Thursday, July 3

Today was our busiest day yet! We started by taking the Tube to the London Eye, which is the largest ferris wheel in the world. It was built for the Millennium celebration, and is sponsored by British Airways. It goes at a slow, constant speed that allows passengers to get on and off without stopping it. There were about 50 capsules that could each hold 15 people. Each capsule had automatic doors, windows on every side, and a bench. It seemed like an airplane, because it had a voice that told us not to jump around and to enjoy our flight! From atop the Eye, you could see all of London and beyond; it was amazing! ~David

After walking back across the Thames, we stopped at the Houses of Parliament and lucked in to the opportunity to see the House of Commons and the House of Lords in session. After about an hour wait (and multiple security searches), we were escorted into the "Strangers Gallery" of the House of Commons. Here we observed the "MP's" (Members of Parliament) in open debate on several topics including the National Lottery, the appointment of a Minister of Children, and when the House would be recessing for the summer (very important decision!). The debate was hugely entertaining, and far different from the U.S. Congress. The MP's shouted "Here, Here!" in support of speakers, laughed openly and often interrupted each other. We were allowed in the Strangers Gallery for as long as we wanted, and then were escorted to the House of Lords where we observed the end of a debate on humanitarian aid to Iraq. This was a great and very educational experience for us all. ~Steve


Additional observations on the Houses of Parliament:

- The clerks wore wigs
- The MP's often leaned way back in their seats, and put their feet up on the benches in front of them (very casual!)
- While the MP's addressed the Speaker, he often was not paying attention - instead he was talking to others who approached him from behind
- To the Speaker's right was the Government (current the Labour Party), and to his left was the Opposition (the Conservative Party)
- The Opposition at several points openly criticized the Speaker, and the Speaker at one point interrupted an MP, stating bluntly that he wouldn't allow the MP to continue


After the Houses of Parliament, we walked to Westminster Abbey, the most famous church in England. The entrance to the Abbey is stunning because of its height (102 feet or 31 meters), the detail of the cathedral's stone ceiling and the beautiful rose window (all stained glass). The Abbey was built in the Gothic style between the 11th and 19th centuries, and has been the site of all coronations since William the Conqueror in 1066. It is also the burial site of many kings and queens including Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, and many famous citizens such as Chaucer, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. ~Paula

After a quick lunch, we walked to Trafalgar Square in central London. This square commemorates the victory of British naval commander Viscount Horatio Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The area for the square was cleared of old stables in 1832, and then developed by John Nash. It is known for its 170 foot Corinthian column called Nelson's column, and its two fountains which were erected in 1934. When we arrived, we saw lots of tourists and locals just hanging out by the fountains, sitting on the stairs, and feeding the pigeons! It was quite a scene, and was very cool! ~David

We then went to the National Gallery, one of the principal art museums in the world. The museum focuses on European painting from the 13th through the 20th centuries. Here we saw great works by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir and many others. The museum overlooks Trafalgar square - a very impressive setting. ~Steve

At night we attended the Shakespearean performance of Richard II at the Globe Theater. The theater has been built so that it replicates the original London Shakespeare theater of the 1500's. It is an open air, round theater with space for "groundlings" (people who stand around the stage) and three levels of covered seats around the perimeter of the circle. The performance was an all-male cast (even the women were played by men as in the original plays) and the script used Shakespeare's original iambic style. The costumes were from the 1500's as well. It was difficult to get used to Shakespeare's language at first. However, within 20 minutes, we all had a feel for the story line and characters and by the end of the play we were able to understand most of the dialog (having a written synopsis of the story that we all read beforehand definitely helped). The story of Richard II provided insight into the problems and conflicts associated with a country ruled by a King who inherits his throne. ~Paula

Personal Impressions - I already miss home, but don't regret taking this trip. I am extremely exhausted, excited and am feeling quite adventurous. I can't wait to leave England to explore other parts of the world! ~David

Distance Walked: 4.83 miles












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