Sunday, July 15, 2007

Friday the 13th

On Friday, our class took a tour of Parliament. We got a nice old man who had been a former guard there (tails, white ties and a big badge of office on the cumberbund are their uniforms) take us around as a guide. His method of delivery was very stream of consciousness. Very.

He was very focused on the history of the building. Did you know that Parliament (the building) as we know it today was not the original building? It burnt down during the great London fire and was rebuilt like it is today. Westminster used to be a palace where the kings and queens live. The last king to live there was Henry VIII. Yes, that Henry, the one with all of the wives and the whole church thing. He moved to another palace because it was more comfortable and then it started to be a meeting place for the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

In some ways, this structure sounds a lot like our Senate and House of Representatives but it really isn't. The House of Lords was full of hereditary lords (not ladies) and no one was appointed. The House of Commons are full of MPs (Members of Parliament) who are elected by the people (those that could vote).

The House of Lords chamber is simply amazing and decked to the nines with gilt. It has the throne where the Queen sits when she visits Parliament once a year. The members' seats are red leather benches with one side of the room facing the other. All of the party in power sit on one side and their opposition on the other. The seating of both chambers mimicks the way church pews used to face.

The House of Commons is much more subduded and with no gilt. Their seats are green. The House of Commons was destroyed during the Blitz of WWII. When they rebuilt it, they still kept the original 440 seats of the very first House of Commons. So that means, if an MP gets there late and all of the seats are filled, he or she has to stand.

I could go on and on but you probably want a picture by this point. People started sticking all of the visitors' passes on this sign at the exit.

After the tour of Parliament, Cortni, Erika and I went back to Regent's Park to try to get tickets to that night's production of Midsummer Night's Dream. (Insert pretty pictures of the park.)

Again, all sold out. Next time I am totally buying the tickets online. The guy at the ticket booth (who was very cute) said there would be grass seats available at 6 but those went pretty quickly when it was nice out. It was 3 at this point and I was ready to eat my arm off.

Slightly discouraged, we went to go find food on the way back to the Baker Street tube station. We found a very nice pub, the Volunteer, on the corner of the street, very near the park. Their drink selection was HUGE and the food choices were very decent. I got a traditional Shepherd's Pie and a pint of cider. The food was wonderful but I think I would try another brand of cider. It was too fizzy.

After lunch, Cortni and Erika went back to Stamford Street and I decided to walk over to Camden Market. I should not be allowed to have a map. I think the distances are a whole lot shorter than they really are. It is a long way from Regent's Park and Baker Street to the Camden area. Very long. But I got there a little while later.

Camden is something else. It was full of people, activity and noise. Lots of goths, lots of punks. The market is full of interesting little booths full of everything and anything. I found a headscarf/headband thingy and some shell bracelets. Might have to try to find more of the headband things. It is perfect for those humid days when the hair wants to be a dragon. I loved everything that was going on and the food smells were wonderful even though I was still full.

When I got back to Stamford Street and after I made dinner, Erika, Cortni, Meagan and I went to the London Eye. We were able to get a pod thing by ourselves because the people in line after us weren't fast enough to get on. It costs hundreds of £s to rent one so we were very lucky!

As you can see it was a very clear night. We were able to see really far and even able to see Stamford Street. After the 30 minute ride, we took a walk down the river front to enjoy the lovely weather. And that was the end of the first week (of class).

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