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Tuesday, 30 August 2016 15:26

My Trip to Parliament

Written by  Colin Hetherington
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My partner Lyn decided that we should head for the big smoke to celebrate my 50th Birthday. 

We are both have guide dog owners and both love London. I used to find the thought of going very daunting but we are always very pleasantly surprised by how easy we are able to get around.

Transport for London must be applauded for their efforts along with the Oyster card system which works so well.  All tube stations buses etc do cater for the disabled . 

We love the hustle and bustle and the dogs love it too.

Our journey starts in Glasgow from where we fly to London a great experience with the dogs one I would highly recommended to every guide dog owner, just be sure to  book assistance when you book the flights, it really is that easy.  

We arrived on a sunny Monday and the weather was fantastic.

We wanted to do so many things so we decided on bus tours. 

Madame Tussaurds was one of the places we wanted to visit, sadly there was no assistance there, no guide, was very dark or very bright, as a result was a real struggle and as a result we didn't stay very long, thankfully entrance for us was free. 

We also visited Kensington Gardens and Regent's Park for some down time for the dogs and us. Hard to believe you are in such a big and busy city when sat in these beautiful green areas. We also did the London eye with the dogs on a gorgeous day an experience we will never forget but the ultimate trip of the week was when my partner Lyn sprung a surprise visit to Westminster on our last day, I was thrilled but even more so when the lovely Molly Watt and her Mum Jane appeared, it really was a fantastic surprise. 

It is always good to see these two, I had no idea they would come into London to join us.

On arriving at the Palace of Westminster we entered  security a little like the security at the airport and I can understand why.

We were escorted by a very nice policeman to Parliament square where we met Tracey our guide.

Tracey allowed us to spend our guide dogs in the grounds before we entered the grand Westminster Hall where our guide Tracey explained many things about the great hall.  Things like William Wallace was actually put to trial in this very place . Also the Queen Mother was laid in state there but also many more facts which have gone on to shape this country.  Tracey also handed us some tactile models of various structures to give us an idea where we couldn't see so well.

A quick drink for the dogs then we were on our way to the Great Corridor and saw many amazing statues and pictures so big it was hard to see them accept scaled right down on our iPhone screens, thank goodness for accessible technology.

The next area was the hall often seen on TV, where people are interviewed.  Just past here were more statues, the likes of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, each of which we were able to touch, I think something only allowed to the blind.  Each statue is one and a half times normal size.  Lyn, Molly and myself were able to feel the statues, the detail is simply amazing.

We then proceeded to the House of Commons, it is amazing it's not as big as I thought but you can literally feel the atmosphere.  We saw the benches in green and touched the tables even the door where parliament is opened with the man battering the door with the famous black rod, felt how eroded the door was but still totally intact, incredible to think how old it is.

We then went through to the House of Lords with its red leather benches and things were explained in great detail about who the Lords are and what they do.  

We were also shown the Queen’s Throne, where she sits when she opens Parliament each year which is simply jaw dropping.   As we walked down to the bench in the middle of the hall Tracey our guide informed me of the marks left on the leather were from Winston churchill’s rings on his fingers as he had beat the bench in his rage, those marks a real part of our history. Tracey then sat me down on the red leather benches and told me I was sitting in Sir Winston Churchill’s seat.  I was speechless this tour is one of the finest most informative tours I have ever done not only that it was available to all visually impaired people and I would thoroughly recommend anybody to use it. 

Our guide Tracey was brilliant and took the time to tell us all about our great history and happily answered any questions, clearly she really loves her job.

Molly and Jane had done a tactile tour previously and tell me even second time around it is equally as amazing.

Tracey made our tour special, she was patient and so knowledgeable and had a fantastic empathy for Molly and I, both with Usher Syndrome and Lyn blind, she described everything beautifully and made sure we all touched and felt the incredible statues and architecture to really engage with the history surrounding us.

I’d also like to thank Molly for her amazing knowledge on iPhone photography, showing us all how to truly enjoy the visual with the small amount of vision each of us now possess, it absolutely made the day complete.

So a big thank you to Molly and Jane for arranging this fantastic tour for my Birthday and to Lyn my partner for keeping it all such a big surprise.

This is one birthday I will never forget. 

 

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