The Houses of Parliament

As the end of my study abroad experience began to draw near, I had the opportunity to tour the Houses of Parliament. You know, the building Big Ben is a part of? That one.

Police officers (or “bobbies”) aren’t allowed to carry guns…but the security personnel at the Palace of Westminster are carrying some extreme heat. Approaching these guys, ticket tightly clutched, is rather daunting. That is, until they offer a hearty hello.

Once inside, you enter the oldest part of the current structure. Here you meet up with your tour group (separated by languages) and learn the most important rule of the tour: Don’t sit down unless told you can.

Visitors also aren’t allowed to take photos once the tour has started. And you’d better do your absolute best to make sure you aren’t separated from the group. If you are, at best you’ll be thrown out. At worse…well, let’s not think about that.

We entered both chambers of Parliament — the Lords chamber and the Commons. Back in the day, the chain of power basically went monarch, Lords, Commons, but that has now reversed. The Commons, with the prime minister and other elected officials, has the most power, then the Lords, and finally the monarch, who acts more as a figurehead than as an authority figure.

Big Ben isn't this tower -- it's the bell inside

The spot Sir Thomas More was sentenced to death

Where PM Winston Churchill laid

The red tent is for the Lords and the green tent is for the Commons

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