Monday, September 12, 2011

St Paul's Cathedral 8/31; also brief remarks on Sept. 1

Quick: what is a Cathedral? Are they all Catholic? Is the Crystal Cathedral a real one?

Answers: where the seat of a Bishop is; No, the Church of England has Bishops; No, the Crystal Cathedral has no bishop and hence is really no cathedral. Finally, a cathedral need not take hundreds of years to build, though it seems a lot of them did.

But today (8/31) we learned that St. Paul's was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 1660s and completed within a few decades -- within his lifetime. I was shocked to hear about the speed of construction, knowing only about cathedrals what Fred Brooks and Eric Raymond wrote about them -- Brooks writing in The Mythical Man-Month that cathedrals generally have their designs changed multiple times during construction (Rheims being one of the few exceptions) and ESR writing in The Cathedral and the Bazaar about ... well, you can read it.

As it turns out, the current St Paul's Cathedral seems to be the fifth on that site, being built after its predecessor was destroyed in 1666's big fire. The astonishing speed of construction was, our guide (Mary here, not Tom) surmised, because it was a replacement and thus urgently needed.

You can read a lot about St Paul's online; that the building endured a few bombs (some parts were rebuilt) was interesting, as was the information that Wren didn't want any memorials in there. There aren't as many memorials there today as there are in Westminster Abbey, and I wonder if Wren lived to see the first one, but memorials there are. There is an American Chapel -- dedicated to the Americans who lost their lives in England -- within the building, which is nice I suppose, though it strikes me a little strange.


Lunch was at the Counting House [review], 50 Cornhill, London EC3V 3PD, phone 020 7283 7123. Generous portions, tasty food. I almost left my camera there, but someone from our tour group saved me. I had the "coronation chicken sandwich"; Carol had the steak and ale pie.

For supper we wandered over to our nearby La Bottega just down Ebury St at the corner of Eccleston. Carol had a small plate with salads; I had some eggplant lasagne and "spinach" (maybe New Zealand spinach?). Tasty, moderate prices. They close at 7 on weekdays, 6 on Saturdays.

While I'm here I'll tell you about Thursday 9/1

We went to Windsor Castle. The group met before 9am and walked to Victoria Station, where we caught a train to Clapham Junction. From there we took a train toward Windsor, which stopped short in Staines(?) because of "a police incident" (a "suspected fatality" -- hello, are you dead? I say, are you dead?); there was no guess about when the trains would run again, other than "you'd better take the bus."

We took a pleasant walk to the bus depot, and after a while the #71 bus came. We piled on (quite a few standees, as you might imagine), and after a bit more of a while the bus took off.

There were some gorgeous views, including one of the castle along the route from Ascot (the road the Queen takes when she comes to Windsor). Not far from the castle, our bus came to a halt, and we disembarked, walking up to the Guild Hall, which has underground rest-rooms on either side of the "porch."

The building was designed by Christopher Wren, originally with no interior columns. The townspeople insisted on columns (or we won't pay you) so Christopher Wren put the columns in, but they don't actually touch the ceiling.

Immediately to the left of the guild hall is the Crooked House, on Queen Charlotte St.; they serve "tea" all day starting around 9am. The food and drink were fine (we got the afternoon tea service for two, £32.00) but the tea and coffee were served in stainless-steel pots. Fine functionally, but if you prefer china/porcelain tea service, cross the bridge into Eton and take your tea at, umm, House on the River? River House? It's on your right at the Eton end of the footbridge.

Anyway, the castle is humungously enormous (Tom's description) and it surely is. Some of the "decorations" on the castle were added in the 19th century (it's way older than that) to make it look the way some people thought it should. The garden in the "dry moat" is gorgeous.

We made our way back to Victoria Station without incident. With no dinner plans, we scattered. Carol grabbed a salad from... was it M&S simply food? and on our way to the exit we saw "wasabi" -- a food cart(iirc) in the station. This wasn't gourmet food, but was every bit as good (or maybe I was hungry) as the stuff from a Japanese convenience store. The o-nigiri even had nori separated from the rice; after removing the tear-around strip and easing the sides off, you've got a crispy seaweed wrapping around the triangular rice-ball. Dee-lish!

Picked up some nigiri sushi, a plastic cup filled with eda-mame (they were salted just right as far as I was concerned), and one packet each of shoyu and wasabi paste. Grabbed a light Italian beer (Peroni I think) from La Bottega on our street. It was great.

No comments: