The Monument (to the Great Fire of London)

On September 2nd, 1666, over three-quarters of London was burned to the ground in what has become known as the Great Fire of London. The blaze started in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding Lane, not far from the northern end of London Bridge.

Just 11 years later, in 1677, construction of a monument commemorating the Great Fire was completed.

The Monument at dawn

In fact, when I say ‘a monument’, I should say ‘the Monument’, since that is what it is called nowadays… simply ‘the Monument’.

The Monument is a fluted Doric column of Portland limestone, capped with a golden urn of gilded fire.

Inside, the column is hollow, and a spiral staircase of 311 steps allows visitors to climb to the viewing platform, just beneath the urn.

In total, the Monument is 202 feet high and is located in Fish Street Hill. This height and spot were precisely chosen, because if the column were tipped over towards Pudding Lane, the urn would land on the spot where the blaze began.

The Monument from the top of The Shard

But Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke designed the Monument as more than a memorial to a major event in the history of the British capital. It also originally doubled as a scientific instrument and telescope, in part thanks to a hatch in the top of the urn and laboratory below its plinth.

More recently, the viewing platform of the Monument was where I met Ernest, and so marks the true start of my exciting adventures in London, captured in the thrilling Jaspa’s Journey 2: The Pride of London. Order your copy today and join in the excitement!

The Monument, fittingly with a fire engine

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Steps from Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack? and Layered from Ben of The Daily Post.

 

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Posted in Adventure, History, Jaspa's Journey, Travel, United Kingdom, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Changing of the Guard in Athens, Greece

It’s mid-afternoon on a Tuesday in springtime. We wait almost-patiently in Plateía Syntágmatos (often called Syntagmatos Square by English speakers, meaning Constitution Square) in central Athens. In front of us is the Vouli Building, once a Royal Palace and today home to the Greek Parliament.

The Greek Parliament Building

Beneath the main facade of the Parliament Building is the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. It was unveiled in 1932 on March 25th, Greece’s National Independence Day.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

One of the ceremonial guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

As the hour approaches 4 pm, our anticipation grows. Then our guide, Maria, points to where three members of the Greek National Guard (known as Évzones) have appeared in the northeast corner of the square, marching smartly. They wear their traditional uniform of white kilt, leggings and pom-poms on their clogs.

The three soldiers approach the tomb. Through a slow and complicated series of drill manoeuvres, two of them take over from a pair of their comrades, who have been standing guard until then.

Another Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens has been successfully completed.

The quiet job of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier resumes

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Waiting and Anticipate from The Daily Post and Words that start with the letter C from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge.

 

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Caernarfon Castle, Wales

I love castles. Especially the medieval castles of North Wales. UNESCO agree with me, since they made The Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd a World Heritage Site in 1986. And my absolute favourite is Caernarfon Castle.

Bizarrely, the only photos I have of Caernarfon Castle from the outside are at night

There’s been a castle at Caernarfon (previously spelled Carnarvon or Caernarvon) since the 11th Century, and before that the Romans had a fort at nearby Segontium.

The northern (town-side) wall of the castle, with the bridge leading to the King’s Gate visible part way along

The western end of Caernarfon Castle, from across the mouth of the River Seiont

The current fortress was commissioned by King Edward I of England in 1283, in an attempt to keep the local Welsh under control. After an initial building frenzy, lasting a decade or so, work continued on Caernarfon Castle until around 1330. At that point, construction all but stopped, with some inner parts of the building still incomplete.

Looking west from the top of the East Gate

Eagle Tower from Queen’s Tower – the former gets its name from the stone eagles that adorn it

Looking east from Eagle Tower

The castle itself is massive, at around 575 feet long and 220 feet at its widest point. Some of its beige stone walls are 20 feet thick at their bases. And the castle itself was part of a large fortified wall, which surrounded the medieval town.

Inside the walls: the lower passage between the Queen’s and Chamberlain Towers

Looking along the south wall towards the modern town, with the mountains of Snowdonia in the distance

Caernarfon Castle had an unusual design, with a narrow ‘waist’ essential splitting the structure in two, giving it an hourglass or figure 8 shape from above. The area east of the ‘waist’ is known as the Upper Ward, with the Lower Ward to the west.

The ‘waist’ of Caernarfon Castle, with the King’s Gate on the right and the Chamberlain Tower on the left

The Upper Ward, with the circular slate platform upon Prince Charles became Prince of Wales in 1969 at its centre

Today Caernarfon Castle is under the protection of CADW Welsh Historic Monuments, an organisation of which I’m proud to be a member.

View along the length of the castle towards the Eagle and Queen’s Towers in the distance

Medieval castles can be hazardous structures

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Structure and Enamored from The Daily Post, Colors that start with the letter B from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge and History from Nancy Merrill Photography.

Sorry the images aren’t up to my usual standard, but they’re scans of actual photographs!

 

Posted in Adventure, History, Travel, UNESCO World Heritage Site, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Carrara Marble Quarries, Apennine Mountains, Tuscany

From the coast, the Apennine Mountains to the east of Carrara in Tuscany seem to shine brilliant white from the glaciers at their summits. Then you realise the peaks aren’t tall enough to support glaciers this far south.

The Apennine Mountains at Carrara, Tuscany

In fact, the white shine comes not from snow and ice, but from the marble that makes up part of this section of the Apennines, the mountain chain that runs down the spine of Italy.

One of the massive marble exposures at Carrara

The highest-quality Carrara (often misspelled Carrera) marble is relatively fine-grained and particularly favoured by sculptors, including Michelangelo.

Sculpture of an ox team at one of the quarries

Another sculpture, this time of a marble quarryman from days gone by

Marble sculpture of a marble sculptor

Marble from Carrara has also been used in the construction of buildings around the World, from the Pantheon in Rome to the Palacio Legislativo in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Nearly 2000 years ago, the Romans used Carrara marble in the construction of the Pantheon in Rome

Carrara marble was shipped all the way to Montevideo in South America to build the Palacio Legislativo, the Uruguayan Parliament

Just as impressive in their own way, are the quarries from which as much as a million tons of marble are extracted each year. Around 650 separate quarries have been documented, some dating back to Roman times. Over the centuries they’ve produced more marble than anywhere else in the World.

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Ooh, Shiny and Grainy from The Daily Post, and Words Beginning with Ap from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge.

 

Posted in Environment, Europe, History, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Sam’s Ses Challenge: Wild – Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone

Welcome to this week’s Sam’s Ses Challenge.

Every weekend, Sam and I pick a word or phrase as the theme for the week. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to post something Ses-related that you think fits with this week’s challenge.  Don’t know who the Ses are?… click here to find out.

Your contribution can be anything you want, a photograph, a short story… anything. Visit the main Sam’s Ses Challenge page to learn more.

The fun will be focused here on my blog, but feel free to play along on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Just be sure to link back to the challenge on whichever media you choose, to be certain Sam and I get to see it.

I hope you’ll join in.

This week’s Sam’s Ses Challenge theme is Wild.

Here’s my contribution:

Few names capture the idea of the Wild West like Tombstone, Arizona, and particularly Boothill Graveyard on the outskirts of town. Places like these fill our imaginations with lawlessness cowboys and the lawmen trying to bring them to justice.

Boothill Graveyard is an elemental place. The dry desert climate and rocky starkness, with only a few cacti providing a feeble touch of vegetation, fits perfectly with the idea of dust to dust.

The graves are piles of rocks on the sand and stones of the desert. While the grave markers speak of life on a knife’s edge.

Best known are the three graves of the men killed during the infamous Gunfight at the OK Coral in Tombstone.

Yet several others also tell of the harsh lives and violent ends all too common on this wild frontier.

A few of those grave markers record the grave resident’s less-than-peaceful passing with grim humour.

Expand your child’s mind (and your own) by travelling the World with the Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This week’s Sam’s Ses Challenge was itself partially inspired by the photo themes of Tombstones or Cemeteries from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge and Elemental from the Daily Post.

 

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Jaspa’s Journey Books Are Award Finalists!

With today being (Inter-)National Book Lovers Day (thanks to Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack? for reminding me!), it seems the perfect time to announce that both books currently available in the Jaspa’s Journey series have now been selected as book award finalists!

Jaspa’s Journey: The Great Migration was an Award Winning Finalist in the Children’s Educational category of USA Book News’ National Best Books Awards when it was originally published back in 2009.

Jaspa’s Journey 2: The Pride of London recently matched this status by being chosen as a Runner-Up in this year’s National Indie Excellence Awards in the Pre-Teen Fiction category.

The third Jaspa’s Journey instalment, Jaspa’s Journey 3: Jaspa’s Waterloo, is due to be published in the next few weeks. Fingers crossed it can also attain such success.

Don’t forget to get your copies of Jaspa’s Journey today!

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Mate Tea and Chocolate Submarines in Buenos Aires

Despite experiencing scorching temperatures while in Buenos Aires last year, our guide, Pablo (aka Your Friend in Buenos Aires), was eager for us to try a pair of traditional Argentinean hot drinks.

He took us to Café La Biela, near the famous Cementerio de la Recoleta, to introduce us to the better known of the two, which is called mate.

A Mate kit

Pronounced maat-A, mate is a tea-like beverage popular throughout this part of South America. In fact, it’s considered the national drink of not only Argentina, but also Uruguay and Paraguay, although ironically Brazil is its largest producer.

The server, in this case Pablo, always tries the mate first

Mate is a very slow and social drink, and there is a time-honoured ceremony that revolves around how it’s prepared and shared.

To be honest, though, I found mate a little bitter. And while I enjoyed the unhurried social aspect of drinking it, I much preferred the flavour of the other hot beverage to which Pablo introduced us.

Mate is a bit bitter for my taste, even with sugar agdded

Across town in Café Tortoni, Pablo ordered each of us a Submarino. A few minutes later, several mugs of hot milk arrived at our table, each accompanied by a small bar of milk chocolate shaped like a submarine. The submarines were then ‘sunk’ in the milk, where they slowly melted to create warm, sweet, satisfying, chocolaty goodness!

Dive, dive, dive!

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Tea and Satisfaction from The Daily Post, and Slow from Paula of Lost in Translation.

 

Posted in Jaspa's Journey, South America, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments