Grey towers of Durham
Yet well I love thy mixed and massive piles
Half church of God, half castle ‘gainst the Scot
And long to roam these venerable aisles
With records stored of deeds long since forgot
– Sir Walter Scott at Prebends Bridge, Durham
It’s odd to quote the Scot after crossing the border, but this territory is like the USA-Canada transition zone – one morphs into the other without either fanfare or animosity. The rolling hills and the sheep are oblivious to the line that even the Romans could not cross two thousand years ago.
Durham was delightful! For one, the weather got much better – the wind died down, the sun came out and I could finally see the blue of the sky. For the zillionth time, I noticed my smile grow wider and the spring in my step pick up with the smallest hint of whatever little sunshine I could see. For another, Durham was a mini vacation from my vacation – where I stopped to regroup, write, attend to stray to-do lists that spanned three countries, do a spot of laundry and plan the next one week.
Durham was also where I stayed three miles away from the center and took the bus into town everyday. Being a university town that was letting out for Easter that weekend, it was parents galore and all the downtown places were sold out. Staying amidst the pizza huts and car washes by night and taking a journey back to 1066 by day was incredibly amazing because this walloping helped me connect a few dots about the kind of places that I would like to live in (no, Durham is not one of them although I loved the Cathedral and Market Square).
I spent hours at the Durham Cathedral, walking, touring and climbing this massive Norman structure. It was during lunch in the Cathedral’s crypt that I ran into one of Durham’s most interesting moments. I shared the table with an older British gentleman and got him talking about USA and India. He had been to India three times as a tourist and I got to hear what it is that the tourist remembers about India. “India is incredible – Jaipur’s palaces, Delhi’s forts, the Taj Mahal and Kerala’s tranquil backwaters. But oh, the poverty – it is so in you face.” I nodded. I knew exactly what he was talking about. We also had a hilarious moment where we agreed about certain English influences in India; to quote his Indian guide – “the English left us the civil services, afternoon tea and cricket!“.
As I hung out in Durham, I gave up on the logistics to go to Hadrian’s Wall and the Lake District. Wordsworth’s hometown in Windermere would be perfectly framed in daffodils right now, but for another year.