Exiting through the gift shop is always a pleasure for me, a well curated shop can complement an exhibition or museum.  Recently I have noticed that no self-respecting buyer would consider not stocking a rubber duck.  Not your ordinary yellow kind of a duck, but special wittily customised ducks or Cultural Ducks as I like to call them.

Cultural ducks

These Statue of Liberty Ducks can be found in the shop after the American Dream: Pop to Present at the British Museum.  They nestle next to a rather fine selection of American novels and some stars and stripes shoe laces.Cultural ducks

The National Army Museum has not one but two ducks on offer.   For bathers on manoeuvres there is a camouflaged duck.

Cultural ducks

Or for more formal ablutions maybe a duck in the dress uniform of a guardsman is more appropriate.

Cultural ducks

Finally, looking for the perfect present for the retiring MP in your life, then look no further than the shop at the Palace of Westminster.  What could make for a finer souvenir than a Big Ben duck?

Have you seen any Cultural Ducks in your travels?

This post is linked up My Sunday Photo over at Darren Coleshill’s Photalife, why not pop over and see what else has been causing people to click their shutter buttons.



“Why haven’t we been to the Houses of Parliament?” enquired the Junior CW’s.  Fair enough question and one to which I didn’t have a good answer.  A few clicks later we had tickets for the whole family on the first Friday of the Easter holidays.  Palace of Westminster, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Parliament; the seat of British government goes by many different names, we were lucky enough to have a perfectly sunny day for our visit.

Palace of Westminster

Security checks are thorough, as you would expect, and once past them cameras are strictly forbidden but you do get an excellent audio guide.   The first space that you enter is vast, Westminster Hall is a jaw droppingly large place now, goodness only knows how awe-inspiring it must have been seen through medieval eyes.  The wood timber roof is the largest hammer-beam roof in the world.  In this room Charles I was tried, Nelson Mandela addressed both Houses of Parliament and monarchs have laid in state here.  Brass plaques dot the floor indicating where momentous events took place.

Palace of Westminster
Westminster Hall © UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
Westminster Hall was the only part of the medieval palace of Westminster to survive a fire in 1834.  The rest of the  familiar building is a Victorian creation.  What you don’t see on television is just how much gold there is everywhere.  No surface seems to go undecorated with at least some glitter.  The windows are filled with stained glass, colour is everywhere.  The tour takes you into the House of Lords, it is so much smaller that you would expect and Queen’s throne so much more golden.  You get a sense that it is a chamber in which discussion is possible rather than the exchange of ranting speeches.

Palace of Westminster
House of Lords © UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
After the Lords you follow the route that Black Rod takes when he goes to summon the Commons to hear the Queen’s speech.  Nobody slams the doors of the House of Commons in your face, you get walk straight in.  Once again it is so much smaller than it appears to be on television, you can see that heated debate is likely as opponents on the front benches are so close that they could almost touch.

Palace of Westminster
House of Commons © UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
We all  enjoyed our visit, the building is beautiful and being where big decisions are made is spine tingling.   “We’ve been there!” is now a constant refrain when the news is on.  Next the Junior CW’s want to see a debate, for that we must wait for an inset day that coincides with a day when the Houses of Parliament are sitting.

Westminster, London SW1A 0AA
Tours are available on Saturdays and weekdays during parliamentary recesses.
Booking in advance is recommended, that way you won’t turn up on a day when you can’t do a tour or it is fully booked, click here for details.  It is also possible to book a tour with afternoon tea that is taken in a Thameside room and sounds amazing but we didn’t have time for tea.
Admission: Adults £18.50, concessions £16, Children (5-15) one free per adult or £7.50