I didn’t walk quite as much today as I did yesterday.
Mostly, it was because two of the attractions I went to involved standing in line and the third was all sitting.
With a rather late start to the day, I decided to pick a point and explore around it. I had mentioned in an Instagram post that I was planning on getting closer to Big Ben today and I very well succeeded.
The clock tower was looming over pedestrians right at the exit of Westminster Underground Station.
As the Parliament building was right there, I thought I would visit. It wasn’t something I had done before and was hoping maybe to get closer or even inside Big Ben.
However, admission only allows so many entrants every 20 minutes and since I had come by lunch time, a good portion of the day was already full. The next available entrance time was three hours or so later.
I took it anyways, figuring I could fill my time with something else nearby. And of course, right next to the Parliament Building is Westminster Abbey.
I can’t remember whether I went into the Abbey last time I was in London. Since no pictures are allowed inside the space, I have nothing to reference. We must have gone in, but I thought it was worth to go just in case.
The Abbey is an interesting place. The hall for worship is beautiful and the sections where the choir sings, coronations take place, and the most recent royal wedding happened are exquisite. The rest is an interesting mixture of tombs, memorials, and out of the way rooms for prayer.
Some of the most interesting for me were G. F. Handel, David Livingstone, Sir Issac Newton, Henry Purcell, Charles Dickens, all three Brontë sisters, Shakespeare, and sister queens Elizabeth and Mary. There were many musicians, literary artists, politicians, and of course, members of the royal family from across (literally) centuries were represented there.
Westminster is an active church, holding services every Sunday and holding moments of prayer every hour throughout the week. How interesting it must be to attend a church with so much history and that most people view only as a historical symbol. Also, I can’t imagine working at the Abbey.
To be in charge of music (official title being Organist and Master of Choristers) or even to be a member of the Abbey choir must be such an amazing honor and a heavy burden, knowing the great standard of musicianship that is expected.
In case anyone is interested, there is an annual apprenticeship position in the Abbey to work along the official Organist and Master of Choristers and their two assistants. There are also other vacancies In case anyone is looking for something new and interesting to do.
I left the Abbey with just enough time to grab a quick sandwich, crisps (chips), and a Kinder Egg (illegal in the States, so I had to get one) before making my appointed time to the Parliament Building.
Now this building I know I had never been in before, and I’m so glad I chose to spend the couple of hours walking through and listening to the audio tour to learn more about how the United Kingdom’s government developed and functioned.
Part of the tour included visiting the rooms where the House of Lords and the House of Commons function and debate. Everything in the hall for the Lords was red and for the Commons green. Made for some interesting items in the shop afterwards.
There was a story shared about the position known as the Black Rod (House of Lords), which is like the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Commons. Back in 1642, someone from the House of Lords wanted to arrest five members from the House of Commons, but the members of the latter house refused to let it happen. Since then, there has been an annual ceremony of the Black Rod coming to the House of Commons to summon the MP’s to the State Opening Speeh of Parliament, but the door gets slammed in his face. This is supposed to represent the autonomy of power that the House of Commons has from the House of Lords. The Black Rod then has to knock on the door three times with his staff before he is attended to and finally can make the proper summons.
It’s an interesting display of tradition and ceremony that I would like to discuss further, but not at this time.
The Parliament Building overall is very grand and majestic. Sadly, we weren’t allowed nearer or inside Big Ben. I also don’t have too many pictures to share because like the Westminster Abbey, photos were allowed throughout most of the building.
Grabbing a hot tea in the cafe before leaving the Parliament Building, I was able to ask one of the staff what I should do with my evening (that didn’t involve drinking – he found that amusing). After thinking a bit, he suggested I go up to Leicester Square where I could find some cinemas that screened a wide variety of blockbuster, independent, and vintage films.
I made my way to the square and passed by yet another throwback to memories from 2009 – Trafalgar Square, the Lord Nelson column, the National Gallery, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Maybe I’ll be able to go back there tomorrow for a proper visit!
After walking another 10 minutes or so, I finally reached Leicester Square and started looking for the cinemas. Kind of hard when they are not clearly marked on maps and you don’t have cell service… But as I wandered around trying to find them, I noticed posters for different theatre productions. Then I realized the street name on one of the posters was the same as the street I was on and it hit me – I was in the West End!
I had to make a decision fast – performance started in roughly 45 minutes and there were so many to choose from! I wanted something that wasn’t going to be easy to find in Broadway or the Kennedy Center and that had a distinct British flavor to it.
All that in more was in the delightful show, “Half a Sixpence.” For £25, I had an amazing seat in the Noël Coward Theater to a show I knew nothing about and ended up thourougly enjoying. Sweet, heartwarming, and filled with fun songs and breataking choreography (especially from the lead actor), I could not have picked a better show to be my first experience on the West End.
If you are, or will be, in London in the near future, absolutely come see “Half a Sixpence.”
I hope in my time here I will be able to see some other performances, including something in the Globe and at the Royal Albert Hall. If I plan things right, I might be able to even meet with some of the administration of these organizations. Making connections is always a good thing. 🙂
A full day is gone and another is just ahead. Keep a look out for tomorrow’s post and don’t forget to check out my Instagram: @wanderingminstrelette