Today was much less structured, and much more on the whim.
My route was just as confusing in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. Even though I was moving due east, there are trails all over the place in every direction. I had two stops that I wanted to take: the Prince Albert Memorial, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. As a result, I was always checking maps to see if I was still going in the right direction.
As soon as I got set up, I could hear the Band of the Welsh Guards starting to play from behind me. They came up and through the gate, along with the New Guard. They started performing their duties behind the gate, when suddenly we could hear another band playing behind us!
To our surprise, another band and another group of soldiers emerged, carrying the flag of...Canada! There are two bands that perform, and today it was the Royal Canadian Artillery Band. The Queen's Guard (that are at St. James' Palace and come over for the changing of the guard before returning) was Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Apparently they are serving as the Queen's Guard until July 3, and are being led by a female infantry officer for the first time ever - Captain Megan Couto. (She did it for the first time on Monday.)
I'm glad I did it, and I'm thrilled I got there right when it started. But I don't know if I would ever do it again.
I walked down The Mall and found Regency Street, where I had lunch at Shoryu Ramen. I had the standard tongkotsu ramen (pork), and it was very, very good! Best of all, it wasn't a large portion, so I slurped it all down gladly.
The queue was quite small, which was great. I ended up going to the House of Commons (green), which is a little more loud and opinionated than the House of Lords. Before I could get there, I had to go through a security check point, get a badge, follow the directions of the staff members, sign an agreement that I wouldn't disrupt the session, drop off my purse at a coat check, and go up a bunch of stairs!
However, even through all of that, it was still pretty cool to be there. Not all the MPs were present, but those that did were discussing the Queen's Speech - mostly about Health, Social Care, and Security. The big topic was on tax cuts or raising pay for healthcare workers. A few of the MPs got pretty heated about the topic, and they were on both sides. A liberal kept saying that the tax cuts wouldn't be necessary because we could get money from the "big, giant Tory money tree" that is providing luxuries for the conservative properties. You could tell when their opinion was pointed because other MPs would chime in with a chorus of approval or dissention.
I have seen state government at work back in the States, but this was my first time seeing federal government, and it was great. I hope that I can see our US federal government at work sometime!
After leaving Westminster, I took the bus up to Covent Garden, where I was meeting up with a friend. We had arranged a meeting time and place, but I was so worried that I would get lost or be late that I ended up in the area an hour early! So I went to Covent Garden, which is a pretty hip district with restaurants, shops, sellers, and buskers all around. It is a common place to go for the evening hours.
I wandered along the main area of Covent Garden and made a few purchases (including some books for the nieces and nephew!) and my piece of London artwork to add to my collection.
My friend Valerie, who was a classmate of mine in high school and also went to China with the group I was in back in 2008, lives and works in London and invited me to one of her top restaurant choices in London. We ate outside and had fish and chips. The fish - it was cod, Dad - was good, but the chips were delicious! I was sad I couldn't eat more of the food. The waitress actually asked me if something was wrong, and I had to be honest and say I was just full!
We went to the Tube station together and split from there, and I got back to my hotel in record time. It was the latest I'd returned to the room in my three days, and I needed to set aside some time for packing, because tomorrow I am spending the night in a new location outside of London! I can't wait to share my travels with you!
Read about my experience at the Harry Potter Studio HERE!