Friday, September 9, 2011

Exploring North East England

The past few months of writing haven't been all stress. Phil and I managed to squeeze in a brief jaunt to Newcastle two weeks ago.

Regular readers probably realize this has been a difficult past year for me. I've gotten pretty good at expecting life not to turn out as planned. And I had a few additional worries going into this trip: would I get enough done beforehand that I could justify not working for four days? Would I have enough to do in proportion to the time away? (Phil would be attending a conference for two of those days, so I would be on my own).

Yet somehow this trip ended up being almost magical in how smoothly it went, how fortuitous we were, and how inspirational it was to my writer brain.

Even the flights, from Bristol to Newcastle, and home again, were both several minutes early. Weird, huh? In a good way.

Also, I could spend several pages raving about Newcastle. A small, walkable city, with beautiful architecture, an incredibly extensive and efficient metro (leaps and bounds better public transportation than Bristol, which is twice its size!). Not only were there numerous museums and ancient attractions (Hadrian's Wall, castles, cathedrals), the metro meant we could cover more ground, even make it out to the sea. And the food! Delicious!

Anyway, enough babble, let me share some pictures.

This is the New Castle that gives the city its name:

The big brick building is the Baltic, an old flour mill that's been converted into a contemporary art museum. The bridge in front is the Millennium Bridge, the world's only tilting bridge.

It only "tilts" once a day, to let ships through. Phil and I happened to walk out of dinner just as it started. So glad we caught this:

I'll post more about the Baltic on Monday, as I had such a great inspirational experience inside.

I ended up exploring a bit of Newcastle as I walked to Seven Stories, the UK's only children's book museum. Too cool for school, huh?! I'll have to post more about the museum in the coming weeks, too.

But the walk there was a fascinating mixture of Newcastle's old industrial side and natural beauty. I ended up outside a miniature farm (the roosters were going nuts!), staring at this view:

Then I saw this sign (if you can't see, it says "Wytchcraft") and figured, okay, I'm game.

I followed a path along the river all the way to the docks. Here's the back of Seven Stories, another revived industrial building (the one with the blue trim. And yes, it really is seven stories):

It's got a boat out back:

Further along the river:

I wish I could share two thousand more Newcastle pictures. I have them!

Anyway, let me share a bit of North East England, too.

Here's Vindolanda, a ruined fort along Hadrian's Wall. The structures in the distance are reconstructions of guard posts along the wall.

This is part of the actual wall:

Remote, rugged, and beautiful, isn't it? (incidentally, both pictures were taken within three hours of each other. Ah, English weather).

We went to Durham to see its famous cathedral. Here's the front doors, with a replica knocker (the real one is inside):

One of my regrets about flying into Newcastle was missing the Angel of the North, the famous statue that stands along the highway (picture from Wikipedia):

But it was a lucky trip. Guess what we saw outside the train window as we traveled back from Durham to Newcastle?

Then a friend visiting the conference with Phil tipped us off about how easy it was to take the metro to the coast. He sold us when he mentioned Tynemouth's ruined castle and priory.

Again, way too many pictures to do it justice, but here's one I like of me considering the ruined cathedral.

And here's a picture looking back at the site, the castle in the background, the priory in the center, the graveyard, and the abandoned coast guard station to the right:

Then we walked along the coast, stopped at the fish market for fresh fish and chips, and later that evening caught our (early) plane home.

Trips don't get much better than this.

All pictures, except the Angel of the North, were taken by me or Phil.


  1. Oh, Anne, what a wonderful trip. Thank you so much for taking us with you! Beautiful pics. Fascinated by that bridge. Don't you love how things turn out well just when you need them to? I'm so glad you were able to take this lovely jaunt :)

  2. Andrea: Aw, thanks for letting me share, Andrea! Really a fun way to digest my experience and pictures!

    It is such a surprise when things actually turn out magically well. Such a pleasure, too, especially when a bunch at once happen!

    It is a cool bridge. Even when it's not tilting, I thought it was pretty neat!

  3. How fun! Thanks for sharing. And your flights were early. Amazing ^_^

  4. Angelina: It WAS amazing! And not just a few minutes but it took a while to board... I got into the terminals a good 15-30 minutes early! So nice when things just work out! ;) Thanks for letting me share my travel stories with you!

  5. How fun!!! I've never heard of the bridge that tilts. You have two pictures of it, correct? The one below it looked kind of like a "V"?

    I think I'm going to be busy following your links to these spots. I love, love, love architecture. So glad you are posting these pics and information!

  6. Bridgette: Yes! Sorry to be confusing, but yes, both pictures are of the tilting bridge, one upright, the one below as it's tilting on its side like a V (the walkway on the left side of the V). The bridge was architecturally fascinating and beautiful before I ever knew it tilted! Happy to share!

  7. Oh no, not confusing. Just fascinating. Looking forward to more. :)


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