The week at Leicester went by the way a work week usually does: slow at the beginning and fast at the end. It was a good experience overall and I certainly learnt a lot. But it was too short and I didn’t learn enough. Also, I don’t jump right into a group of 20 new people and form lasting friendships right away, so just as I was beginning to get comfortable with everyone and figure out who’s who, it was time to say goodbye.
On Thursday evening, we had a pub night out, which was a first for me. The conversation was fun, and the beer was ok, but as far as gluten free food goes, my only option was a chicken Caesar salad, which in this pub turned out to be two strips of boiled chicken breast on a few leaves of lettuce with a smudge of mayo on top.
On Friday, after the dig, we got dropped back to the University at the usual time, around 5.30. My bus to London was at 7, which sounds like I had plenty of time, but Maps told me that the coach station was a three mile walk from my B&B and I reached the hostel after sad goodbyes only around 5.45 p.m. I wasted no time in picking up my backpack and leaving, but 3.3 miles in an hour is no easy job for me, especially not with 20 kilos hanging from my shoulders. Still, I made it in 25 minutes. Which only means it wasn’t that far. I think the route I was looking at was from the University, not from the B&B place.
Anyway, I reached London and then spent two hours at the London coach station killing time waiting for the coach to Newcastle. It would have been (much) shorter to take a bus or train directly from Leicester to Newcastle, but going through London was (much) cheaper. I met a very nice couple at the bus station who worked in London and went up to Newcastle every weekend, and they helped me to pass the time quite pleasantly.
When I reached Newcastle at 6 a.m., it was raining. I trudged to the youth hostel wearily, not having slept much in the bus, and was very thankful that they let me check in. I showered and left immediately to catch the bus to Durham.
Durham turned out to be a very pleasant little place, quite European in character. I walked up and down and all around and then did it over again.
I discovered the shady little path that led around the front of the cathedral, along and above the river. I walked into several bakeries and inquired (with very little hope and even less success) about gluten free food. I ate a burger without the bun and called it lunch and then I ventured into a marketplace and picked up little trinkets for the kids. By this time it was 2 p.m. and my bus back to Newcastle wasn’t till 6.30 p.m., so I spent a very pleasant and lazy afternoon sitting in the sun outside the cathedral.
The cathedral was very nice from the outside. I was quite disappointed on venturing inside, because the place had been turned into a fairground of sorts. Well, not quite a fairground, but there was an art exhibition or two, and there were these cutesy little placards, and then there was the musical show by what I presumed was the junior-most choir boys and girls, but instead of being appropriately church-type music, it turned out that they were singing some kind of jazzy pop number, which would have been more appropriate in a kindergarten annual day show than in church. So then I left and went back outside.
But the outside of the cathedral was very nice. After a bit, the afternoon peace was somewhat shattered by the ringing of the church bells. I remember being privileged to hear this at Notre Dame, where it was absolutely enchanting, riveting, magical, and in short entirely fabulous. Here, it was not quite the same experience. The bells did not have the same amazing resonating boom, and the player appeared to be having his afternoon music lesson (the Durham University School of Music being housed just there). He played uneven scales and a rather random set of notes repetitively for about an hour. I suppose it must be quite an art to play church bells.
I wanted to go in to Durham Castle too, of course. As it happened, it was closed to the public because it was the university open day. Durham University is in the actual castle building, which I think is just awesome. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to college in a castle every day?