Last time Thom and I were in London, Parliament was in session, so we had the opportunity to observe the House of Lords. This was nirvana for two political junkies like us. It was fascinating to see another government in action with their debates and loud interactions. Lots of standing up and down, shouting “Hear! Hear!” and jeering the opposition party. Very lively indeed!
We saw a different perspective in September as Parliament was out on break, so we got to take a self-guided audio tour throughout the entire Parliament building, including a leisurely wander through both the House of Lords and House of Commons. It was awesome to see Margaret Thatcher’s statue in her heels standing tall among all the men who have run the UK government, truly highlighting the gender gap amongst past leaders. However, they did name a new female Prime Minister, Liz Truss, while we were there. Liz ended up not lasting very long (44 days-a record) and a new male PM, Rishi Sunak, was announced after we left Europe. Truly a time of turmoil for the UK. Wondering if Liz will get the honor of a statue or if her short tenure won’t earn her one. The brutal British press ran a picture of Liz next to a head of lettuce while all this was going on and asked which would last the longest: Liz or lettuce. Lettuce won.
One of the coolest aspects of our time at Parliament was walking around the floor of the House of Commons. Thom enjoyed talking with one of the staff stationed there to ensure visitors didn’t do any damage. When he found out Thom was originally from NYC, they chatted about his trip there and that his lasting memory of NYC was a hot dog. Merits of a NYC “dirty dog” ensued. Next trip, he said he wanted to go to Durango and take the Silverton train, which we have taken twice so we told him it was worth the long trip from London. Just a few hours after we left, some climate protestors went on a similar guided tour and glued themselves to the PM seat in the House of Commons and the police locked it all down. I felt pity for the kind staff member we had spoken to for after we left, he ended up having a helluva day ahead of him peeling the protestors off the furniture.
Two months later…
I was back in London again, this time on a Girls Trip and we got to experience Parliament up close and personal again this time. Parliament was in session, and we were first in line to see the House of Commons debate. Because we were there early, we were allowed to queue up and see the opening ceremonial Speaker’s Procession walk. This procession is very pomp and circumstance with various officials including the Speaker moving past the public and into the chamber. With police along the route monitoring, the public must stand, take off any hats and be silent as the procession moves by. No pictures are allowed. Now, as we were right up front and center for this event, when the Speaker walked by, I gave him a big smile and I got a wink in return. My moment of infamy interacting with UK leadership. I would highly recommend getting there early to see this iconic UK experience.
IF YOU GO
For history and information on the UK Parliament, check out their Wikipedia page here: Parliament of the United Kingdom – Wikipedia.
Check online to see the Parliament calendar in advance of your trip Lords Recess dates – UK Parliament. This will determine whether you can sit in the gallery and watch the proceedings or, if they are not in session, you can take a tour and see all the chambers. Both experiences are very interesting, and I highly recommend.