I had about a weeklong Northern tour of the UK spread between a conference in Newcastle, a packed weekend in Edinburgh and a one-day meeting in Manchester. I love long train journeys.
First Newcastle. My mid-year resolution was to try refraining from using too many superlatives because it diminishes my sincerity when everything is the best _ of all time. So, Newcastle: I liked it! It sits steeply on the River Tyne, which is crossed by about 6 bridges of all different colors, purposes, designs, heights, materials as well as the rotating Millenium Bridge connecting Newcastle and Gateshead.
I hadn’t yet seen Geordie Shore when I made my way up there (thankfully), though it’s pretty obvious that artificiality is a fairly popular aesthetic. Overall, Newcastle was stunning. It’s the home of Sting, Cheryl Cole, Daniel Defoe, Newcastle Brown Ale and…. Other things. Mostly I went for nice dinners and cocktail bars with my colleagues.
I had one afternoon at the Baltic – the contemporary art museum.
I did have one mid-afternoon free, so took the metro to the coast to walk amongst the tumbleweed in Whitley Bay. I kid, but it did feel pretty desolate. Not sure if that’s because of an economic downturn or because it’s not yet peak season (June? You’d think it would be). Very pretty nonetheless.
The shore in Whitley Bay
I had two nights and two days to explore Edinburgh, and managed to do nearly everything on my list. I booked a cheap hostel, dropped my stuff off and hardly sat down for two days.
My first morning, I found a place with veggie haggis (lentil and nut-based), hiked up Canton Hill (the hill that gave Edinburgh the nickname, “Athens of the North,” because it has all these Romanesque ruins), then spent a few hours scrambling around gorse-covered cliffs in plimsoles on Arthur’s Seat to admire the hills, distant lochs, glens, seashore, cityscapes, and … romanesque ruins (why?).
Holyrood Park Gate
From Arthur’s Seat – it was consequently also Father’s Day!
From Arthur’s Seat, I went on an underground tour of Edinburgh and the South Bridge Vaults from Mary King’s Close. You’re led down narrow, damp passages along the old town where you learn how the Black Plague affected Edinburgh’s poor and the conditions they lived in and amongst. TMI fact for you: the reason it was called the Black Plague is that your organs can rupture from dehydration causing internal bleeding. Sounds… awful.
After the tour, I shot back downtown to walk Prince’s Street, climb Scott’s Monument (this monument that looks like a tall, narrow crown), walk around Prince’s Garden, and book tickets for part of the Edinburgh Film Festival the next day.
The next day, I had a very long tour of Edinburgh Castle, cream tea and scones from the castle, then went to watch a series of shorts on memory and nostalgia. Edinburgh surely has to be one of the best cities in Europe.
A diorama in Edinburgh Castle
Peering out over Edinburgh from a cannon barrel