Durham - Lifestyle Monday

Hello everybody and welcome back to another blog post, 

As most of you have probably already seen on my Instagram, a couple months ago now, me and my parents went on a road trip to Durham to visit the university there. I thought it would be a wise idea to apply to other universities apart from Cambridge so that I would have more options in the future should anything not go to plan. And that's why I chose Durham because it was a good university and I also heard many good things about it from people at work who said they had studied there. I had actually wanted to visit Durham during their open day but of course this open day just so happened to fall at the exact same time as the open days at Cambridge which I suppose is typical. Both Cambridge and Durham are pretty competitive institutions to enter and I suppose they want you as an applicant to be selective with your decisions and narrow your choices down. It was quite annoying but I took to the internet and researched other ways of visiting the university because I thought it was important to see what it was like in person. On the Durham University website, I saw that there were regular tours of the university and its colleges, led by the students there. All I needed to do was enter in my email address and I would be informed of when those next tours would be. I didn't expect much to come of this but a few weeks after, I did get an email from Durham informing me that they would be hosting a student-led tour during October half term. So in the end, I signed up for this tour and my mum booked a small apartment in Durham for us to stay in for a few days whilst we were there. It is quite a trek to get from Cambridge to Durham. In the end, it took almost three and a half hours by car to get there so my mum booked us a place to stay so that we could take our time and properly see everything. Alice was going to join me and my parents in Durham but by the time we found out about the tour, she had already booked shifts at the kids zone that she works at during the half term holidays so she couldn't make it. But very soon after receiving that email, I found myself packing and getting ready for the trip ahead. At first, I thought I wasn't going to make it because I ended up having a pretty bad headache the night before I was supposed to leave. But thankfully, after taking a couple paracetamol tablets, I was much better the next day and ready for that long car drive! ๐Ÿš— 

The journey to Durham was actually quite pleasant. My mum booked the apartment for the Monday of the October half term and our student-led tour of the university was expected to be on the Tuesday and then it was the Wednesday that we were supposed to leave. So that gave us plenty of time to get there and enjoy the scenery along the way. Durham is pretty far north. The closest city to Durham is actually Newcastle and beyond that you start moving towards Scotland. Although it was far, this did mean that we got to stop off at some other northerly zones along the way like Yorkshire. After driving for a couple of hours, me and my parents decided to get a spot of lunch at Harrogate. I had never visited Harrogate before that time but I was told by my parents that it was a very quaint, yet regal-looking town where much of the more wealthy people in Yorkshire seemed to congregate. When I arrived at the town, I certainly got that impression for there seemed to be many expensive-looking hotels in the town and I took one look through a shop window and saw a watch displayed that, let's just say, was well out of my price range. But I enjoyed taking a stroll through the town anyway as I was able to take some nice photos along the way. Surprisingly, there weren't that many places for us to eat, that we actually liked the look of. Most of the pubs and restaurants that we walked past seemed quite modern, with big TVs and fruit machines. I suppose we were looking for something a little more cosy and comfortable. We decided to move out of the centre of the town and I suppose that's when we found the pubs that we were looking for. We walked past a couple that we liked until we stumbled upon the Old Bell. This seemed to be the cosy pub that we were wanting. We walked in and were greeted by a man with a thick Yorkshire accent who was attempting to feed three energetic pugs their biscuits. We ordered our drinks and were quickly seated at a table, with no TV in sight, just a nice view of Harrogate from the window. In the end, me and my mum got a burger with chips whilst my dad got a pie and mash. It was very delicious! After lunch, we walked around the town for a bit and also did a spot of charity shopping. I didn't find anything that I wanted but my dad ended up buying a pretty good guitar case for the charity shop for just £30, which was an absolute bargain. My mum also got a glass bottle which she is hoping to use for her upcoming pop ups restaurants, which was useful.

After stopping off at Harrogate, me and my parents got back into the car and continued our way up to Durham. We were continuing to pass up the winding roads of the Yorkshire countryside when we suddenly passed a rather magnificent bridge. My mum immediately shouted "Ohhh, that looks nice, maybe we could stop there for some tea and cake!" And before we knew it, the car park sign presented itself to us and we stopped off at what we later discovered was Knaresborough. My dad got out of the car looking rather puzzled by the spontaneous decision making but my mum reassured him by saying "This is a road trip, it's what we're supposed to do. Come on, it's going to be fun." So we trundled our way down the path by the river towards the magnificent bridge. As we approached it, I took many photos. I had seen photos on Instagram of people taking boats out underneath the bridge and I had always wondered where it was that they were but I guess it was shear coincidence that I found that place that day. We came across a sign at the foot of the bridge that said Knaresborough Castle. The sign pointed towards the top of a small hill about as big as Castle Hill in Cambridge. We all thought that it would be an excellent way to see the surrounding view so we decided to go up the hill to have a look around. But it was only when we were halfway up that we realised my mum's predicaments. For those of you who do not know my mum, if there's one thing you should know, she is very prone to overheating. She will overheat when she is walking in hot weather or when she's just eaten and has started walking. It was not long after she had that burger at Harrogate that we began this walk and I noticed this when she began to fade in and out of concentration. I asked her if she was okay once and she said yes but on the second time she didn't sound so certain. Long story short, we never made it up that hill. After my mum was sick, we turned back around and made our way back to the car. My dad rushed down to one of the Riverside restaurants to get my mum a bottle of water, which we discovered soon got her back to a normal state. "Come on, this is a road trip, it's supposed to be fun," is what she said. The following events perhaps said otherwise.


Although things became a little more eventful than we perhaps initially expected, I was glad to have been able to see Knaresborough in the end because it was very beautiful. Thankfully, my mum was okay in the car going up towards Durham. My mum doesn't sweat enough so she is prone to overheating when going on walks up hills or mountains but she always feels back to her normal self soon afterwards, which is good.

After this rather eventful but fun roadtrip up towards Durham, we finally made it to our destination. It took us a little while at first to find the apartment because we only realised once we had reached Durham that our apartment was not located in the city centre but rather in a small village just outside of the main city. However, this did mean that we were able to get a quick look at Durham for all its glory just before we arrived. We saw the cathedral, the castle, and the lovely trees surrounding these old buildings from the car window and it was certainly very stunning. It was a completely different atmosphere to Cambridge. Durham is a very wooded city and the area had an atmosphere of calm and serenity.

When we had arrived at our apartment, we unloaded all of our things from the car and made our way inside. The area surrounding our apartment looked kind of run-down and rugged but the actual apartment itself was very clean and comfortable, which I suppose is the main thing. Inside our apartment there were two rooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom which did us splendidly for just a couple of days. What I liked the most about the apartment was the fact that it was breakfast included so the owners left us a really lovely array of granolas for us to have in the morning. They also left behind a couple of biscuits and necessities for an afternoon tea which we set up quite quickly after our long roadtrip. In the evening, we didn't do much except go out for a nice meal at the local pub. I ate yet another burger that day for dinner. For some weird reason, every time I go out to eat somewhere, my go to thing to eat always is a burger. I will always look at what else there is on the menu but after spending a good 5 or 10 minutes reading the menu, if I see a burger on the menu, I will tend to go for the burger. Which probably makes the whole process of looking at the menu completely pointless but I was speaking to my friend Sophie at work about this and she said that she does the exact same thing when she goes out to eat so I suppose I'm not alone on that one. Anyway, for lunch I had a fish burger so for dinner I decided to have a traditional beef burger. I can conclude that it was very delicious indeed. Both me and my parents returned to our apartment that day very happy with full tummies. When we got back, we video called my sister Alice to see how she was getting on and she told us about all the funny stories she had whilst she was at work that day. I must admit, it looked as though she was holding the fort well and doing absolutely fine, despite being on her own. My sister has definitely become more and more independent over the years, which is definitely nice to see.

The next day was the day of our tour of the university. In the morning, me and my mum ate our lovely granola bowls for breakfast which were absolutely delicious. There were two types of granola given to us, one with lots of dried fruit and another with nuts only. I opted for the one with nuts only whilst my mum had the one with dried fruit, since I'm not the biggest fan of raisins but it was very good nevertheless. After that, we all got ready for the day ahead. We were expected to be at Trevelyan College at 1pm for a brief assembly before going on the tour. Durham, like Cambridge, also works in a collegiate system so there are 17 different colleges that come together to form the university itself. Although, when we were on our tour, we did see that a new student campus was being built on the city's grounds as well so I guess it does work in a hybrid manner too (college + campus). When I was applying for the tour of the university, not all of the colleges were available to see but I chose Trevelyan because it sounded like the nicest out of all of the ones on offer. But we still had time to kill until then, so we took a walk around the city before going to the college for our tour.

To kill the time until our tour, we went on a walk around the city and also had a drink and a bite to eat at a cafe. But the main thing that we did during that space of time was go to see Durham Cathedral. We had also wanted to see Durham Castle that day as well but when we arrived we realised that you had to book a space online to get in so we decided to skip that part. But in the end, we were almost glad that we didn't go to the castle because we ended up spending so much time in the cathedral, we left itching to get out. I will tell you the reason why. When we walked into the cathedral, we were simply blown away by how magnificent the architecture was. The stained glass windows, the pillars, and the artwork put together was definitely something to see. And as we were making our way around the site, we saw many volunteers walking around in purple robes, explaining to the tourists that walked by the general history of the cathedral. Out of curiosity and because also my dad is someone who enjoys learning about British history, he asked a question about the cathedral to one of the volunteers. BIG MISTAKE. At first we stood around the volunteer looking with genuine interest at what she was saying but then, quite quickly, we found ourselves looking around the room, desperately searching for a way to get out. "And then the Benedictine Monks...And then St Bede...And then the architect..." Her voice was monotone and almost so calm and quiet, it became almost lifeless to the listener. After a while, to give her a hint of our intentions, my mum took a big step away from her. "Wow, that's so interesting, we have to go now," is what my mum said. And, surreptitiously, there came a brief pause where we thought for a moment that we might just get away with it. Yet, as we all began to walk away from her, the "And thens" began again! "And then did you know that an episode of Harry Potter was filmed here?" At one point, we started walking briskly away from her whilst she was still talking to us, yet her footsteps followed gently behind. When we finally found our way to the court yard, we breathed a huge sigh of relief, having escaped the further torments of the volunteer, passionate about her history. Yet, when I turned my head around, I saw a figure in a purple robe, lurking beyond the square. I tapped my mum on the shoulder and said "Look, she's over there!" And my mum, in a horrified expression, took to her feet immediately and started to walk swiftly away from the square. At this moment, my dad came out of the cathedral and asked "Shall we see the museum now?" And almost in unison, me and my mum chanted "Nooo!" I think you can understand why.




So that was the reason why we spent such a long time in the cathedral. But in the end, we were able to leave the site and evade further lengthy discussions with more volunteers. When we left, we began to walk towards Trevelyan College, the college where we would begin our tour of the city. When we arrived, we got ourselves signed in and made our way towards a lecture theatre where we would have an assembly about life at Durham University. The assembly was led by a woman who was in charge of the administration at the college, as well as two students who were studying there. Overall, my first impressions of Durham were really positive. The lady who was speaking to us in the assembly seemed really welcoming and really enthusiastic about supporting the students at the college. One thing she mentioned was that at Durham there are lots of student societies to choose from and the university really puts an emphasis on getting students to not only focus on their academics but also on extracurricular activities that will enable them to form great friendships. She also said that if you can't find a society that appeals to you, then you're also free to form your own with the funding and support of the university. I thought this was a great thing because I am someone who loves academics just as much as my creative passions. If I were to go to Durham I would definitely consider joining a dance society or forming my own. The university is said to have many societies based on music and the performing arts, so maybe there's space for a dance society too. 

As for the students in the assembly, they seemed like very well spoken and friendly people. One guy, who ended up leading our tour of Trevelyan College, seemed really shy and kind of socially awkward. But he was very helpful and gave us a thorough tour, showing us things like the student union and the college cafeteria. A couple things I didn't like about the college though were the architecture and the fact it was fully catered. The architecture of the college was very modern in design and every building that we walked past was hexagonal shaped, built with a dark, overbearing brick. I thought to myself that this would perhaps give me a bit of a headache if I were to study here full-time! Furthermore, because the college was fully-catered, it meant that none of the students were actually cooking for themselves during their time there. To some this may be music to the ears but for me, I do find it kind of therapeutic to cook and if I was denied that, I would not only find that I would lose my sense of independence but I would also lose a great way to unwind after a long day. But, thankfully this tour was only to get a taste of what life is like at a college. There are plenty of other colleges in Durham that have older buildings and self-catering facilities so at the end of the day, it's just about choosing what works best for you!

After our tour of the college, we then had our tour of the city to get a wider view of the university. This part, I didn't think was too helpful since me and my parents had already walked around most of the city before the tour. But, we were able to see at least the new, purpose-built campus building for the students which was pretty cool. However, we were left at the end with more questions about what it is actually like to study history at Durham, since there was a lot of talk about the social life and party scene at Durham, but not necessarily enough talk about the academics and subjects we could be taking. As a result, when me and my parents walked past the history department building in the university, we decided to knock on the door and see if we could get any answers to our questions. Long story short, we were greeted by a man at the door who was in charge of the administration at the department and he got us talking to a history professor at the university. N the end, we were led up these very winding steps to what looked like an ordinary office, until we stepped inside and we saw a desk surrounded by a wall of books about history. The professor sat me and my parents down and proceeded to talk to us about the curriculum, which seemed to span millenia. He then told us about his speciality and he explained that he was studying the history of the press and freedom of speech, which I suppose is a very topical issue in this day and age. He also said that he came from a Gypsy family and worked his way from rock bottom to get to his position. Then, quite quickly, his attention turned to me. I remember him saying "And now this is the point where I turn to you and I ask you, without your parent's input, what aspect of history do you like to study?" I responded by saying that during my time at sixth form I did the IB and the history course was based largely around the 20th century. Mid-sentence he stopped me and said "Ahh, the 20th century, one might not call that history." I then said that IB history taught me a lot about the historical method and analysing different sources in turn. I also said that I learnt about different epoques in English where I had analysed the works of romantic poets like William Blake and the Ancient Greek playwright Sophocles. This then seemed to induce a pretty good discussion surrounding a variety of issues. I found the process slightly intimidating and not what I was necessarily expecting to do at the end of that day, but I tried to hold my ground nevertheless and answer his questions. At the end of the very long and interesting discussion, he shook my hand, asked for my name, before saying "I probably won't remember your name with so many students, but thank you for coming today Juliette." At the end of the day, we went to the beach to have a walk. Overall, I thought that the meeting we had with the professor was very interesting and although it showed that there was a lot that I didn't know, the process made me want to learn more. In university, these will be the sorts of conversations you will be having with lecturers and professors and I think in a way, this professor was testing me a bit. I don't think I did a great job but I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience of speaking to someone who knew a lot more than me. At the time, I was also applying for the University of Cambridge and part of the application process is to take part in an interview where you are required to have these sorts of discussions. In a way, this was a good practice for what was to come later on down the line. But as we were walking along the promenade that day, my mum said "I think you did a good job answering those questions and when he said that I don't think I will remember your name, I don't think that's true." I do hope that in a way, despite me not knowing much, I still made a few memorable points in that meeting.

The next day, we began to make our way back towards Cambridge. On our way back, we stopped off at York to see the city and have lunch. We walked along the long outer wall of the city built by the Romans and it was here that we got an excellent view of York Minster and York Minster Cathedral. It was a breathtaking view. Later on, we decided to go inside the cathedral and the interior was magnificent too. But my dad, just as we were about to leave the premises, got stopped by a volunteer who asked him "Excuse me sir, would you like to fill in a form about your experience coming here?" My dad, feeling a little bit trapped, kindly accepted the offer. When he took the tablet from the volunteer, he was expecting to answer a few yes/no questions but was instead met with pages of questions requiring many written answers. He ended up rushing everything and not answering the questions properly. Does this situation ring a bell? I feel this always happens to us when we pass volunteers on historic sites.


We decided to have lunch that day at this pie shop. We chose this shop because there was a massive queue of people outside the shop, waiting to get their pies so we thought that it must be a good place to eat. And it certainly was. We bought ourselves an array of pork pies and the crust, the meat, and the jelly combined were all so so delicious. People up North just know how to make their pies! We sat down on a street corner to eat, where we enjoyed this chocolate-box city and the amazing spectacle of a young street performer...

From which we made our way back home, which concluded our trip to Durham!

Have you ever visited Durham? Let me know in the comments below and I'll be sure to reply to them. I ♡ hearing from you!

See you next time,

Bye,

XOX, Juliette 

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