So, here I am in the North-East of England, far away from my little abode in the South and Thursday morning finds me in the very relaxing atmosphere of the café of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. The place itself doesn’t open until 10am so I have a few minutes to reacquaint myself with being a travel blogger; there is probably too much blogging and not enough travel on this particular website so I am redressing the inequity, just a bit.
My destination was chosen for me; I had been invited to a small town called Corbridge for a chat about book-related things and it seemed the perfect opportunity to explore a little corner of the country that I had heard much about but had only ever passed through on a train. I didn’t expect much of Corbridge itself but as the rickety bus-like train trundled along the line west from Newcastle it quickly became apparent that I should have perhaps set my expectations a little higher. From the slightly abandoned railway station, I wandered down to the valley bottom where a not insignificant stone bridge spanned the Tyne to the town itself which I could see sitting handsomely on the other side if the river. I paused to take in the view and reassess my preconceptions as to what kind of place I was about to visit before crossing the bridge and climbing the short hill that took me into the town centre. I was a little early for my meeting so I wandered aimlessly around the streets and lanes passing small galleries, craft shops, restaurants and cafés. This was a Cotswold village uprooted and replanted in a spectacular setting at the opposite end of the country; the kind of place that makes you rethink the merits of living in an urban environment. My mini tour ended with me sitting on the steps of the cross outside the church watching the people, their cars and for many, their bikes go by. Reggie would have been firmly within his comfort zone in Corbridge.
Several pints of beer later, my meeting done, I was back on the train trying desperately to keep myself from nodding off and ending up in Middlesbrough. That mission was accomplished and I dozed the slumber out of my system on my bed at the Royal Station Hotel. This is the kind of hotel that has seen better days but which, for some strange reason, you are glad you are visiting now with fading glory all around rather than when in was in its heyday. The charm of fading glory is somehow more attractive than freshly created glory.
I had arranged to meet a friend who spends her summers in Newcastle by ‘The Monument’ which meant nothing to me so I asked for directions from a guy at the hotel and within a few minutes I was standing below a tall column on top of which was standing Earl Grey. He didn’t appear to be drinking tea and I remain ignorant of that particular beverage-peerage connection. ‘A Night On The Toon’ followed (see previous post) catching up with my friend while taking in the changing colours of the Tyne & her bridges as the sun set and the crescent moon appeared, framed by one of the Olympic rings on the Tyne Bridge itself.
Back at the hotel, the quantity of beer consumed during the day compensated very well for the mattress which mirrored the shape of the bridges I had been admiring earlier in the evening.
Tales from the Baltic later today…