18 April 2009

A day in Durham

Yesterday I spent the day in Durham. I've been meaning to go and visit the Oriental Museum for a few years, and I finally got round to it. I got up at 6am and caught the train just after 7, arriving in Durham at about 10. It was the first time that I had travelled first class on the train! The journey was really interesting, and I saw things like Holy Island and the Tyne bridges along the way. The approach to Durham was quite spectacular with the view of the cathedral.

It didn't take long to walk to the Oriental Museum, and there were lovely views of the cathedral and the river along the way. When I arrived at the museum, the woman at the desk was very helpful and explained the layout of the collections. The Chinese collection was amazing. It was spread out over two floors. I particularly liked the traditional Chinese bed, which was more like a whole room. The display downstairs of all the different types of Chinese ceramics through the ages was very interesting. The Japanese collection was not as large, but the objects they had were very interesting and beautiful, in particular a large screen showing the Toshogu Shrine at Nikko in detailed embroidery. There were also some spectacular painted kites. The gift shop was good, and I bought three types of Japanese incense in beautiful paper boxes. I really wish that there had been a book of the museum's collections, because I would certainly have bought it. There were so many beautiful artifacts, and not enough time to draw them all (especially not the embroidered screen) and photography is not allowed.

After leaving the museum I wandered back towards the city centre, and found myself heading towards the cathedral. I discovered that it is a spectacular, awe-inspiring building, especially inside. It has a wonderful atmosphere.

I then had lunch at the continental market, including my first taste of baklava and another lovely pastry called boukage, before having a look at the indoor market. I then wandered round the shops. There is a wonderful Oxfam bookshop over three floors which has lots of comfy chairs to sit and read in. A few doors away is the first Oxfam Boutique, which has vintage and designer clothes, but it was a bit expensive for me! I also discovered a lovely shop called The Renovation Store which had beautiful home accessories spread over three floors. Durham is a really interesting place, full of bridges and steep narrow cobbled streets.

I caught the train home, and discovered I was at the wrong end of a very packed train. I had to clamber over people and luggage to get to my seat. I got back just after 7, just in time to meet some friends at the pub.

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