Wednesday, July 24, 2002

So yes, our trip to Northumberland. Here are the highlights:

1. On Saturday as we headed for the motorway, I had one of my usual impulsive moments and asked the bf to stop at the Trafford Centre so I could buy "The Last Broadcast" by Doves to listen to in the car. Since I first heard "words" over coffee in Night & Day many months ago, I've been secretly wanting the album. What put me off? It's not the band's fault, but I struggled with buying a cd that I knew nestled in the shelves of Coldplay fans (possibly one of my most hated bands, EVER!) - y'know, essential student "anthem" stuff. But fuck it - it's great, and it suited the wild scenery perfectly.

2. If you ever find yourself up in Northumberland, you must visit Cragside House. Both the bf and myself are National Trust members, so we always check out NT properties on our travels. Houses of the UK's elite can often be stuffy and pompous (Chatsworth, anyone?), but Cragside is happily none of these things. First of all, it's the first house in the world to be run on hydro electricity, powered by the estate's own water supply. Second, the tastefully eccentric style of the house is completely intact, complete with a 1930s kitchen. There's a truly breathtaking view from the master bedroom out over the rock garden, looking out to the hills. The elegant parlour features an entire mantlepiece and alcove made of marble that's more like a small sitting room. I felt like I was walking around the set of Gosford Park.

3. For Harry Potter fans, we also went to Alnwick Castle in, err, Alnwick. The courtyard was the location for Harry's first quidditch lesson. Here's a tip for you - don't follow the herds of tourists queueing to buy tickets at the kiosk near the garden entrance. Save yourself £6.75 and just walk around the castle grounds - the views are spectacular, and probably just as nice, if not nicer, than the interior. You only have to show a ticket to actually get inside, but they keep that quiet.

4. Alnwick is worth a walk round, but you should at least visit Barter Books, one of the biggest, and nicest second hand book shops I've ever visited. Housed in Alnwick's former rail station (the line closed in 1968), you can browse their 350,000 books at leisure - in fact you're encouraged to put your feet up with a cup of coffee and relax on the comfy sofas scattered throughout the shop.

5. Get your fresh fish & chips from Lewis' in Seahouses, a charming little fishing village.

6. Hadrian's Wall is more interesting than exciting, if you know what I mean. But I did like the helpful painting of Romans doing a poo by the remains of the latrines at Housesteads!

I think that's everything, but if I think of anything later, I'll add it on...

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