the rights of inheritance was being made.  There are over 600 members of the Commons and of these there were at least ten present in the House.  It was rather adult performance as the  Government Minister was reading the bill and commenting on various aspects, whilst the Opposition (all three or four of them) were sitting around looking bored. 

After sitting and listening for a time we decided to move on.  When we had gotten our ticket to the House we assumed that we were only going to see the House of Commons.  However, on spotting a sign pointing to the House of Lords we enquired as to whether we could see this as well.  No problem, a very pleasant policewoman showed us where to go and we were off.

The House of Lords is smaller than the commons but somewhat more ornate, particularly as it has the Throne at it’s head.  We again were in a gallery at the rear of the House.  This time however thee was no glass wall separating us from the House.  There were more Lords and Bishops in attendance here than in the Commons.  A Bishop was reading a bill regarding the Rehabilitation of Prisoners.  At the end of his reading one of the members rose from her seat and addressed the House giving her maiden speech. 

Time to leave. On our way out of the building, back in the Grand Hall, we met our friendly policeman from the Tube station where he was delighted to see us again, so we ended up chatting with him for another 10 minutes or so.  We then found a cafe within the buildings and had a coffee and tea before venturing across the road to the Abbey.

The Abbey is a beautiful church with amazing architecture, stained glass windows, and of course history.  Because no photography is allowed within the Abbey there is nothing we can post.  The place is absolutely full of burial places of Kings and Queens, and famous people, but, also, a significant number of memorial plaques to person not buried here but memorialised.  Typically these are grouped in certain sections of the Abbey.  Poets Corner, where you will find a great selection of British poets; a corner where there are a large number of theatrical persons memorialised; a corner where there are a number of scientists.  It was well worth the price of entry and the time spent wandering through.  

By this time it was after 3pm so we felt it was a little late to be heading off to the Tower, another change of plans.  Besides, as we exited the Abbey, the area around us was swarming with Police, I have never seen so many, it took us a bit of time to try and work out why they were there, along with a few vociferous protestors.  Of course, Tony Blair was giving his evidence in the Iraq War  investigations.

police 1Protesters and police

policeA view of the police vans parked up in the side street near Westminster, the cross road with this one had as many again.  A large number had six to eight policemen waiting within just in case.  I am not sure what they expected but they certainly appeared well prepared.

So where were we to go?  Not too far away is the Winston Churchill War Museum, so off we trotted.  This is located within the bunker which held the war rooms used during the Second World War to house Churchill, the Cabinet and Military advisors.  It was an interesting site and also held a museum dedicated to the life of Winstone Churchill.  This was very good as far as content was concerned but could have been organised a little differently to give more cohesion to the exhibits.  Anyway worth a visit.

We were meeting up with Alex, Lee, Mat and Liz for dinner before we headed off to the show We will Rock You, so it was time to head off.  We passed through Horse Guards Parade to the nearest tube station.

Horse guardOn parade

Whilst wandering the streets to the station we came across this plaque.



We all met up at Zizzi, an italian influenced restaurant providing cheap and cheerful fare.

dinner timeMathew, Leeroy, Roy, Bernice Liz and Alexandra waiting for dinner

It was the off to the show.  Bernice and Alexandra had seen the show in Auckland but were keen to see it again in London.

We will rock you

After the show we were all a little hoarse and had sore hands from all the clapping and singing that had gone on.  A very good show, well worth the attendance.

Roy and Bernice left the young ones to party on into the night whilst we went back to Brixton to our flat to pack up.  Tomorrow we move to Greenwich.


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