Yesterday we took another trip to Durham in hopes to get on the tour. We’ve tried to do this a few times before and either the tours were booked up or the castle was all together closed. Even though the University Library told me that the tickets sold out quite quickly and that we should get there first thing in the morning, around 9AM, we were able to get out tickets around noon.
Getting up early on a Saturday is not our strong suit. Plus, the highway was being worked on so the bus was really slow getting through there.
Anyway, we ventured through town to the Cathedral and then to Head of Steam for lunch (awesome pies.) Every time we’re in the Cathedral, we mention how Harry Potter was filmed there. Sadly, we can’t take pictures inside but the place is beautiful. I would love to go to see the Christmas tree this year but, again, going out there on time for something is a bit of a tough one for us.
We came back to Palace Green Library for our 3PM (also found out that there are public toilets by the red phone booth on Palace Green for anyone who travels there in the future.) Our castle tour was led by Kevin, a third year Durham University Geology student. We didn’t realize that the university uses the castle as student quarters, which makes it the only living castle in England (the rest are just used as historical sites for the National Trust.) We learned that the crests on the castle were representative of the different bishops who lived there. Also, the kitchen is still there as it was when it was built. The kitchen food was blessed by an engraving over the door which read “Est. 1499” but back then the number 4 was written as half an 8.
I was impressed with the intricate and odd carvings on the pews in the chapel. But mostly I was amazed by the oldest Norman chapel there that was not only built in 107 but was also the first place ever to depict an image on a mermaid (which was engraved on one of the pillars.) The older, the more interesting, in my humble opinion. The fact that England has such a history just boggles my mind. It really puts the newness of America in perspective. There has been a world for longer than we can imagine and there are still remnants around today for us to experience. Sort of puts our little place of time in perspective as well.
It also makes me realize how vastly different the university experience is for English students. If there is ever a little Pick in the future, I’m sending him/her there. It’s a beautiful place and for those kids to say they went to school in a castle is amazing. They still use the Great Hall for formal dinners on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 7PM sharp. I didn’t realize that the set-up for Hogwarts wasn’t that different from school life in England. They really do have houses and scholar gowns and sit down dinners and ancient stone walled classrooms. Unbelievable compared to my UCF experience.