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July 14, 2015 / Jim Fenton

Europe Day 7: London Day 1

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Globe Theatre stage and seating

Globe Theatre stage and seating

Our first day in London began with a trip to the new Globe Theatre, a reproduction of the theatre many of Shakespeare’s plays were presented in long ago. The original theaters are long gone, but a few years ago an American philanthropist, Sam Wanamaker, spearheaded the building of a new theater in the original style. We took a tour of the open-air theater, and got an appreciation from our tour guide what an awful experience (by today’s standards) it must have been to attend or put on those performances several hundred years ago, before frequent bathing and while body lice and fleas were common. Yecch!

After the tour we went through the exhibits, with more on the life of Shakespeare, much like what we experienced at Stratford-upon-Avon. I did get to see a crumhorn (musical instrument) which turned out to be a woodwind, much different from the brass instrument I had pictured.

Entrance hall en route to Parliament

Entrance hall en route to Parliament

Our next stop was at the Parliament Building. I asked the guard if it might be possible to hear the House of Commons in session, and after making sure we didn’t have any sharp objects with us we were invited in, through metal detectors, into a great hall. We passed through that hall and a couple of smaller ones, and waited briefly to be called on to proceed up to the gallery. Much like visiting the U.S. Congress, there was a checkroom where they take your mobile phones, cameras, and other electronic devices, only here the attendants were smartly dressed in white tie and tails.

The House of Commons was much more orderly than I had been led to believe, although there were shouts of “hear, hear!” and of dissent from time to time. The debate was interesting, dealing with addressing differences on voting ages between the UK and the EU. We left after a couple of the 8-minute speeches.

On our way down, one of the staff asked if we would like to visit the House of Lords as well. Of course we did. The Lords’ chamber is considerably older than the Commons chamber, and somewhat more gilded. It was also more intimate, both because it was smaller and because it didn’t have a glass divider between us and the proceedings like Commons does. We heard some of the question session at the beginning of the day where the Lords ask questions of one of the government ministers, and the announcement of legislation being introduced by various Lords.

Afterwards we walked by Westminister Abbey but decided not to visit because of limited time. We returned to our hotel to change clothes for the evening.

Queen's Theatre, waiting for Les Misérables to begin

Queen’s Theatre, waiting for Les Misérables to begin

We had tickets to see the long-running production of Les Misérables this evening. I found a high-rated Italian restaurant on Yelp, Bocca Di Lupo, and we were able to get reservations. We dressed up and had a very enjoyable dinner. Les Mis was of course wonderful; Celeste had a particular appreciation for the production having been an assistant stage manager for a youth production of it this past spring.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in Europe. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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