Durham

Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
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Trip End Ongoing


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Friday, July 6, 2007

We headed for Durham with a planned stop at Hadrian's Wall. It is a stone wall that once crossed all of England west to east just south of the present day Scottish border. Almost 2000 years ago it stood 21 feet high and 10 feet wide with forts every few miles along the way. It marked the northern edge of the Roman empire. They built the wall to keep the Picts out. When the Roman forces made it that far with their expansion they ran into a race of people that many think scared the living daylights out of them. History says the Picts were ferociously violent and primal with no spoken or written language (they were the actual people that painted their faces for battle like in braveheart and were considered savages. Apparently Mel Gibson borrowed some Pict history for his movie). They basically said they wanted nothing to do with them and abandoned expansion further north and built the wall instead to keep them out. Pretty crazy stuff.
Anyway the wall stands no more than 5 or 6 feet high now (see picture) but is still a powerful sight historically and naturally. Well worth the stop.
From there we headed for our b&b near Durham. It is a very nice spot called the Polenium Plantery. It is eco-friendly using organic products and foods. That idea intrigued us enough to check it out. Plus it has a four poster bed and a bath that Megan was pretty excited about.
We went into Durham and stopped by their cathedral and castle as they are both sights to see from what we have heard. Like in Edinburgh, the castle was closed to the public. Like in Edinburgh the queen was there attending a function but this time she brought the kids and grandkids. So no castle for us. Who do they think they are? The royal family? Megan thinks they are following us.
The cathedral however was stunning. Almost 1000 years old, massive, and beautiful. Every evening they have an "evensong" in the cathedral. It is a mini mass of about 45 minutes but about 90% of it is the choir singing.  The choir there is said to be one of the best in England. So we took in the evensong and were not disappointed. We were there early enough to sit with the choir behind the alter in the choir section. It was an incedible experience as they were amazingly talented and the acoustics in the cathedral were perfect for such a thing. They also through in some involuntary comic relief for us as the smallest member of the choir (about 7 years old) kept making faces when the boy next to him missed a note and also picked his nose quite frequently. Another boy had a bad case of the hiccups that he couldn't shake. Funny extras included with something that is supposed to be so powerful and spiritual. Don't think we will get a chance to do something like that again so we are very happy it worked out that way.
We only had one night here so I think we made the most of our day.
Off to York!
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