For those of us in the U.S., that probably doesn’t mean much, but you can’t stay in London long before someone mentions The Great Fire. The fire, which began in a bake shop at 1 a.m., burned for 4 days and destroyed 80% of the city. The Monument near Pudding Lane and Fish Hill Street was built just a decade after the fire by Sir Christopher Wren at the request of the king to commemorate the fire and celebrate the rebuilding of the city.
Because the Monument is 202 feet high (the exact distance between it and the site where the fire began), the views of the city are marvelous from the viewing platform (160 feet up) – or so I am told. It’s 311 steps to the viewing platform and I just have to say that it didn’t seem worth it to me. My feet were already sore and blistered and my lower half was quavering from fatigue. (We had developed a habit of skipping the Tube in favor of walking if it was only one or two stops to our destination.)
The atmosphere around the base of the Monument brought to mind the phrase “down by the docks.” We were just a few blocks off the Thames and there was construction everywhere around us, disturbing and hopeful at the same time. I perched myself on a wooden bench with the pigeons and lunching construction workers while Hubby climbed the spiral staircase with his camera.
I sat craning my neck to catch site of Hubby at the top. How long does it take to climb 311 steps?
A gaggle of school girls arrived about 10 minutes after Hubby started his climb. They reminded me of the children’s picture book Madeleine: two dozen preteen girls dressed in blue uniforms listening attentively to their lovely, animated tour guide and shooting their eager hands up at every question.
They didn’t climb, but moved away towards their next destination. A short time after that, a somewhat rag tag group of 8-year olds arrived with their handlers who corralled them at the base, handed each pair of kids a digital camera and scooted them up the stairs. I was struck by the contrast between the two groups: one that talked about the Monument and the other that experienced the height and the views. I think I can guess which kids will remember their trip more vividly. Teachable Moment captured.
Hubby soon descended intact, eager to show me some of his gorgeous shots. We scanned through them quickly and then wobbled off to the Tube station to rest on our way to our next destination.