Category Archives: Travel

Italianate Church – Wilton

Italianate Church
Italianate Church

If you are planning a trip to the Salisbury area to see Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral, why not drop into nearby Wilton and see this very interesting church?

Italianate Church – First Impressions

Your first impression will be a bit of cognitive dissonance: in the midst of an undistinguished Wiltshire market town is a very elegant Italian church complete with a free-standing campanile (bell tower). The church is set back from the street and has the rounded arches typical of Romanesque buildings. The rose window is a bit unusual for a Romanesque church and adds a bit of lightness to offset the solid, bulky look.

History

By the 1800s the medieval church of St Mary on this site had fallen into disrepair. The Hon. Sidney Herbert, a younger son of the 11th Earl of Pembroke, provided a large portion of the funds needed to build a new church. Herbert was apparently a fan of the Italianate architecture that was in vogue in the first half of the 19th Century contributed and commissioned Thomas Henry Wyatt to design a church in that style. The church was completed in 1845.

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Lion Attack!

Warning: this post contains some red-in-tooth-and-claw images.

Wildbeest drinking, Serengeti NP
Wildbeest drinking

I have been (finally) going through our pictures from the Tanzania trip and I though you loyal readers might find these ones interesting. We were fortunate enough to see a lion attack play out right in front of us, thanks to some expert positioning of the vehicle by our driver/guide Fredrick Kissenga.

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Amiens Cathedral – Notre Dame d’Amiens

Amiens Cathedral – First Impressions

Amiens is a large and imposing building constructed on a low hill in the centre of Amiens.   The shape is typical of medieval Gothic cathedrals in France with a long nave and two large, squarish towers. Above the roof at the junction of nave and transepts a tall, narrow spire rises. Similar to the 19th Century spire of Notre Dame de Paris, this one is somewhat more authentic, having been completed in 1533 after the original spire was destroyed by fire, and then shortened in 1627 after a wind storm.

The West Facade is  decorated by a large collection of statuary as well as three decorated portals. There is also a fine entrance – the Portal of the Golden Virgin – in the south transept.

Amiens Cathedral - Statuary
Statuary on the West Facade

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St Albans Cathedral

St Alban's Cathedral. Photo by Rob Hinkley
St Albans
Photo by Rob Hinkley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History

St Albans Cathedral was built on the site of a Saxon abbey. Construction started in 1077 CE and finished in 1089.

For most of its history it was known as St Alban’s Abbey before it became a cathedral in 1877.

General Layout

Formal name: The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban

First Impressions: St Albans is a rather squat building. It does not soar above the skyline, but hunkers down giving an impression of solidity and permanence, as though it rises directly from the bedrock.

It is hemmed in by the city and cathedral outbuildings on one side but a wide field on the Southwest side provides a good view.

Style: A melange. Started out as a Norman (Romanesque) abbey. The Norman arches are visible under the central tower and on the north side of the nave. The remainder of the construction is Gothic, mainly in the decorated and perpendicular styles. There is a chapter house but no cloister

Patron Saint: The first Christian martyr in Britain, Alban of Verulamium was a Roman citizen who was beheaded for professing his faith (c. 250 CE).

Key Features

  • Materials. Most of the fabric of the St Albans Cathedral including the tower is constructed from bricks salvaged from the Roman town of Verulamium
  • Size. At 84 metres (276 ft), its nave is the longest of any cathedral in England
  • Massive Norman tower
  • Medieval wooden ceilings in the nave
  • Shrine and reliquary of St Alban
  • Replica of the medieval clock designed by Richard of Wallingford

Planning your visit to St Albans Cathedral

  • The Cathedral is open all year round and entry is free
  • Photography is permitted
  • The Abbot’s Kitchen tearoom provides good food at a reasonable price. We found it welcoming and cozy on a chilly day.
  • St Alban’s is about a 30 minute train ride from Blackfriars railway station, so it makes a very easy day trip from London. The city itself has an medieval downtown with some interesting shops and decent looking pubs.
  • The cathedral website is at this link
Tower - St Albans Cathedral
The tower, built of bricks scavenged from Roman Verulamium.
Architectural styles - St Albans Cathedral
Looking up the nave. Note wooden ceilings. Norman architecture on the left; Gothic on the right.
DSC_0127_043
Changing styles: Old English Gothic windows on the right; Decorated Gothic on the left.

 

Image of the reliquary and shrine - St Alban's Cathedral
St Alban’s reliquary and shrine

 

St Alban's Cathedral
Looking up at the Norman tower.

 

 

Astronomical clock - St Alban's Cathedral
Astronomical clock (replica)

Chapel vaulting - St Albans Cathedral
Vaulting in a chantry chapel

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Albans_Cathedral
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_of_the_medieval_cathedrals_of_England
  3. Herbert, Ailsa, Pam Martin and Gail Thomas editors (2008) St Albans: Cathedral and Abbey (Scala Publishers: London)

 

 

Salisbury Pubs – Reviews

As a thirsty tourist in Salisbury you will be faced with a large number of pubs eager to have your trade. Most of these are quite sound so it’s hard to make a really bad choice, but there are a few that are particularly reliable.

Having been here for two years and having visited most of the local establishments (purely for research purposes!) I can make a few recommendations. The following ratings are entirely subjective, but include things I consider important in a pub: mainly ambience, beer selection and food.

As the Americans would say, Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): My top choices for Salisbury pubs are The Cloisters, The Avon Brewery, The Rai d’Or, and The Old Mill (which is actually in Harnham rather than Salisbury)

First, a word about food. The challenges faced by the pub industry (see sidebar below) have created a situation where many pubs have become restaurants in order to survive. This is not a bad thing – many of the pubs I visited on my first trip to Britain in the early 80s were proud to offer a full menu of crisps, ghastly packaged Scotch Eggs and peanuts. So the fact that in most pubs you can now buy something decent to eat is not a bad thing.

However my particular prejudice is that pubs should serve pub food. The “gastro pub” (soi-disant) can be an interesting place to eat but the better and more precious and “cheffy” the food is the less likely that you would want to drop in for a pint (even if they allow you to do so). If I want restaurant food I also want restaurant amenities – which as a minimum include table service by people who know about what’s on the menu and how to serve it, tablecloths and silverware, and most importantly a trained chef in the kitchen who makes the food rather than heating up prepared meals.

So… with one exception these pubs are rated on their ability to deliver the canon: good ales, a decent wine for my bride, and a menu that includes fish and chips, beef burgers, gammon steak with egg and chips, and Sunday roast.

Salisbury Pubs – The top four:

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Venice Overview

Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore
Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore

We are just back from a long weekend in Venice. It was Lynn’s first visit, and barring a two hour dash through with Hank Adams and Scott Larese in 1998, mine as well. I’m going to post some restaurant reviews and a “Venice How-To” guide over the next few days, so this one will be just an overview aimed at first time visitors

So first, why should you go to Venice? It seems to be on everyone’s bucket list and if you have the chance to make multiple trips to Italy you should certainly include it sooner or later. However it’s important to know where it fits in the priority list.

Point number one – Venice makes a nice weekend trip but it ain’t Rome or Florence. The city itself is unique and attractive but it does not have anything like the megawatt artistic and cultural attractions of those places. And it has some significant disadvantages, which I will get back to in a moment.

There are three first rate things to see in Venice: the Basilica San Marco, the Palazzo Ducale (aka the Doge’s Palace), and … Venice itself. Beyond that there are a number of good-but-not-great galleries and museums, some interesting churches, and a lot of very swish and usually very expensive shops selling the best of Italian design, fashion and jewelry.

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