Showing posts from 2009

The Monument

Smack dab in the centre of the City of London, on Fish Street Hill, you will find one of the world's tallest free-standing stone columns, The Monument. You can visit it any day except Christmas. Just buy yourself a ticket, then hike up 311 steps -- each one EXACTLY six inches high. When you get to the viewing platform, you will see amazing views of the City of London, the Thames River, and beyond.

And the view feels extra impressive, because you've earned it! Hiking up The Monument is not for everybody. It's a long, windy stone staircase, which gets narrower towards the top. There's only one way up and down, so while you are ascending, other tourists are walking DOWN the self-same six-inch steps as you.

Whatever you do, DON'T look down! (You're tempted now, right?)

If you do muster up the courage to look over the handrail, ALL the dizzy way down to the bottom (gulp!), you will see a red-lit chamber underneath the staircase. And THAT's where our story begins…

What is 'Guy Fox' Day?

The truth be known, it's actually called 'Guy Fawkes' Day. Every year in England, on the fifth of November, people celebrate something which did NOT happen. And my oh my, do they celebrate!

What did NOT happen? A large explosion, that's what. A large explosion on 5th November 1605 at the State Opening of the Houses of Parliament. A large explosion which the plotters had intended to kill the newly-crowned King James I along with other members of the Royal Family and the aristocracy. You see, the plotters wanted England to be a Catholic country. Or at least to be a country which did not persecute Catholics.

(A quick recap of 17th century religious ping pong: Henry VIII had separated from the Roman Catholic Church over his divorce(s) and created a Protestant religion; his heirs, in turn, were Catholic (Mary I) and Protestant (Elizabeth I). Whenever a Catholic was in charge, the Protestants were persecuted; and vice-versa. Not particularly friendly behaviour on either part…