Hello everyone! I hope everyone is enjoying themselves and getting excited for Thanksgiving! I'm doing very well, except I'm busy writing papers...or procrastinating, but the papers will get done, I promise! There has just been a lot going on this weekend in terms of Christmas markets, trips and get togethers. On Friday, I joined the Modern British Political History class on their trip to the Westminster District of London. I'm not in the class, but the professor is also my tutorial professor, and he invited me along. I'll never turn down a free trip to London!
Our first stop on the mini-tour of Westminster were the Cabinet War Rooms, which were used by Winston Churchill and his cabinet during World War II. It is an underground bunker that they stayed in to remain safe from the bombings happening in the city. When they war was over, everyone was so happy to get out of the bunker, that they dropped everything and left, leaving it almost exactly the way it was to this day. It was really interesting to see the exact rooms where Churchill lived, worked, and planned the British movements in the war from. After the tour of the museum, we had time to go to lunch. We headed toward Trafalger Square and saw some great things along the way:
-Ministry of Defense buildings-
-St. James's Park with Buckingham Palace in the background (the Queen was in residence) -
-10 Downing Street, Home of the Prime Minister-
-Royal Horse Guards Parade-
-World War II Monument-
-Another shot of the Royal Horse Guards Parade-
-and finally Trafalger Square!-
We headed to lunch then, and what better place to go in London than a Tex-Mex place! It was called The Texas Embassy, and actually was the site of the Texan Embassy when it was it's own country way back when. Delicious food, and a cool atmosphere, it was like a little slice of home. It is incredibly hard to find Mexican food, especially in Bath, so this was a real treat!
After lunch, we headed back down to the Houses of Parliament, passing some Royal Guards outside Whitehall Palace and a memorial to those killed in foreign wars. Every Remembrance Day (November 11), there is a huge parade, culminating in members of the royal family placing flowers at the foot of this monument. Everyone also wears little red poppies on their shirts to remember those who have died in wars. If you look closely at the picture, there is a reef on the left with a white plume. These are actually three white feathers, the insignia of the Prince of Wales. Below it there is a larger reef shaped like a hat. This is the Queen's reef, which is a new design every year.
We got really lucky with the weather, and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben looked beautiful in the sporadic sunlight. Fun fact: only British citizens are allowed to climb to the top of Big Ben and stand behind the clock face, no one else.
I thought was incredibly interesting that they decided to put a statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the houses of Parliament. Cromwell led the Parliamentarians against King Charles I in the English Civil war, and won. However, Cromwell then became a quasi-dictator, as Lord Protector, and forcefully dismissed Parliament twice with troops. Parliament eventually decided to get rid of the Protectorship and invited back Charles II to take the throne. It seems silly to have Cromwell in a place of honor outside Parliament, but whatever. Also, there was a statue of Richard I, who ruled in the 13th Century, long before parliament was ever even thought of. Interesting...
Here is the main entrance hall into the Houses of Parliament. It was also here that Charles I was tried. William Wallace was also tried here. Both were found guilty of their crimes and executed.
The House of Lords was much more impressive than the House of Commons. It had deep red carpets and chairs, a massive throne for the queen, and beautiful decorations all around. In the one entrance room, all along the wall were life size portraits of all the Tudor and Stuart Monarchs, and lining the many hallways were beautiful paintings of historic scenes. The House of Commons had ugly green seats and was very plain. I would definitely want to be in the Lords if I had the option.
It was really cool to be able to see the seat of government in England, especially since I haven't seen Congress at home. It was a whirlwind tour of Westminster, done in one day, but we had a great time. Papers continue this week, and Thursday we are having a Thanksgiving dinner for the whole program. A nice little piece of home! Then, on Friday, I go to Chawton with my Jane Austen Class. More updates then!