UK winter.

21 Feb

I have just re read my last post and realised it was even longer than I thought since I brought the blog up to date. Our internet connections have been just as intermittent here as back in the US and we really appreciate the times when we are able to use a broad band connection. Time to actually sit down and write has been thin on the ground too, between travelling and visiting we have filled our days to the brim!
Apart from spending as much time as possible with the family and meeting up with friends in the North, we did get down to the quayside to book tickets for a concert at the Sage, while there we spotted the millennium ‘eye’ bridge lift for a small craft to pass underneath. IMG_3706Newcastle is famous for its bridges, the Tyne Bridge, a replica of the Sydney Harbour Bridge perhaps the most famous, with the High Level Bridge and the Swing Bridge make a much photographed cityscape. These were joined by the new foot bridge in 2000 linking Gateshead and Newcastle Quaysides. Its shape is simple and yet sophisticated, the whole structure tilts to raise the deck high in the air to allow boats beneath.and providing easy pedestrian access to the Baltic art gallery and the Sage. This is the home of the Northern Symphonia, also the venue for music events of various kinds in its two large halls and other smaller ones. After dark the view changes and the ‘eye’ bridge takes on a new dimension, its lights change from purple to blue and red, highlighting its contemporary framework. IMG_3712
Twenty two years ago when Robert and I moved to the North East the quayside still bore the scars of it’s almost redundant shipbuilding career. There were still a few boats being built along the banks of the Tyne but the empty shipyards and associated industrial buildings were a blot on the city landscape. It was not without opposition that the redevelopment took place, however what we have today I feel is a credit to the City. I love to look at the scene from the Baltic’s viewing platforms or the square outside the Sage. The new buildings have been so sympathetically blended to match the old or as with the Sage (which I like to describe as a glass armadillo) stand out in their own right as modern pieces of architecture, landmarks for the future.
A trip to the US Embassy in London on the 4th of February provided us with tourist visas. We will no longer have to rely on the Visa waiver programme and be restricted to 90 days visits to the US. The duration will be at the discretion of the Border Officer on duty where we cross however, so we still have to be nice and behave ourselves, but for the next 10 years we may be allowed to stay for up to six months at a time! Will that be long enough to see all the sights I wonder?

In London on a very wet cold day we walked from Euston Station to Grosvenor Square and the Embassy. I was disappointed as I expected to arrive at an architecturally grand old London building, I had imagined myself walking up some stone steps and into a large high hallway, being interviewed by a severe looking man behind a big old wooden desk. He would ask us lots of questions which we would have answer carefully before he stamped our passports and allowed us to have the freedom to roam!

.As it turned out the outer buildings reminded me of any of the border crossings we have been through in the States, modern square, hut like structures, we did climb some steps but I believe they were concrete, we then sat in a large 70’s style waiting room, which made me think of a DHSS office where the unemployed ‘sign on’! A number of hatch style windows along one edge of the room and a further six or seven similar ones in a rear room were the interview areas, the staff were business like but pleasant and the whole process took around two hours.

The route we took both too and from the Embassy passed along some old quaint streets, we had coffee in Moulton Lane quite close to Wimpole Street and Wigmore Hall, lunch in Oxford Street bustling with traffic, walked along Gower Street passing RADA and the University College London, along with upmarket Dr’s and dentist practices. We whiled away the afternoon in the British Museum viewing artefacts from early British history, I was surprised to read that a large silver plate on display had been found in the 1700’s in our very own Corbridge, Northumberland by a young girl on the banks of the Tyne. For many years after its discovery it was the property of the Dukes of Northumberland being bought from them for the Museum in the 1980’s.

We escaped the grey North East again towards the middle of the month, IMG_3737travelling south to Devon and Cornwall. Just for a change Plymouth was bathed in Spring sunshine when we arrived. We spent Thursday with Elizabeth Alistair and Melissa who is now pottering around very capably and calling everything ‘og’ (dog) !
Our next port of call was Penzance to visit our friend Linda and her partner Derek in their lovely home overlooking Newlyn Harbour.
Our last visit this far south was marred by the IMG_3759wet weather, so as we were blessed with sunshine we broke our journey in the pretty village of St. Ives. Sunny it may have been but the wind was bitingly cold. Getting some sunlight on our faces made us feel very good though.

St. Ives is very much a summer holiday destination however we were surprised how busy it was for the time of year. We spotted para gliders over the far side of the harbour who must have had a great view as they descended on the light winds. They looked like they were going to land on roof tops but I am sure they must have had an open space in view IMG_3762to drop in to.

After a feast of home cooking and a good nights sleep Linda and Derek took us to the famous Minnack Theatre, built into the rocky hillside of the Cornish coast.P1100707 Built in the 1920’s by Rowena Cade and her gardener the setting is stunning,

Open air productions take place in the summer with the audience being seated P1100696on carved stone seats in the steep auditorium. I would love to return to see a performance at some point. A cushion and warm blanket are an obvious requirement!

Our whirlwind tour also took in some lovely Cornish coves along the costal path, down twisty lanes just wide enough for two cars to pass. Clusters of snowdrops and yellow daffodils were everywhere, it felt like the Spring had really arrived.

Back in Plymouth on Sunday with Elizabeth and Melissa we visited Bigbury on Sea and Salcombe.Melissa enjoyed riding in her new backpack on Granddad’s back and having a walk on the sand before we had lunch in a local tea room.
IMG_3830The time passes so quickly and Monday morning bags packed we made the most of the good weather to take a ride over Dartmoor, spotting lots of ponies looking for food. I made the mistake of winding down the window to get a better picture of one who spotted a chance and almost poked his head in the window. I just about took off his whiskers as I swiftly rewound it. I prefer the ponies at a distance!

A few more days in Nuneaton with Mum and Dad Hill then north once again to wet grey Durham. Now into our last week before we fly we intend to see as much of the family here as we can. Jennie and I had a lovely day out in Newcastle on Thursday, after shopping we saw Pride and Prejudice with Susan Hampshire at the Theatre Royal.

We would have liked some better weather while home, like many places we have had the worst winter for many years, as I write it is yet again snowing, its been good to catch up and spend time with everyone but as each day passes now our thoughts are on returning to haRVey and our travels.

One Response to “UK winter.”

  1. Alan February 25, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: