So naturally, in London, I was drawn to Parliament Square and Westminster, the local “equivalent.”
Okay, I must admit the reason why we headed there in the first place is less than poetic: I needed to pee (damn British tea!) and like in France, public bathrooms in London are scarce. We were actually coming from Trafalgar Square and I was hoping to use the facilities in one of the fast-food chains there, but they were way too busy and crowded.
So we headed to Parliament Square, figuring that such a tourist place would have public bathrooms. For your information, we found expensive—but clean—“loos” in the basement in front of Westminster Abbey.
Our business done, we emerged from the bathrooms a pound lighter (literally—I mean, we paid 50 pence each to use the public facilities!) and finally took the time to look around.
The last time we were in Parliament Square, there was a protest going on. Unsurprisingly, this time, the Square was free of bearded left-wing protesters—it would totally have spoiled the Olympics spirit, right? (Yes, I am being ironic here…) Instead, Parliament Square was full of tourists, most of them walking and checking out the surrounding buildings—the Houses of Parliament, Whitehall, the Supreme Court and Westminster Abbey.
We briefly considered visiting Westminster Abbey, hoping that it would be free like St. Paul’s Cathedral, but no such luck. And considering the entry charge (£16.00) and the queue, we quickly gave up.
Instead, we walked around the Palace of Westminster, the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The architecture and general look of the building really reminded me of the Canadian Parliament buildings, especially the Gothic style—not surprising given the history of Canada and the close ties between the country and the United Kingdom.
We then headed to Victoria Tower Gardens, and crossed the River Thames on Lambeth Bridge. This is where I found the best expected view on the Palace of Westminster—a nice surprise!