Open House London and the Mayor’s Thames Festival

I can’t believe how much goes on in this city on any given day. Yesterday there was the Mayor’s Thames Festival, the second day of Open House London, a huge memorial to the pilots of the Battle of Britain, a festival at Trafalgar Square dedicated to walking, and countless other events going on.

I managed to catch a bit of Open House London, spending hours queued up to see the inside of the Parliament buildings and the Bank of England. I didn’t mind the queues because it gave me time to read Harry Potter. The Parliament buildings were cool, but they are often open to the public anyway. The Bank of England was really neat. The building is huge. 6 stories above ground and 3 below, covering a full city block, complete with courtyards and gardens, and full of expensive antiques and artwork. At the end of the tour I got to touch and lift a gold bar (which was deceptively heavy). It’s the only gold bar the bank still owns, since it no longer uses the gold standard for pegging the pound’s exchange rate.

Afterwards, I headed down to Leicester Square and met up with Ariel. She had index cards with 5 different plans for the evening. Hanging out with Ariel is like spending time with a tour guide. I think she’s memorized all the London tour guides she’s read. Anyway, we decided on Plan #1: Walking down to Inner Temple garden and then crossing the river to check out the Thames Festival on the south bank.

Inner Temple is a big park for all the barristers (read public Lawyers) in London. It’s supposed be really beautiful. We never got in because it was locked – I guess they close it on weekends. But we did see through the gates an awesome giant chess board (the kind they used to have in Garden City Mall in Winnipeg).

The Thames festival was hopping when we arrived. There was people everywhere checking out the street vendors and enjoying the carnival like atmosphere. We bough some really spicy Thai food and some fruit tarts for dinner. After dinner we met up with Mellisa (another Canadian) and checked out some of the live music. Then we parked ourselves on the parade route and waited for the Night Parade to start. The parade was crazy. The first group of people to walk buy were dressed up with elaborate pig costumes with big heads, and they had a giant knife in their left hand and a fork in their right. They were doing this dance routine to latin music. The weirdest, but coolest, thing I saw yesterday. The rest of the parade consisted of other costumed people and bands – it was very Halloween-like.

After the parade there was an amazing fireworks show from a barge on the Thames. I’ve never seen such an impressive fireworks show. Near the end they must have fired off a thousand screamers, it was so loud.


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