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London Journal
March 7 to March 15, 1998

Day Seven: Friday, March 13

"This can't be England -- the sky is blue."

We set out a little later than normal today due to hurting feet, etc. from yesterday's travels. We made our way to the Museum of the Moving Image, our first and only real disappointment of the trip. It was very well done--award winning-- we understand, but not terribly fun or interesting for anyone in our group. It traces the history of film, cinema and television. The zoetropes near the beginning were very interesting, and the costumed docents were actors and actresses, we suspected. The apparatus that allows one to read the news "on TV" was not working, so Melanie and Flora decided instead to be interviewed on television by Zig & Zag and Barry Norman, respectively.

Lunch was again at the West End Kitchen, a small restaurant between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square that we all liked. Today we feasted on fish pie, steak and kidney pie, and fish 'n chips with soup and pasta for starters. After lunch, Barry, Martin and Melanie set out for St. James Park to feed the ducks, birds and swans. St. James Park is the prettiest and the oldest of the royal parks. They then walked to Buckingham Palace to see if possibly the Queen was outside walking the dog or maybe washing the car. As luck would have it, she was not.

While they were enjoying the out-of-doors, Margie and Flora took a cab to the Palace of Westminster (better known as the Houses of Parliament). Anyone may queue to hear the House of Commons debate, but the different rooms in the Palace (the line of route, as it is called) is closed to the public. However, overseas visitors may request tickets in advance and be let in only on Fridays at 3:30pm after the MP's have gone home for the day. Margie and Flora were virtually the only two there who were not with an organized group from a tour or a school. Most individual travelers do not know of this wonderful experience. They walked through the Robing Room (where one is "dressed" before entering the House of Lords to speak), the Royal Gallery (a massive room filled with paintings of current and past royalty), the Prince's Chamber, the Peers Lobby, the House of Lords, the Central Lobby (like the Capitol Rotunda, only not as grand), the Members Lobby, the House of Commons and out through Westminster Hall. The decor of each of the first few rooms is more elaborate and lavish than the one before it -- more elaborate than anything they'd seen before. The House of Lords is gorgeous, and they saw the chair where the Queen sits when opening Parliament each November. As one progresses further down the building toward the House of Commons, the décor gets decidedly less lavish, and the House of Commons is just plain "plain". Exit is through Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the building, which is not furnished and has no décor and a concrete floor-a very stark contrast to the earlier rooms on the route. There are many markers on the floor showing the place where various dignitaries and royals have lain in state and where various historical figures have made speeches, been sentenced to death, etc. Margie and Flora will not soon forget their tour of the Palace of Westminster.

We met up with the rest of the gang across the street in front of Westminster Abbey, normally open at this time, but closed for Evensong on this day. Flora, Barry and Melanie have visited the Abbey previously, so Martin and Margie will return tomorrow.

We then traveled to Mayfair, where Margie, Melanie and Barry rested in the lobby of the Ritz Hotel while Flora and Martin went to the Waterford/Wedgewood shop to compare prices on Waterford lamps with the Irish Shop in Covent Garden, which had been previously visited. Martin, Melanie and Margie then took a cab home, while Flora and Barry went back to the Irish Shop to purchase the lamp. Dinner was again in our flat with goodies from Tesco.


Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament)