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Our Adventure to the Southeast of England and London

Our Adventure to the Southeast of England and London

Old Sep 5th, 2014, 03:52 AM
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Europeannovice:

More please...

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Old Sep 5th, 2014, 07:45 AM
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I'll join the Chorus . . . more
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Old Sep 5th, 2014, 12:01 PM
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Hear, hear! Keep Calm and Carry On With Your Trip Report!
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 12:22 PM
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Sorry to keep everyone in suspense! Glad people are interested. I got really really busy now that we are back.

Only two days left to report! I like doing this as a good way to relive the memories of the trip. Plus if it helps someone else with their planning even better.

DAY 13 JEWEL TOWER, FRISKED AT PARLIAMENT, TATE BRITAIN AND BILLY ELLIOTT

Well the day started off as usual with breakfast at Cafe Forum. We were regulars that week. Then we took a quick tube ride over to Westminster. It was too early to check in for our 11:20AM tour--they want you to arrive 20 minutes before but not sooner. We dashed across the street and visited Jewel Tower with our English Heritage Pass. I forgot to mention that Apsley House was also an English Heritage Property and we used our passes there too the other day. We really made very good use of those passes.

Jewel Tower is a very small venue but it is only one of two surviving structures from the original Palace of Westminster. The other is Westminster Hall. It was constructed to house King Edward III's valuables back in 1365. Over time it was used by Parliament to house important documents including the parliaments agreement to execute King Charles I if I remember reading that correctly.

Now it was time to go through security at Parliament. The first security officer asked me to go over to the other area while my DH and DS went to the opposite side. We said we were together and they told us we will meet back after we are through.

Well DH and DS went through the security scan and I got pulled aside by this officious woman. She first used the body scanner on me. I didn't think I look like Guy Fawkes (I didn't say anything to her at this point and just complied) but after the body scanner she tells me she needs to pat me down. I mentioned I didn't receive this treatment at the airport. Interesting how tight security is here even when all the MP's are gone. She felt me everywhere which was very uncomfortable. Then she says, "what do you have in your front pocket?" and I pulled out my dirty used tissue that had been crumpled in my pocket. "Oh I thought it was a tissue" she says. Then she proceeds to ask me to turn around so she can feel my back. I think she was enjoying her job too much. I felt so uncomfortable I asked her if she was going to give me a back rub while she was at it. I had no metal on me and I didn't ring off any of the sensors, she just decided I was going to be the one she wanted to frisk.

Well after that experience I met back up with my family and we waited for the tour time. Now the guide we had to give us the tour was a delight. She walked us through many of the rooms of parliament and we stopped at each one with a little lecture and question and answer session in each.

The central hall has the high beams and stained glass windows. You can take pictures here but then you have to close your camera.

We visited the House of Lords which Queen Victoria helped decorate. It was beautiful and ornate from of course the Victorian era. Some of the paintings she commissioned were done by art students. The intricacy of the walls and the colors used were striking.

We learned that the members of the House of Lords can advise on a bill but can't vote on them. Only the MP's from the House of Commons can vote on bills. They used to be able to hold up the process (filibustering) for 4 years but now there is a 1 year limit on that type of activity. We also learned that since the members of the House of Lords are appointed for life and each prime minister selects their own additional lords, the total number of Lords has grown to about 800. Too many to fit in the chamber at one time.

Moving on to the House of Commons which was damaged during the war and was refurnished with items donated by the various commonwealth countries. The House of Commons looks much bigger when it is broadcast on BBC television which we can watch on cable TV from the states. The microphones hang down to capture every speaker. Each political party has to stay on their side of the chamber and they can't cross the tape which represents a sword length.

As you visit they point out the door that has damage from years of being banged on when the House of Parliament is scheduled to open with the Queen's visit.

Overall it was a very informative and interesting tour. I just wished I didn't go through that type of security that I did. No one else around me seemed to have received the same treatment that day.

We had arranged to have afternoon tea at Parliament on the terrace which you can book at the same time as the tickets for the guided tour. What a great close up view of Big Ben and the London Eye behind it. A great angle for a picture on the outside terrace. They provide the little finger sandwiches and scones and some other sweets along with the tea. I have to say I enjoyed the tea at Claridges a few years back much much better. This was a nice little break though. My son did not like it. He was still hungry. At Claridges they provide as many savory refills as you want. Here you get the one tiny tray full.

Guess what, while we were sipping our tea, it started to pour again. I thought England had a dry summer. What happened the week we were there? The rains came back. We waited for the rain to let up a little then we left parliament. They escort you out to the restrooms and wait for you and then show you out the door.

We took bus #87 to Tate Britain. We could have walked but again it was raining so we opted for the short bus ride. First stop the museum cafeteria so son could eat a decent sandwich.

The Tate Britain has been revamped recently. It is based in chronological order of British Art from the 1500's to 1900's. My goal was to see the John Singer Sargeant Lily, lily, carnation, rose (I might have the words wrong). Wow! What a play on light and the girls just look delightful. Plus there is another painting nearby that also does a wonderful play on light.

We moved on to the Turner Collection which has wonderful info on his life and a very large collection of his paintings. I enjoyed that exhibit very much.

The modern stuff in the building I just don't get. There is an elephant lifting car doors. There is an old matress sandwiched between rock and boulders. That kind of display is not my kind of art but to each his/her own. We spent a couple of hours at the Tate Britain and enjoyed it overall.

Back on the bus #2 this time to Kazan, a Turkish restaurant in the Victoria area. DH and DS had chicken kebobs and they liked theirs. I had a lamb dish that was too fatty.

Back when we were home I had pre-ordered tickets for front row center dress circle for Billy Elliott at the Victoria Palace Theater. The kids dancing were phenomenal. They do a parody of Margaret Thatcher in one scene and everyone was laughing. My son laughed too then whispered to me (who was she?). I quietly explained the Prime Minister during the coal miners strike where the setting is for the play. We all thought Billy Elliott was great.

There is much construction going on by the Victoria station these days. We took the Victoria station tube back to Gloucester Road. A very late night and a full day.

NEXT: LAST FULL DAY IN LONDON NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, LONDON WALKS INNS OF COURT, TATE MODERN MATISSE CUT OUTS
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 12:49 PM
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Tee hee -- that 'old mattress' was by Tracy Emin's bed which was sold this summer for more than <B>2.5 MILLION £££££££</B> ($4,000,000+) and is on loan back at the Tate thanks to its German buyer.

I saw the same piece 15 years ago when it was on display for the Turner Prize.
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 01:07 PM
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£ 2.5M for that old mattress and it does look old and worn!!! Is there 5M stuffed in between the mattress and boulders that no one else knows about???

As they say art is in the eye of the beholder. One man's garbage is another man's treasure. I can go on...

And what did you think of it? I liked the elephant head lifting the car doors better.
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 01:17 PM
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https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/cragg-stack-t07428

Actually, Janisj we didn't see the Tracy Emin's bed which I just looked up. We saw the attached link which is called stack. There is an old dilopidated mattress buried in the wood, brick etc. in this piece.
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 01:21 PM
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https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks...lephant-t07169

Here is the elephant head lifting the car doors.
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 01:28 PM
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I haven't seen the elephant (maybe I'll hit the Tate when I'm in town late this month)

The bed is supposed to be a representation of the mess Tracey E's life was back in the late 90's. Apparently she was severely depressed at the time and this was her actual bed/bed clothes, etc. after she had been hunkered down for several days.

Unmade, liquor bottles, cigarette butts, condoms, etc.

Tate Britain is always thought provoking to me w/ the amazing Turner collection (the main reason I go back over an over), and beautiful works like Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (yes, the light is absolutely ethereal) and then some really 'weird' installation art and Turner Prize exhibits.
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 01:37 PM
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Yeah--we missed the Tracy Emin's bed. Sorry for the confusion on my description of the piece. The £2.5M bed depicting her life was not yet on display when we visited.

The elephant one and stack certainly were there. Son liked the elephant with the car doors. I much prefer carnation, lily, lily rose and the Turner Collection.

Carnation, lily, lily, rose. I knew I got the description mixed up in my earlier post. The light is truly breathtaking. I wish I remembered the other painting that also plays on light right nearby. Another stunning work by a different artist too.
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 02:46 PM
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Oh - I just googled (I read about the bed's sale and loaning to the Tate over the summer) . . . It isn't on display yet -- details will be announced 'in the Fall' . . . so you did see a different mattress.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 03:55 AM
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Hi again EUROPEANNOVICE,

Thanks for the details about the Jewel Tower and your tour of Parliament. How much in advance did you get your tickets. I thought you had to be British to go on these tours. Can you clarify? It is a most imposing building and the terrace provides such a great views.

Then on to the Tate Britain - "My goal was to see the John Singer Sargeant Lily, lily, carnation, rose (I might have the words wrong). Wow!" Indeed, the painting is magnificent. Really stands out. Believe it or not, it was shown in Boston a few years ago in a huge retrospective of Sargent's watercolors. Did you see the restored black and while staircase at the front of the building? Very dramatic.

Glad you all enjoyed Billy Elliot - always gets strong reviews. Then you mentioned "There is much construction going on by the Victoria station these days" No kidding! I got so sidetracked after leaving Victoria station that I had to grab a cab to get to the Queen's Gallery which is attached to Buckingham Palace!

To be continued...
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 05:34 AM
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>>I thought you had to be British to go on these tours. Can you clarify?<<

That was the case for a few years. But now anyone can get a tour and even take tea. Not that the europeannovice's are <i>just anyone
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 05:52 AM
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I am apparently a person of interest to that one security guard. Yuk.

You have to be British and get approval from your MP if you want to take a private tour and also if you want to climb the bell tower Big Ben. Otherwise, anyone can take the public tours and afternoon tea on the terrace only on Saturdays during session and during the week when parliament is at recess. You can take the guided tour with or without the tea. We opted for the tea.

Besides security it was a fascinating tour. Very informative and our group asked a lot of questions (me included) so we really learned a lot about the parliamentary system and about the building.

At the Tate Britain we entered right by the black and white staircase. It is pretty impressive.

The tube is undergoing major works again. Victoria station is under construction and Gloucester Road piccadilly line is closed until Dec. Even the national rail lines undergo maintenance. When we wanted to go to Bletchley Park we couldn't go on the weekend due to track works. It was operating a normal schedule for commuters during the week. Always something to look out for when visiting a major city. That's why it is wise to build in extra travel time when expecting to go somewhere throughout the day.

Yes, Janisj a different mattress indeed! You might catch it during your visit if they display it by the end of the month.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 11:11 AM
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Hi JANISJ,

"But now anyone can get a tour and even take tea." Interesting.

You may recall my description of my private tour of Parliament with the family of one of my students back in 2011. Her uncle was an MP from northern Wales. You were amused that I met the illustrious Mr. Skinner.

I am glad that the public has more access now to the outside terrace. We "took tea" sort to speak there also. Fabulous views.

That day remains a favorite travel memory ...
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 11:20 AM
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Oh I had forgot that - Dennis Skinner (I once ran into him crossing over from Parliament Square and said 'hi'.)

I've toured Parliament 3 or 4 times, once ages ago as a guest of our local MP and had lunch w/ him, and then about 15 years ago when I took 13 friends to London and the Cotswolds and we got a private tour. Haven't been inside in over 10 years.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 11:58 AM
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So I wonder what parts are included in the private tour that are inaccessible on the public tour other than the ability to climb the clock tower?

I really enjoyed the tour. So much nicer, better than our tour of the Capital Building. Then again consider the age of the House of Parliament compared to ours.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 02:15 PM
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Hi EUROPEANNOVICE,


"So I wonder what parts are included in the private tour that are inaccessible on the public tour other than the ability to climb the clock tower?"

I will quote from my trip report of 2011

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...parliament.cfm

"We went around to St. Stephen’s Gate of Parliament where Amy’s brother, MP Chris Ruane, a member since 1997 from the Vale of Clwyd in North Wales, greeted us warmly. What a great guy! Chris had been a teacher and principal in Wales before entering Parliament. We went through security where we were each given a lanyard with our photo on it. Chris whipped us through the waiting lines and into Westminster Hall with its heavy timbered ceiling, one of the few structures to survive the devastating fire of 1834. Chris’s focus on the tour was to engage the children, especially young Nate, by emphasizing some of the gruesome anecdotes of British history as they had played out in these hallowed halls.


Many public tours were in progress, but Chris took us to several restricted areas including the magnificent Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft which also survived the fire. The Chapel “contains five vaulted bays and clustered columns of polished Purbeck marble. Its ceiling is decorated with fanciful carvings of foliage, dragons, musical angels and the heads of men and beasts, and its floor is paved with tiles mixed with marble.” Gorgeous! The Chapel is now considered a “Royal Peculiar” which means it is not under the jurisdiction of a bishop, but is under the monarch's control. Members may use the Chapel, Chris told us, for family weddings, christenings, and the like. We also visited a private sitting room which is used as a nursery/playroom for MP’s children. With so many young Members, Chris explained, this area come in handy when families visit on particularly long days in session.


Strolling through the halls, I was intrigued by the statues of former prime ministers about whom I had read, particularly Disraeli, Gladstone and, of course, Sir Winston. In passing, Chris also introduced us to several Members who greeted us cordially. One was a very distinguished looking gentleman, Dennis Skinner, a leading Labor member since 1970. When Chris said, “Helen is from Boston,” Mr. Skinner replied, “How about those Red Sox last night?” What a charmer! The next day I saw him on TV tearing into Mr. Murdock in the Parliamentary hearings on the scandal.


We then proceeded through the House of Commons, where the Members’ seats are green leather, and through to the House of Lords, where the upholstery is red. Chris admonished us NOT to sit on or touch benches. He pointed out a plexi-glass bullet/bomb proof screen in the visitors’ gallery of Commons installed after an assault with purple powder (feared to be anthrax) on Tony Blair some years ago.


Passing through the baronial chamber that joins both Houses, I noticed a small sign: “Members, please do not leave coats on the benches” or words to that effect. Chris then took us by the Members’ coatroom and told his favorite story. When he was a newly elected, he asked the butler/major domo, “What are those red hooks for on all of the coat hangers?” Reply: “Sir, one hangs one’s sword on those.” Chris immediately went out and bought a red plastic child’s sword which dangles on his hanger to this day.


Time for refreshment. We passed by the very elegant, formal dining room (Amy assured me that dining there is a great treat) through to the Commons cafeteria where we selected our snacks to be eaten on the lovely porch of Parliament which commands a great view of the Thames. The sun peeked out at that moment. What a treat! Shortly we said our “good-byes,” after taking a few pics under Big Ben. I thanked Chris and parted with my friends from home who were heading off to ride the London Eye."

EUROPEANNOVICE - sorry this is so long but it was a very special day for me.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 04:04 PM
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Latedaytraveler,

Thanks for the re-post of your 2011 visit to Parliament. It seemed to be a great private tour. I am glad you enjoyed it. Very special indeed! Even the public tour was very good. I also loved the view from the terrace.

On our tour the guide mentioned that someone is held "hostage" on the day the Queen visits Parliament for its official opening and the "hostage" is released when the Queen is safely returned to the Palace. This occurs because it was dangerous for royalty to go to Parliament ever since what happened to Charles I.

So someone in our audience asked what will happen when Prince Charles becomes King. It appears it could be a problem he said. The guide quipped, well Charles seems to be a problem anyway doesn't he? We all laughed. We had a great session with the guide. Many questions asked and answered and a lot learned throughout the tour with a good dose of humor thrown in too.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 10:28 PM
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Skinner "the beast of Bolsover" was always a wit and the master of one liners. His actual performance in debate was far weaker and IMO he was soft on Murdoch as they all were.
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