Today we joined a 75-minute guided tour through one of London’s landmarks—the houses of  Parliament in Westminster Palace! Tours can be booked through the website www.parliament.uk. Self-guided audio tours come at £18.50 per adult, guided tours ring up at £25.50. However, if that is too expensive for you, there is good news: for some reason the parliament offers the exact same package for free. If you want to make use of it, you have to contact your local member of parliament (MP). It is at this point that we owe a big shoutout to our local MP, Rt Hon Keir Starmer, who is now Brexit shadow secretary. One email was enough and our visit was immediately scheduled. Think of Brexit what you will, but if he manages Brexit only half as efficiently as these tour bookings, the UK has nothing to fear.

Back to our tour: our guide was friendly, knowledgeable and professional. He told us interesting anecdotes about the queen and history of the building and had an answer to every obscure question anyone from our group asked. At the outset, we were told photography is strictly not allowed except in the entrance area. So, the photos that you see were drawn before the tour started. Afterwards, we were shown many galleries, including the Queen’s dressing room. Apparently the Queen comes to the parliament a few times in a year, but an enormous room bigger than a medium-sized London apartment is reserved for her so that she can prepare to administer the official opening ceremony of each term in the parliament. She will use the room to put on her blue robe and equipment, such as a ceremonial mace. Another fun fact is before Queen arrives, the route that she is going to walk on will be paved with a special blue carpet, to demonstrate the royalty.

It is also worth noting that the palace is equipped with plenty of seating: benches, chairs, stools, thrones—they have it all! However, the palace enforces the extremely questionable policy that seating is off limits for all visitors. So, visitors should bring enough endurance to stand throughout the 60-90 minutes tour. Or, alternatively, bring a foldable chair and get rich by charging visitors that are about to collapse.

  今天我們在倫敦標誌建築西敏宫國會大廈,參加一個長達75分鐘的免費導賞團!

導賞團可在網站www.parliament.uk預訂。語音導賞的費用為每位成人18.50英鎊,而真人導賞團為25.50英鎊。太貴?好消息:只要向所居轄地的議員(MP)報名,便能參加相同但免費的導賞團!本地議員Rt Hon Keir Starmer(現職英國脫歐的影子秘書)十分幫忙,他們甫收到我們的電郵便旋即替我們報了名參觀。假設英國脫歐後,如他閣管理英國脫歐的效率及上此一半,英國似乎就沒有什麼需要擔心了。

至於導賞團,講解人十分友善,知識淵博,表現專業。他口述女王和建築歷史的有趣軼事,盡答團中的每一勺鑽問題。進入後禁止攝影,故這些照片是在開始之前拍攝的。打開大門後,映入眼簾是極多房廊,包括英女王的更衣室。雖然女王一年只到議會數次,但該處仍有至少一個比倫敦中型公寓更大的房間是為她而設,讓她準備主持議會任期的開幕典禮。屆時女王會在房中換上藍色長袍和佩戴珠寶儀杖。另一趣事是,女王到達前,她預先排好會走的路線會被蓋上特別的藍地毯,彰顯皇家氣派。

最後值得一提的是,宮中有各式座椅:長梳化、長木椅、凳子、女王寶座,但令人不解的是,遊客不得坐上此等座位。因此,遊客需有足夠的體力維持60至90分鐘站立不倒。如果您帶了折疊椅子,向要休息坐一坐的遊客收費而賺到錢,也未可知呢。

 

Categories: History 歷史