This was our special treat day. My lovely sister, C. had recommended a visit to watch a session of Parliament as a particularly fun thing to do. So we went over to check it out. Its a bit of a odd moment when you realize that,yes, that nice young man at the gates is indeed holding an Uzi. Hordes of tourists were wandering around, but we managed to find our way into the Visitor’s entrance. A lovely young thing (the equivalent to an American Congressional aide) guided us into the building and told us to ‘queue up.’ She also warned us that since the PM would be taking questions, we were unlikely to be able to watch — everyone wants to see those sessions. We were very excited — to see Blair doing something that makes intelligent Americans WISH we had a similar setup in our government is a wonderful event. (We’d watched the PMs Questions on CSPAN on a couple of occasions at home.)
Â It was a long wait — almost two hours. A rumor flew through the line that all the seats were taken, and at least one person ahead of us left. We hung on. And were rewarded! After a long climb up something like 6 flights of stairs (narrow and winding) and through another security search we were admitted into the Visitor’s Gallery. Yes, we got to see Mr. Blair taking any and all questions that came his way for 1/2 hour! The seats were medieval — barely enough room for me to fit my knees in, and I was defintiely getting to know the person next to me very well. J. just turned sideways and put his knees into the aisle. We laughed out loud. We wondered whether that question was as barbed as it sounded. It was great fun.
We emerged back into the city and began to walk away from the river. (I think it was north.) We passed Westminster Abbey, but didn’t actually realize what it was. or something. For whatever reason, we didn’t stop.
By that time we were feeling a bit peckish and started to look for a suitable place to eat lunch (it was already almost 2pm). A lovely menu at The Abbey called to us and we made our way down a broad flights of stairs into one of the loveliest bar/restaurants I’ve ever seen. Clearly this was a place for people to make important plans over a good (and probably a expensive) drinks. We were shown a small table in an upstairs area and given menus. Then we were ignored for 15 mins. Our foreign waitress (J. guessed Eastern Europe, I was betting on Cockney) took our orders and disappeared. And then we waited. And Waited. And waited some more. A couple seated after us was served. And still we waited.
Finally, (I mean, we were ready to leave) our food came. I’d ordered grilled salmon on a bed of greens, and J. had nachos. My salmon had apparently been poached (UGH) in tap water before placed quickly on a grill to get some char marks. It was essentially flavorless — no salt, no lemon. Just the faintest essence of some kind of fish remained. I couldn’t even taste the grill. J. nachos were worse. Let’s start with the fact that they were deep fried wonton skins, not tortilla chips. the ‘salsa’ was essentially ketchup with cayenne pepper in it to make it hot. Finally, all of the cheese had been mounded on the top, so the middle and lower layers were just chips, no topping. Absolutely the worst meal we had, the entire stay.
Hoping to chake the effects of that horrid time, we headed towards Westminster Cathedral. This is a glorious edifice with some of the most elaborate mosaic work I have ever seen. There were altars to the Saints of each of the British Isles: St. Patrick (Ireland) ;Â St. David (Wales); St. Andrew (Scotland); and St. George (England). Lovely marble work as well.
By then we were feeling a bit tired, and had a late night ahead of us, so we went home for a quick rest. At about 5:30 we took the tube to Leicster Square — the theatre district. Here we had a simply superb meal at Bertorelli. Yes, another Italian restaurant. We shared an appetizer of baked squid stuffed with shrimp (yum) and I had grilled sea bass (so very good) while J. had one of the best lasagna’s ever. Replete, and with lunch firmly banished, we made our way to the Prince Edward theatre to see Mary Poppins. (What better to see in London than that?)
We had superb seats, about 8 rows from the stage and the production was nice. (I’m no fan of musicals, so I’ll go by J.’s enjoyment). I’m glad I splurged and we did this — it was a great memory to have. (Although, I keep hearing supercaligfragiliciousexpealidocius! as a song running through my head at odd times.)