Visiting the UK :: day 5 and 6

Day 5 – Durham

We started by walking down from E’s college, into town (we took a taxi to get up again, that’s a rather steep hill to climb after a day of strolling through town).

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We past the cemetery again. Even in the harsh light of noon it had that spooky glow.

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Another one of those black trees, in front of the cathedral.

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The market place was filled with flowers.
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I’m not sure what this building is, but it was at the market square…

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We took a boot tour over the Wear.

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Under bridges,

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past the cathedral,

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and the bridge again. Those houses at the right are remains of the first bridge that had houses built on top of the whole thing.

In the meantime we heard some nice stories about the ancient and more recent history of Durham. It was fun, although E. was only half amused by the not so friendly remarks about the students in town. Luckily at the end of the tour the man acknowledged that the town wouldn’t be as booming as it is now without them.

The rest of the afternoon and the beginning of the evening we spent chatting and drinking (virgin cocktails – yum!) and eating at a chicken restaurant where Theo and E. played Russion Roulette with chicken wings (you didn’t know which spices were on them and some were very, very hot).

Day 6 – Durham

It was time to use up our saved patience for (the insides of) churches and castles.
First we visited the cathedral.

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An impressive and beautiful building, where we were welcomed by a friendly clergyman, had to buy an information flyer for 1 pound and were not allowed to take pictures inside. But it was worth visiting.

Then we wanted to see the castle, but had to wait at the gate till the tour started (since it houses hotel guests in summer and students in the rest of the year, nobody is allowed in there without a guide). Sadly pictures were also not allowed inside the castle, but luckily there was a lot to see outside too.

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Behind those windows is the library. I immediately spotted the book they used to keep that bottom window open.

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Yep, Harry Potter. The whole castle feels a bit Hogwarts like, but nothing of the movies is filmed here (there was some filming in the cathedral, in the courtyard and on one of the towers). I heard the director did propose filming in the castle but the castle refused. That’s probably because of the students living here. E. had considered this place too, but had some good reasons to choose her (modern, but also very nice) college (for instance the self-catering she could do there, which is handy if you have foodallergies).

One of the students was our guides. She was very proud of her college and that showed.

A college in Durham is not the school, by the way (I think it is in the US), it’s the house the students live in and their social community, that hosts formal diners (for which they have to wear black gowns) and parties, but where they also can turn to if they need assistence.

This tour reminded us of the fact that we hadn’t properly toured E.’s college yet, besides her room and the kitchen (that she shares with 5 other students), so we did that when we returned. She bought us a drink in her college bar and then the day was over already.

Luckily we still didn’t have to say goodbye. E. was going to join us for breakfast the next morning. Nothing fancy, just a cheap breakfast in a shop restaurant, but we had had breakfast there twice already and at 3,35 pounds it was a nice deal for a six item breakfast, we thought. It did last us through our days of walking through town…

Visiting the UK :: day 3 and 4

Day 3 – Castle Howard :: Duncombe Park :: Rievaulx Abbey :: North York Moors :: Saltburn-by-the-Sea ::  Durham

Lots of pictures. Even after deleting half of them. This day was full of my favorite things: old inscriptions, beautiful landscapes, trees and a beach. And even a bit of yarn.

The day started where it ended yesterday, at the friendly camping site near Castle Howard. We packed up the tent and our stuff and headd back to the road we took the day before. I wasn’t in the mood to take pictures when we were there, but it was rather special.

Too bad that it was hard to capture with my camera. The one above is the best I’ve got. It was a long, straight road, with some gates in the middle. At one end there was an obelisk. We couldn’t decypher the inscription, which was a shame, because it was something like: “as long as these characters are visible, we will remember … (his name was not readable, so sad).

In a straight line from here, at the other end of that long road there was this monument. The inscription was clear, but it didn’t say for who it was.

Ater that we drove further. At Duncombe Park we ate a little brunch (and I took pictures of flowers).

We took off again and drove through typical English villages.

And past cute little churches.

Rievaulx Abbey wasn’t too well conserved, but still very impressive. I can imagine lots of ghost stories set here.

After that, we entered the North York Moors and spent many happy hours meandering through this beautiful national park.

And then we found ourselves at the beach in Saltburn-by-the-Sea.

There was a beautiful old pier.

You could take an antique train up to the rest of the town. Or walk up. But we didn’t  (because we both have a fear of hights and a knee that didn’t function too well).

The pier was yarnbombed with a soccer theme.

And then we went back to the moor once more.

In the evening we drove up and down through Durham, trying to find a place to stay. Which we didn’t. In the end we decided to spent the night in a hotel. We know that can happen when you don’t plan anything and book upfront, but after that we went looking for a camping much earlier…

Dag 4 – Durham :: Hadrian’s Wall :: Durham

After a night in the hotel (we did appreciate the real bed and a good pillow), we started searching for a camping again and – thanks to the 30 minutes free wifi in the hotel – found one rather easy. We set up and had a few more hours to kill until it was time to meet our daughter. So we drove up to Hadrian’s wall.
We’ve always wanted to see that. After visiting so many remains of the Roman Empire in the past (we’ve been to Rome and Pompeji and many other sites) one might expect us to know better, but we were looking to find an actual wall. But that was not possible, there just isn’t much left of it. Most of it is disappeared or under the ground which is not so strange after two millenia.
We finally stopped at Chester’s Fort, where we found not only the remains of that fort, but also a (very) small part of the wall.

See, at the other side of the river. That’s part of Hadrian’s wall.

We drove back to Durham, where we had a lot of catching up to do with our girl. She took us to the botanic garden, where we enjoyed the flowers, but forgot to take pictures, since we were still busy catching up (I hadn’t seen her in two months and Skype is awsome, but nothing compared to real life meetings).
Untill we ran into these mysterious numbers.

We tried to figure it out, but we didn’t understand what it meant.
(Of course I couldn’t refrain from googling it once we were home. This link says they are musical sequences, referencing the bells of Durham’s cathedral and the flowers of the foxglove that is growing beside it).

Then we walked down tot the town center (she’s in a college up the hill) and passed a church with an intriguing cemetery. My simple camera couldn’t quite catch the filtered light, but this picture is close to what we saw.

We ate at one of E.’s favorite restaurants, did some more cathing up and went back to our tent, happy to know we had two full days of daughter time ahead of us.

Visiting the UK :: day 1 and 2

I was going to try mobile blogging and keep you posted during our little tour through the UK, but telephone services were spotty and there wasn’t as much free wifi available as I thought (isn’t it funny how quick you get used to luxeries like that?). So I just enjoyed a week of being unplugged and will be telling you about our travels now that we’re back.

The plan was to visit our daughter who is doing her Master in Translation Studies in Durham. I’d been there for a very short while when I dropped here off last September and my husband hadn’t seen any of it yet. We also needed a bit of vacation and husband had been looking for a way to make longer rides with his beloved car for a while now. So we decided to take a few days extra and do a little touring around the UK.

Day 1 – Rotterdam :: Calais :: Folkestone :: Cambridge

This was when I thought I’d be blogging from my phone, so I took a picture when we had just left home.

And when we entered Belgium.

And France.

On the train. We’d never been to England using the Channel Tunnel. So that’s what we did. We liked it. Only 35 minutes to get to the other side of the Channel.

Kent. Lovely typical British landscape.

And a typical British pub.


I think this was in Canterbury, but I’m not sure. We didn’t get out of the car, because we saved our limited patience with castles and churches for Durham.

Obviously. 😉

After a little incident at the Hartford Crossing toll booths (we didn’t have cash and thay didn’t take cards – oops!), we drove up North and found ourselves a camping site at Cambridge.

Our diner was typical British too (but without the vinegar, please).

Our tiny tent. Just big enough for two air matresses. That’s all that would fit into our car. But what more do you need anyway? At least in the beautiful weather we had… that was the one thing that wasn’t typical British this week.

 Day 2 –  Cambridge – Nottingham –  Rufford Abbey –  Castle Howard


Boiling water for coffee. We didn’t have room to take food and pots etc, with us, but we do need hot water to make coffee in the morning. If you were looking at this picture with my husband around, he would tell you how I tried out the new-to-us powdered coffee that morning, decided it was watery, added a few scoops and ended up with a very strong brew. Too strong, even for my cafeine-loving husband. The other half of the jar lasted us the rest of the week… I guess my tastebuds don’t work very well in the morning.

On the road again.

Cute little church.

Some llamas. Silly creatures. But that’s probably what they’re thinking about us too.

Beautiful tree.

Just driving and looking at the beautiful surroundings. Love that.

Aquaduct or viaduct. Our map wasn’t sure either.

Another church.

Rufford Abbey. We took a little walk around the gardens there.

Such a spooky tree, especially when it’s standing solo like this one. When your underneath the leaves look green, by the way.

The Abbey.

And then there was this. Not funny. Luckily we found another camping site where reception was closed, but we were welcomed by a friendly note, saying: “Late arrivals, please find yourself a pitch and we’ll see you in the morning.”
So that’s what we did.


I still wasn’t done with the yarn the girls got me for Sinterklaas, so I finished the pillowcase I started last December and then I made another one. For the backs I made two white squares, one knit diagonally, one a big granny square.

The rest of the yarn was made into squares for KAS.

Total count: 1 hat, 1 scarf, 2 pillowcases and 6 squares, all made from my lovely gift of five skeins of yarn (well, seven if you count the white). Not bad!

In my garden

This week is so busy… but I did find a little bit of time for a quick garden update:

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The lettuce is doing great and the snails haven’t found it yet (hmn, hope I didn’t jinx myself now).

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Finally blooming (they needed lots of water and that’s what they got these last few days; we had lots of rain).

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It seems some of my lettuce seeds finally decided to start coming up.

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Chamomile is doing great.

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Almost time to harvest these.

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Uh, I think this is a weed. I do like how it looks though.

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Borage again. Always buzzing with bumble bees.

A rainbow around my neck

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The girls got me this five colors of yarn this Sinterklaas. Almost all the colors of the rainbow. I loved it, but I had a hard time deciding what to do with it. I started making a pillowcase, then cast on for a little sweater for KAS, frogged that, knit some squares for KAs and finally made a hat in the blue green yarn.
And then, finally my creative mind started working again. I finally knew what to make with these colors. So I cast on 300 or so stitches (forgot to count) and just kept knitting row after row, switching colors every row and letting the ends hang by the side. When the first color ran out (green – I made two squares with that color) I cast off, tied the ends together (all five colors in one knot) and cut them straight (they don’t look straight in the picture, but they are). Simple, but I do like the result. It’s narrow (because I ran out of the green), but long, so I can wear it double.

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So what has that silly elephant (I brought it with me from South Africa) to do with it? Well, nothing actually. I just noticed that it had the same colors 😉

Our couch

We have a very comfortable, but ugly couch.

We got it for 100 euro from our neighbors 8 years ago. I was going to say 6 years, but it’s been 8. Oh my, that explains why it’s looking the way it is. But it’s still as comfortable as it was back then. The big cushion got a burn mark and some other stains in it very soon, so I made covers in 2008 (I think, might be earlier). Those have been in heavy use too, especially if you consider both Theo and I are usually working from the couch. We do have an office, but somehow we spent most of our working hours here (and yes, we should probably change that to have a better balance between work and free time, but that’s how we’ve been rolling for years now)

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So, the covers were stained beyond washing and some of the fabric was just falling apart from all the washing and sitting. A few weeks ago I began looking for fabric to replace it with. No luck. I tried Ikea, but didn’t find anything fun. And when I finally got myself to a market (that used to be my place to go for affordable fabric) they had all kinds of fabric, but no thick cotton or denim that I could use to recover the cushions.
I was close to giving up when I suddenly realized I needed to take a closer look at the curtain section in the thrift shop. So I jumped in my car and went immediately. Which was a lucky call since I found this:

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15 euro for 6 metres. Nice deal. And just enough to cover the bottom cushions, I hoped.

Some very scientific measuring took place (also known as trying it on).

And I found that 7 meters would have been just the right amount.

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But I did a bit of patching and that took care of it.

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The result of a few hours of measuring and sewing. They covers are a bit on the wide side, but I think that will be solved after I’ve washed them for the first time (no I didn’t before, too eager to try).

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But oh those back cushions look so dirty now! They can be washed, but take half a day to dry and you have to put the covers on when they’re still wet to get them on. I hope someday I’ll found more light fabric to match the white, but for now I reused the jeans covers (I cut out the worst parts and sewed them back together).

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I decided to dig up those blankets I made way back in 2007 for everyday use, to protect the white from our spilling and dirty socks etc., thinking we can take them off and show our good side when we have company over. It looks a bit bohemian, but I like it.

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The cat agrees. He has been sleeping there for days.

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Next mission: find some fabric to cover the frame…