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06 July 2017

London trip, day 4

Today (Saturday) is the day we have a tour of the Parliament scheduled for early afternoon. We set out in the morning to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We got there early to get a good spot to watch.

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It starts to get crowded, so we people-watch.

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We climb up and find a higher spot to view the changing of the guard.

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The view in the direction opposite to the Palace. We will soon walk down that way.

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The statue in front of where we are sitting:

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We wait for about 45 minutes. More people come, and we see some horses.

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We got tired of waiting. So we walked away, down through St. James Park. John has read that a smaller ceremony will be held in a little while at a place a few blocks away. The park is lovely, but those chairs are for rent, by day or by season.

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We walked through an area of very fancy shops, mostly for men's clothing and shoes. We also walked around a lot, looking for the next ceremony. A few people were gathering around the building below. But we never saw a ceremony!

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Next we walked to Westminster and picked up our tickets for the House of Parliament tour. It was an hour or so away, so we walked (and walked and walked) looking for a place to eat. Nothing! Then I spotted an outdoor stand that sold sandwiches and sweets. Perfect! We split a panini and a cookie and rested in peaceful Victoria park, right next to the Thames and the Parliament building.

The House of Parliament tour was fascinating and the tour guide a bit quirky. Photos were not allowed inside, so I have none to share.

We took the tube to Earl's Court to look for a restaurant for dinner. We found a great place! Turns out it was a chain. We had ravioli and spaghetti, nice portions. We dressed our salads using the bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil at the table, then ground salt and squeezed a fresh lemon on top, and used a special grinder to add Parmesan cheese. Dessert of raspberry and chocolate was delicious. Merlot was the wine.

A perfect day!

04 July 2017

London trip, day 3, lunch and Freemason building

By about 12:30, we were looking for lunch. The area around the British Museum is very touristy, very crowded, has lots of traffic. But in general, we like this part of old London, as it has less construction and lots of shops and places to eat. After looking at many restaurants, we end up at the Manitoba Tigella on New Oxford Street. Like the Slug and Lettuce, this Italian restaurant offers "sharing boards". We chose the Tagliere Misto:

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Parma ham (proscuitto), Felino salame (an Italian salame), and mortadella are Italian cured meats. Gnocco fritto and tigelle fritto are fried yeast doughs. The unpitted Italian olives were fresh, green, not really brined, and delicious – we had these throughout the trip and even John liked them. Sun-dried tomatoes and Parmigiano cheese we have in the US, but the versions in this restaurant were outstanding. Stracchino cheese is an Italian cows-milk cheese, eaten while the cheese is young; it is often used as a melting cheese, like on pizza.

Of course we had wine so we strolled happily out of the restaurant and admittedly got a little lost looking for the War Museum and Covenant Garden. We came to this large and beautiful building, named "Freemasons Hall". I was ready to pass it by, but John is fascinated by architectural masterpieces, so we went inside. He went to the reception desk and asked what the building was all about, and the lady said "you are lucky, a tour is just starting!" What? Oh well, let's go.

What is a Freemason? Briefly, it is a member of a fraternal (men only) organization that began in the fourteenth century as a group that negotiated dealings of stone cutters (masons) with clients and authorities. The first Freemason Grand Lodge was created in 1717 in London. See Wikipedia for more; we had trouble getting what the lodge was all about from our tour guide. This CBS news article has a lot more information on the secrecies of the Freemasons. When I view the Freemasons symbol online, it seems to bring back memories of literature and discussions surrounding my maternal grandfather.

Here is the ceiling of the sanctuary:

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The altar:

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The top of the ceiling:

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The throne:

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Tiled floor:
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It was a magnificent building. But the secrets of the Freemasons were not revealed in the tour, and had to be found later online.

After the Freemasons we used the tube and found our way "home". Later, we went out for a light dinner, looking for guacamole and chips and margaritas at a restaurant down the street. That turned out to be a busy fast food place, so we walked back towards our hotel. (It's a Friday night.) We ended up at Tapa's near our hotel. Although it was busy, it was great!! Stuffed into a table near the street, we ordered a couple tapas and Sangrias. We had Iberian pork, a delicacy from Spain that was grilled to rare and absolutely astounding. We got some kebabs that were served with harissa sause (I learned this sauce in one of my cooking classes). We ordered more tapas and I think more sangrias and had a great time. Delicious food.

Off to walk the few steps to our hotel! We love London.