Today we had our required academic visits. Our first was a walking tour through the Inns of Court. I didn’t really know what that even was, so I didn’t know what to expect. It turns out that the Inns of Court are little communities (each has their own dining hall!) of lawyers. Some are located on the edge of the Thames. They are in a ton of cool old buildings. It kind of reminded me of an east coast college. The tour started off exciting. We were listening to our tour guide, and all of the sudden he stopped and told us that a motorcade was coming, and that we should look in the cars because it would be either somebody political, a royal, or a really famous person. It turned out to be Princess Anne, and we all saw her in the back of a car that passed maybe 10 feet away from where we were standing. We then walked into the area where the buildings were. We saw a circular church that’s extremely old, and it apparently was in the DaVinci Code. After that, we went into the dining hall of one of the Inns. The dining hall is the original place where “Twelfth Night” was preformed for Elizabeth I, with Shakespeare in the cast, on the twelfth night. We also got to look at the head table in that dining hall. It is extremely long, made from one tree, and was brought in before the hall was completed because it would not have fit after the hall was done. It was at this table that Elizabeth I supposedly signed Mary Queen of Scots’ death warrant. We then walked by a garden that is described in a different Shakespeare play. In the play, the men from the War of the Roses pick up a white rose and a red rose in a garden, and then that becomes their symbols. The garden that we saw is the garden that Shakespeare wrote about in that play. After that, we walked over to the Royal Courts of Justice. This is basically their Supreme Court: it’s the highest appeal court. We didn’t do this because we had a group of about 15, but anybody off the streets can walk in and sit down and observe any case going on, except certain ones for security or other reasons. We did, however, see barristers and judges walking around in their robes and wigs, which was cool. If they do not wear them to court, they are in contempt of court. After walking through the buildings (they’re HUGE), we looked at a courtyard in the back, and we walked by two vans where prisoners were being held until when their case was being heard. We walked by another film set (“Jack Ryan” was being filmed at the school library yesterday), our tour guide told us that he does some acting on the side. On Monday he’s shooting scenes with Jude Law and the female lead for the movie Dom Hemingway, so that’s cool. After that, he took us over to Lloyds to show us where we were meeting later. On the way, we saw the street where Sweeney Todd is set. Near Lloyds, our tour guide also showed us a VERY upscale mall, and an area that was used as part of Diagon Alley in the first Harry Potter movie. After that, I went home to eat and change before Lloyds. Lloyds is a VERY strange building. It’s a lot of metal. The trading takes place on the interior, and almost everything else is on the outside of the building, including pipes, heating ducts, etc. Even our meeting room was a pod off the side of the building. The middle of the building has a bunch of escalators connecting the floors, but the elevators are all on the outside. Across the street is the site of the new Aon world headquarters, but they’re not there yet because the building isn’t finished. For the first part of the tour, we were in a meeting room where our guides explained what Lloyds is, the history, etc. After that, we went around the building and saw all of the people working there, which was cool. We also saw the book where the head waiter records ships that sink that are over a certain value, and then bell that is rung when ships valued at over 1 billion pounds sink (it was also rung on 9/11, which is kind of interesting). After that, we went up to the 11th floor, where we saw pictures of the old Lloyds buildings. We also saw a scale model of the Lloyds building, which was interesting because you can’t really get a good view of the whole building from the outside because of all of the other buildings. We also saw a room that is where the committee sometimes meets. It is an old fashioned room that looks like it is from a palace in France. It was actually designed for an Earl, but Lloyds got it for their old building. After being transferred there, it was transferred to the current building in 1500 pieces. From this floor we got some cool views, including part of Tower Bridge, and the sun setting behind the London Eye.