Monday 20th April
9.25 Taxi to the station, reserved seats on the train. 11.45 arrived in York, taxi to the Hilton.
Met Ruth and had a drink in the bar. I left the girls to it after about 30 minutes and went for a walk. Brilliant sunshine, just like a summer’s day. Looked in an art shop – closing down and I thought it deserved to. Walked to the main square where I listened to a young lady singing opera tunes. Then up through The Shambles to the market. Later in the day B went for a walk along the river with Ruth and I changed and went for a slow walk by the river and through the streets to the minster where I sat and listened to the rehearsals for a while.
Dinner in the hotel.

A view of The Minster from the top of the Clifford Tower.
The Hilton Hotel is the modern building on the left and the one with the white stone is Fairfax House.

More photographs of York here.

Tuesday 21st April
9.00 An excellent breakfast.
11.41 Train to Durham. Interesting views and continued reading.
12.40 Arrived. Short taxi journey to The Radisson. An excellent hotel, new in November 2008.  Settled in and went for a drink in the bar etc.
Had a look around the hotel. The pool looked fantastic – black tiles, very different and modern looking. There was also a superbly equipped gym.
3.00 walked over the bridge, through a new square containing the TIC. Up the hill to the market square. Had a look in the quirky, pokey, Victorian covered market.  Walked up Saddler Street to Palace Green. Went in to the cathedral. A stunning experience.

Hugely impressive building and yet comfortable and welcoming. It gave you a feeling of reassurance and permanence. The carving on the pillars was very attractive and the proportions felt just right. Had a good walk around and climbed the 325 steps to the top of the tower. Fantastic views.

A view of the cathedral roof from the tower.

A view of the square and the distance.


Had a cup of coffee in the café. Wandered back to the hotel at about 5.00 and went for a swim. The pool was really good. The temperature was just right and the water untainted – almost like drinking water.
7.00 dinner in the Italian restaurant at the hotel.

Wednesday 22nd April
Swim and steam room.
9.00 An excellent breakfast. 9.50 a walk round the city – took photos. Cuthbert Statue by Fenwick Lanson and the river at Elvet Bridge.

The Cuthbert Statue.

10.45 wandered back to the hotel and wrote cards. The weather is beautiful – warm and sunny, just like summer.

The view of the cathedral from our hotel room.

More photographs of Durham here.

11.45 Caught the train to Newcastle. Taxi from the station to the Gateshead Hilton. I had booked an executive room. This gave us access to the executive lounge on the top floor where food and drinks were all complimentary. We had coffee and cake and a natter with Gill, the guest services manager, who was really friendly and helpful, and then left for a walk. We started at The Sage Centre where the TIC is. We picked up maps and lots of details. The woman there did an excellent job. From there we went to The Baltic. Having looked this up I had already decided that I did not like it but I was wrong. We really enjoyed ‘Tilting Planet’ by Sarah Sze. It was an “Installation”. It rewarded your close attention. The more you searched for detail and reason the more you found.
From there we looked out on the observation platform on level four and took some photographs. We then crossed The Millennium Bridge. Having crossed it we came to the bar/restaurant The Piano and Pitcher where we chose to have lunch.

I have altered this photograph to turn the lights on in our hotel room.

This was one of the views from that room.

5.30 back to our room, and then off for a swim.
7.00 Down to dinner here in the hotel.

Thursday 23rd April
6.41 tea. Decided not to go for a swim; the pool here is not enticing.
9.00ish breakfast.
9.40 Walked across the swing bridge and up the steps to the castle, then round the corner to the railway station. Took a tour bus and did the complete round tour. From there at 11.30 we tried to buy tickets for the metro but the woman was most unhelpful. We went and bought a coffee instead. Eventually bought a metro ticket and travelled to Whitely Bay. A bizarre experience.  There was hardly anybody about. B&Bs with signs saying ‘we love contractors’.
Stopped in a pub for a drink and asked the bar maid about the signs. Apparently, the contractors work on business parks and the Tyne Tunnel. We also talked with a lady on the metro who said that the local council for the Whitely Bay area is very short of money. Returned to Monument and then walked down Grey Street and Dean Street, up the steps to the back of the St Nicholas Cathedral – spotted a plaque to Thomas Bewick, the man who drew birds and who had the swans named after him. From there we walked across the double bridge built in 1848 to the designs of Robert Stephenson and back to the hotel. More information about the bridges and a history of the area can be found here.
5.30 Walked round to see what was on offer in local restaurants. Went in to the Sage building but the brassiere was like a dark tunnel. The Baltic was closed. We crossed the bridge and noted several possibilities. Stopped to read about the Kittiwakes that nest on the Tyne Bridge. I had taken some photos of them on the Baltic building. We decided that we would not walk back to the hotel, change and come back to eat but would rather eat out now.

Friday 24th April
9.40 off to catch the Q1 Quay Link bus. Unlimited day travel £1.60 for me and free for B. Went to Gateshead and stayed on the bus until the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. Did some shopping in the main shopping area.
From there we walked to the Haymarket bus station and caught the Q2 and enjoyed its complete circuit to St Peter’s Basin and back. From the Haymarket bus station we walked to the Laing Art Gallery where we had lunch. There were three main rooms in the gallery and two of them were closed. There were two sets of toilets and one of them was closed. In the gallery that was open there were a couple of excellent paintings: a Joseph Wright and Benjamin Williams Leader’s ‘Igtham Moat’.
4.00 Back to the hotel and then walked along the river along Keelman’s Way Cycle Path which is part of the C2C route. We walked as far as the King Edward VII railway bridge and then back along the top road to the hotel. The roads beside the river at this point were only useable by buses, cycles and pedestrians which seemed an excellent idea. It was quite beautiful scenery and apart from the trains and the metro rumbling overhead it was surprisingly quiet.
5.20 Back to the hotel. Reading. 5.50 left to watch the millennium bridge being raised. That happened at 6.30 and it was fascinating. It drew quite a crowd.

Saturday, 25 April 2009
Early in the morning took several photographs of the sun rising above the Sage building.

This was one of them.

More photographs of Newcastle here.

9.00 Breakfast and then we had coffee in the executive lounge and a thorough read of the newspapers.
11.30 Asked them to call for a taxi which was waiting by the time we came out of the lift.
As the train started from Newcastle we were able to board it almost straight away. The journey passed very quickly. We were entertained at one point by some larger drinking lads who had missed their train because they had been to the shop to buy more larger. The ticket collector was most humorous in his insistence that they buy new tickets for the train they were now on, which they did. When they got off the train at Sheffield they left the bag containing the cans of larger they had been to the shop to buy. They were part way through a ‘stag do’. Let’s hope the marriage succeeds!  The ticket collector picked up the cans and gave them to another group of drinkers elsewhere on the train.
Taxi home, lots of mail, answerphone messages and emails. An inspection of the green house showed that we had not lost any plants or seedlings.