Durham, England and “We’re Not Dead”

For our regular readers who expect our typical 3-a-week blog frequency, we’re pleased to report that we’re not dead. We didn’t meet our demise in the Louisiana swamps, the 110+ degree heat we’ve experienced hasn’t melted us into oblivion, and we haven’t gotten lost 800 feet below the Earth’s surface at Carlsbad Caverns. These are, however, hints of what we’ve been up to since our last blog hit the world wide web a week ago.

No, our silence has been due instead to the inexplicable practice of luxury hotel brands to charge, and to charge ludicrously high rates, for unusably bad Internet. We won’t mention any names, but the Hilton (oops!) we’ve stayed in the last few days has been unable to get wifi signal to our room. They charge for it, and as we’re here on business I would only gripe a little about having to pay for it, but I couldn’t even get to the point of connecting to pay. So the best Internet service we’ve had all week was the hotspot on our mobile phones, which has only been useful in the wee hours of the morning before the hordes who’ve descended on Vegas wake up and start checking their FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.

I’ll jump off the soapbox and not belabor the notion of hotels charging for Internet: they can charge for the toilet paper if they wanted, and I don’t have to stay there. I know that Internet is a little freebie they like to reserve for their “gold” club members and such, but it just seems peculiar for the high end brands to charge for a service that has become commonly free for the discount and intermediate brands…where we actually now prefer to stay as full-time travelers.

Anyway, on to our regularly scheduled blog content (at least scheduled for last Saturday)…

Note to self: Durham, England is a destination worth returning to. Last year we spent a few days in York. It’s a great city, with a splendid cathedral (the York Minster), probably the best railroad museum in the world, and lots of history going back to Viking days and before. Durham is a similar city: worth a 3 or 4 day stop if you’re traveling to the northern reaches of the realm, with a grand cathedral, a castle, and lots of interesting history.

Unfortunately we weren’t too aware of how nice a city Durham is to visit and we were only passing through for the day to check out the cathedral. The city is on a high peninsula created by a sharp u-shaped bend of the River Wear. It’s easy to imagine the river acting as a natural moat, so it’s not surprising to learn that the city has an incredible 4,000 year history. It sprang to prominence when monks selected it as the final resting place of Saint Cuthbert’s remains in the 10th century, for which that grand cathedral was built. It’s status as the seat of a diocese for the ensuing centuries gave it significance, including becoming a repository–to this day–of several copies of the Magna Carta.

Durham retains that medieval charm, with twisty and winding streets full of interesting pubs, restaurants, and shops. There are squares with statues and monuments, smaller parish churches as interesting as the giant cathedral, museums, gardens, and more. Durham is also a college town, giving the city a young vibe, with students and student groups everywhere you look, guys playing violin on the bridge, sculling teams practicing in the river, libraries, bookshops, and more.

It’s hard not to love a city that has a shop entirely dedicated to fountain pens and 19th century writing implements…

Chuck and Lori's Travel Blog - Old Fashioned Writing Tools Shop, Durham, England













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