The Day Kate Spent Her 30th Birthday with Loyola

Trip Start Dec 27, 2011
Trip End Jan 11, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Monday, January 9, 2012

I was well rested for our early morning tour of Parliament. Upon arriving at Westminster, we went through security and reconvened at the front of Westminster Hall. We had a tour guide who took us around the inside of Parliament, but no photography was allowed. It is a shame, too, because some of the best sculptures of the Kings and Queens of the past are in the Parliament building. We started our tour at the top of a staircase. It was the staircase that Henry VIII took when visiting Parliament, and it is still how the Queen enters the building on opening day. She is met by the speaker of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, a visual representation of the three branches of the government coming together. We followed the path the Queen would take into the room where she would get ready. In this room, there is a guided throne that once belonged to Queen Victoria. No one has ever sat in the chair since. 

The last room before getting to the House of Lords is the Royal Room (formerly known as the Victoria Room). In this room, the tables are flanked on either side by two enormous paintings featuring victories of the English over the French. When dignitaries from other countries are invited to speak to the Parliament, this is the room generally utilized. However, four French Presidents have been invited to speak, and 1) the President spoke in a different room, 2) the paintings were covered, 3) the paintings were joked about as examples of what happens "when France and England quarrel," or 4) the paintings were ignored. 

The next room was decorated all around with paintings of the Tudors. Directly below the room, in the cellars, is where Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament on opening day on November 5. He was foiled, and to this day England celebrates the survival of Parliament. 

The final room on the tour of the Lords' side was the House of Lords. Everything in the room is red, as red is the color for nobility. During the opening of Parliament once a year, the Queen sits on a throne at the front of the room. From this vantage point, the Queen can see straight down the hall to the chair of the Speaker of the House of Commons, but she is not allowed anywhere near the room. During the ceremony, when the Queen is ready to give her speech (written by the Prime Minister), she signals to a messenger in the middle of the middle chamber (called Black Rod because of the staff that he carries with him). From this point, we changed from the Queen's footsteps to Black Rod's footsteps. As he nears the House of Commons, the right door is slammed. As he gets right on top of the doors, the left door is slammed in his face. He uses the end of his staff to knock three times, at which point a member of the House of Commons will tell the speaker that it is only Black Rod and he will be allowed inside. The reason for this ritual is because of Charles I, who took over the House of Commons when he received a list of complaints from members. When he came for the members he deemed responsible, the Speaker defied him (i.e. refused to answer). Black Rod is now used as a intermediary between the monarch and the House of Commons. When Black Rod has delivered the message to the House of Commons, the members follow him to the back of the House of Lords, where they stand to listen to the Queen's speech. 

After our tour of the Parliament building, we were back in Westminster Hall, where the original Courts of Justice used to sit. It used to be that your entire case would be heard in the hall within a day (from trial to sentencing). Many famous people were tried in the Hall, including Thomas Moore. The Hall also used to serve as a reception hall after the coronation of Kings. The King's Champion would ride on a white horse to the doors of Westminster Hall and challenge anyone who did not think that the King should be crowned to a duel. During the coronation of George IV, the Champion's white horse went lame and a circus horse was used. It is said that the pony, when everyone cheered, got confused and started doing tricks around the Hall. 

Thanks to Lord Michael Brougham, who met us after our tour, we were able to get in to the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft. The Chapel was commissioned by King Edward I in 1297. The chapel was heavily restored between 1860 and 1870 by Charles Barry's (the architect of the current Palace of Westminster) son, Edward, who tried to reproduce the earlier medieval decoration and vaulting in a neo-Gothic style. The Chapel is in use today by members of Parliament, and can be used by their families for weddings and christenings.  

After our tour officially ended, Katie and I ran back to Harrod's to pick up some last minute gifts and then came back to the room to take a nap before the banquet. The banquet was at Durrant's Hotel near Oxford Circus, which meant we had to leave around 5:15 in order to get there for a cocktail hour that started at 6:30 (we took a bus, not the tube). Chris and I claimed the front of the bus; it was a pretty nerve-wracking experience. When we walked in, Will and Kate were there to meet us. I got my picture taken with them, and we talked about how they enjoyed the premiere of War Horse the day before the banquet. (Ok, so it wasn't Will and Kate, but it was still pretty funny). There was a random lady passed out on the couch, and pretty soon she went "viral" with the amount of pictures we were taking. 

Dinner was delicious; the wine was plentiful. The wait staff never let your glass go empty (we had a choice of Vaquero 2009 Chardonnay or Arabella 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon). For dinner, we had salad of goat's cheese, carmelized walnuts and baby beetroot; grilled corn fed chicken breast with roasted root vegetables and thyme jus; and bread and butter pudding with vanilla ice cream and coffee. Professor Tingle was back, but luckily there was a previous student of the program who was also back and kept him occupied. At dessert, we all sang happy birthday to "Kate."

As we were leaving, Francis told me that he knew I was beautiful before, but when I pulled my hair back he could see how big my eyes were and how perfectly they were framed by my eyebrows. He is such a goofy old man; he's awesome!

Lindsey, Corinne, Colleen, Katie and I taxied back to Tesco to pick up some things for the Pajama Jam in the 4431. Dean Faught even came in his pajamas! 

We got in trouble for being loud three times. The first time was by a woman down the hall who asked us to be quiet. About ten minutes later, even though we were being much quieter and whispering, reception called and told us that we were not being quiet. When Christine told her that we thought we were, she said, "Well, you aren't," and threatened to come up with her supervisor if we did not keep it down. She was very adamant that it would be "very inconvenient for [us] and [our] guests." 

About an hour later, we get a knock on the door; it was the receptionist who was livid that she had to climb four flights of stairs and was having a hard time catching her breath (she almost sounded like she was about to cry). She asked us if we "were all adults," which is strange, since they sure are charging us like we are adults. She next asked if we wanted her to come back in 10 minutes and remind us to be quiet. In hindsight, we should have asked. 

The thing that irritated me most about the whole thing was that we were watching our sound and the woman jumped from "warning" to "scolding" without even stopping at the former. I want to know what the British equivalent of the BBB is because I would absolutely report this place. One, you don't talk to people as snarky as the way she was talking to us. Two, you 'effing clean our bathrooms and give us enough towels (and throwing a dirty towel over the radiator to dry does not count and is a good way to start a fire). Three, you don't leave your cleaning supplies in my room. Four, you keep everyone's room free of bugs (yeah that's what I said, bugs). 

I think we should write the Queen and tell her about the shenanigans that are going on at one of her patron organizations. 
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