Our first excusion in London was a ride on the London Eye - here's MWM posing on the green in front of said eye.
I'm not good with heights, due to a traumatic ride on a Big Wheel at a funfair when I was young when the carriage I was riding in was stuck at the top of the wheel for what seemed like an eternity when the weather turned nasty. However, a ride on the Eye was something MWM really wanted to do so I pushed my fear down deep and went along and I'm glad I did because it wasn't half as bad as I was expecting. The pods are large, fully enclosed and travel very slowly, so slow in fact you barely realise it's moving, it's only if you look to either side and see another pod moving up or down that you realise you are moving. The views are magnificent and I've put together a slide show for you.
After our ride on the London Eye we had a couple of hours before our next excursion, which we spent sightseeing after having lunch in this typical London pub.
Our next stop was St. Margaret's Church, which stands between Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament and is commonly called "the parish church of the House of Commons". Originally founded in the 12th century by Benedictine monks, St Margaret's was rebuilt from 1486 to 1523 and became the parish church of the Palace of Westminster in 1614. St Margaret's has a very unsual clock on it's tower as you can see in the next photos which should enlarge if you click on them. That's Big Ben in the background of the first photo.
St Margaret's is a beautiful church and I was able to take some photographs
The stained glass window above the altar
We entered the Palace through Westminster Hall where people such as The Queen Mother, George V, Churchill and Gladstone have laid in state and the trials of Charles I, Guy Fawkes and William Wallace (Braveheart) were held there. There are plaques on the stairs paying testament to these trials and plaques on the floor of the hall showing where people laid in state. Unfortunately Westminster Hall is the only place in the Palace where photography is allowed but I only took two and they are too dark to actually see much so all the following photographs are from Google images sorry.
Our guide took us through St Stephen's Hall into the Central Lobby, a large octagonal hall, is the centrepiece of the Palace. When waiting to see (or 'lobby') their MP, members of the public wait here. Whenever you see a reporter broadcasting from The Houses of Parliament they are here in the Central Lobby.
The Royal Robing Room was our next stop, this is where the Queen puts on her ceremonial robes and crown before the State Opening of Parliament. The room is often considered to be the most elegant room in the Palace. The interior, including the ornate ceiling, was designed by Pugin. The walls are decorated with frescos by William Dyce.
We backtracked from here to The Members' Lobby which is next to the House of Commons Chamber. It is a place where MPs can collect messages and where the Chief Whips' offices are located. When the House is sitting it is a hive of activity. During the Second World War the Lobby suffered extensive damage and was subsequently rebuilt. It is decorated with statues of former Prime Ministers, you will perhaps recognise Winston Churchill in the photograph.
We passed through the door in the The House of Commons Chamber which was rebuilt to a design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott after it was damaged during the Second World War. The new Chamber was built in a style that was in keeping with the Chamber that had been destroyed. The layout of the Chamber consists of two sets of green benches that are opposite to each other. There is a table in the middle and the Speaker's Chair at one end. This arrangement means that the Government and Opposition MPs sit facing each other. The Chamber is actually quite small and there is only room for 427 MPs to sit down when there are 646 MPs in total. MPs who do not manage to get a seat in the chamber must sit in the gallery. Any MP wishing to speak in the chamber must get a seat as they are not allowed to speak from the gallery.
You will notice the two red lines on the floor of the chamber just in front of the front benches - it is alleged that the distance between the two lines is slightly wider than two drawn swords thus preventing disputes between members in the House devolving into duels (though there is no written evidence of this "fact"). Protocol dictates that MPs may not cross these lines when speaking; a Member of Parliament who violates this convention will be lambasted by opposition Members. This is regarded as a possible origin for the expression "to toe the line".
We found the tour fascinating and the Palace of Westminster is a beautiful building, I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Join me next time for our tour round Buckingham Palace.