We went to Westminster to visit Parliament. On one of the boat tours that we took on an earlier day, the guide told us that the flag flies over the parliament buildings when they are in session. He said "These are the only people in England who have to fly a flag so you can tell that they're working."
We were searched going into the buildings, at least as thoroughly as we have ever been at an airport. An initial baggage check at the outside and then pat-downs and wands at the foyers of each House. I had to give up my purse to a check room.
Sadly, photography is *not* allowed inside the building. (Of course the camera was in my bag in the checkroom, so we couldn't even think of cheating.) But we were up on the top floors -- long and curvy staircases -- lots of pictures of the history of English law and Parliament. Stick with this post though -- there are more pictures at the end.
The House of Commons was debating a bill about digital television. The flag should have been flown at half-mast or something, because only about 20 or so members were in attendance. They flung those oh so polite insults back and forth across the aisles though, sort of like "My learned and esteemed opponent, who really has had little time in his busy schedule to study this matter may not realize blah blah.." Once in a while, the Speaker of the House would confer with the parliamentarian and say something very polite about what the debate was supposed to be about and suggest sticking to it. The MP who had the floor would acknowledge the chiding and then right back to what he had been saying.
Then we climbed up a few more flights of stairs to the House of Lords. This Chamber is much grander. The throne, used when QE opens Parliament, is at the front of the Hall. Debate is more civilized, and, oddly, the galleries are much closer to the floor. At the House, we had a glass panel between us and the action. In Lords, it was all open. Some of the Members were having nice little afternoon naps in their elegant chairs. The discussion was to do with the European Union.
In both Houses, the Clerks, the Parliamentarian and others whose functions we don't know, wear wigs, but the members do not. There is an electronic system so you can see on screens who is speaking, where they are from etc. Interesting to see the juxtaposition of the modern and the old furniture and architecture.
For Years, there has been one protestor and his supporters across the street from Parliament. A law was passed limiting him to 3 meters. (looks like it was being ignored) The original protest display has been moved to the Tate British Museum. We thought we were back in Eugene.
In late afternoon that day, we had made reservations for High Tea. It was a nice stroll through St James Park. We learned that pelicans -- here in a pond in St James -- are often given as gifts to the Royal Family.
This is the Hotel St Ermin's where we had tea. While we were waiting in the lobby of this nice old hotel, we noticed this sign:
And so NOW we know where all those members of Parliament were! (There was a great looking bar in the Hotel as well!) Spotting the sign nicely tied together the two parts of our day.