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2012-12-15 at 14-08-56On the Saturday of our London trip we had tickets for a tour of the Houses of Parliament, which is officially known as the Palace of Westminster. On this site there once was a royal palace and the name continues to this day.

2012-12-15 at 13-34-38Security was very strict and you are photographed before you go through airport-style metal detectors and your bag is x-rayed. You then wear a lanyard with your photo on it for the duration of the tour.

2012-12-15 at 13-33-27This is Westminster Hall, the only part of the original Palace of Westminster to survive the fire of 1834. The Hall dates to 1097 and has the largest clearspan medieval roof in England. You couldn’t take photos on the rest of the tour but we saw both the House of Lords and the House of Commons, as well as various galleries and lobbies, St Stephen’s Hall and the Royal Gallery and Robing Room, which is used by the Queen when she opens Parliament. You can see photos here. It was a fascinating tour. They also have a very nice cafe where we stopped afterwards.

2012-12-15 at 15-10-55We then went to Westminster Abbey, which has been the site of coronations since 1066. Again you couldn’t take photos inside. There are many tombs inside, both royal and otherwise, as well as Poet’s Corner, with graves and memorials dedicated to great British writers. I hadn’t been to the Abbey since 1997 and it seemed much smaller inside than I remembered, as well as a lot more crowded.

2012-12-15 at 15-23-17Being Saturday it was very busy in this part of town and it took about twenty minutes to walk across Westminster Bridge with all the crowds. We had a quick lunch before taking a ride on London Eye.

2012-12-15 at 16-39-05Looking over St James Park with Hyde Park beyond. Buckingham Palace is on the far left amongst the trees at the top of the large lake.

It was mid-afternoon by then so we returned to the apartment to freshen up. That evening we had dinner at Rowley’s and then went to Queen’s Theatre to see Les Miserables (the stage show, not the film). I had seen it about twenty years before and the staging seemed a little dated now but music was still wonderful.