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Archive for the ‘British History’ Category

www.themonument.info
Open Daily: 09.30 – 17.30 (last admission) 17.00
Phone: +44 (0) 207 626 2717

Ever wonder why there is a tube stop called Monument? I didn’t, but it didn’t surprise me to learn that there was an actual monument there. I don’t expect there to be a real Chalk Farm or an actual Elephant and Castle, but we all know there is a Tower Bridge and a Marble Arch. Sometimes tube stop names are still relevant, sometimes they are not.

Monument

The Monument was built in the 1670s to mark the rebuilding of London post the Great Fire of 1666.The structure, built by Sir Christopher Wren is 202 feet tall which is the distance between the monument and the location that the fire began.

Plaque on the Monument

Everything before the fire that wasn’t built of stone was a goner. The city must have felt so new and young in the years directly after the fire as a whole new generation of architecture made its way to the forefront. Wren built 51 churches after the fire. Would he have ever had such an opportunity? Would he be a common household name otherwise? What would the cityscape look like now if there had never been such a destructive event?

This type of opportunity intrigues me. I’m reminded of cities like Le Havre, France that were completely bombed out during WWII. The city now feels strangely overwhelmed by immediately post WWII design. If the whole city hadn’t needed to be rebuilt, would Oscar Niemeyer have found another forum for his googly hand?

Niemeyer's The Volcan in Le Havre

Anyway, for £3 you can climb the 311 steps to the top of the Monument and take in the views. Honestly, you can get better views in other structures around London, but it is neat to try and imagine where the fire started. If the monument were to topple over, there is a chance you would land there.

Views from the top of the Monument

Views from the top of Monument

While the climb up got narrow and uncomfortable, the climb down made me really dizzy and claustrophobic. Flip flops were a bad choice of footwear. At one point I lost a shoe and decided it was safer to make the remainder of the trip barefoot.

Dizzzzzzzzy.

As I exited, I was awarded a nice little certificate to show off that I had made the journey to the top. The certificate depicted how the Monument appeared when it first opened. Nice touch.

An engraving by Sutton Nicholls of the Monument in 1750

Drawing from Certificate, courtesy of http://www.themonument.info

Bottom Line: It’s a good way to contemplate the Great Fire of 1666. I am glad I did it once, but I don’t think I need to do it again. Wear appropriate footwear.

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It was the day of the Queen’s birthday parade and Joanna and I had been up the night before drinking too many bottles of wine and playing music videos which quickly turned into singing and dancing along to music videos. Our respective significant others were out of town, her kids were at grandma’s house and it all seemed a little necessary.

She was up early the next day to get her hair did and I was off to see the Queen. Kitschy yes, but I had to do it.

I put myself on the tube and headed down towards St James Park. I spotted some slightly hungover American girls across from me, and in British tradition, did not strike up a conversation or make eye contact during the ride. As soon as we were back in the sunshine and off towards the parade, I asked them if they were headed to see the Queen and if I could join them.

None of us knew where we were going but we figured anywhere with crowds was a good bet. Unfortunately, there were more crowds than we bargained for. We tried to position ourselves for the parade but had a very difficult time finding a place where we could actually see anything. We finally wedged ourselves into a spot with a partial view and waited. Every once in a while a horse or official looking person would march by and we’d get excited, but alas it was just a teaser.

“I’d pay about 10 quid for a cup of coffee right now” I moaned to one of the American girls. “Me too” she agreed.

Finally, some action.

Pomp and Circumstance

As we balanced from one tiptoe to the next, guards on horses, foot and with instruments passed by. “There’s Camilla!” someone shouted and I looked just in time to see her and one of the princes pass by in a carriage. Finally, the moment arrived and the queen was in sight.

The moment arrives.

I couldn’t help but be disappointed that she didn’t bother to wave or smile. She just sat there like a big grump being forced to be in a parade on her birthday when all she wanted to do was sleep in and eat pancakes.

I guess I can’t blame her – except that the birthday parade isn’t actually for her birthday at all. It’s a ceremony of British infantry regiments that has been going on since the 17th century. It’s held the second Saturday in June in St James Park and celebrates the beginning of the monarchy in it’s entirety.

The Queen’s actual birthday is April 21, 1926, making her a Taurus.

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