“Time devours everything, but each mortal believes that his own memory can enshrine immortality.”
– Angela Thirkell
There’s always a certain apprehension when returning to somewhere you previously loved. Sure, the first time you visited, it was beautiful and magical and you promised out loud to the chagrin and slight embarrassment of your companions “I’ll be back” in your worst-possible Schwarzenegger voice.
But then the years pass, life goes on, and that city, town, village or dilapidated old ruin gains this sort of unreal aura. It’s forever perfect. It stands in your mind as the most ideal locale on the planet.
And then, miraculously, you have a chance to go back. Your heart starts to pound at the thought, you feel dizzy. You will be going back to a place that truly makes you feel at peace. How brilliant is that?
But what if that fabulous little pub you and your friends found is now a blaring nightclub? What if that darling little hole-in-the-wall book store has gone the way of so many others and finally shut its doors? What if the ruin you so loved has finally lost its centuries-old battle with gravity?
What if it’s not the same?
Well, internet, I can pretty much guarantee that unless you have invented some magical multi-coloured glasses with the ability to recreate the sites you previously loved so much in all their poetic glory, things will have indeed change. Much as life went on for you, it went on in your little piece of heaven as well.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself falling in love all over again.
As our train approached beautiful, majestic Durham … these were the exact thoughts running through my mind. Ok, or a rough approximation of them. It was 10 months ago for goodness sake.
I had first visited Durham all the way back in 2006 with my Dad and a close childhood friend of mine. Dad, as was routine, was off most of the day on business leaving my friend and I to explore the town to our heart’s content.
From the moment I arrived, all those years ago, my breath took immediate leave of my body.
No seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever more accurately used the word breathtaking before.
The train station is situated on a hill so when you walk out of there you can see the entire town. There are very few times that I have the aching desire to fly. The logic of ‘if you try you will fall and you will hurt yourself’ usually intervenes before I get any serious ideas. But if there is ONE place in the world I wish Tinkerbell and that fabulous magic dust of hers would pay me a visit, it’s Durham. Right on the railway platform. That way I could just fly over to the glorious Durham Castle and Cathedral just across the way.
Instead, for the second time in my life, I walked down the rather steep hill to the town awaiting our arrival below.
(I don’t actually think the town was awaiting us… But it sounds nice, doesn’t it?)
This time around, however, I was not headed to a hotel to freshen up and drop off all my things so I could parade around the town light as air.
This time, Kristen and I were going all-out backpacker. We only had until just after dinner before we had to catch another train, this time out of England entirely into Edinburgh in Scotland. So, we shouldered our napsacks (well, hers was a full-on suitcase masquerading unsuccessfully as a carry-on) and marched our way slowly up the cobblestone streets to the town centre.
Did I mention it was pouring rain? Well. It was pouring rain. And the Gurski sisters don’t have a great track records when it comes to preparing for rainfall – in fact we rather like a good celestial drenching. We’re not crazy.
Walking up the narrow, curving street into the town centre I was, admittedly, apprehensive. Nothing was looking familiar at all. I was so sure we were on the right path until about 5 minutes in when my continuous glances side-to-side refused to produce even a glimmer of recognition. Was I wrong about this place?
Before I could start hyperventilating in earnest and suggest we just head back to the train platform and gaze at the behemoth of Durham Cathedral from afar while doing our best Little Mermaid ‘Part of Your World’ impressions – we turned another corner and there it was, the Market Place complete with the oddly prominent statue of Neptune – forever a reminder of the city’s failed sea-port ambitions.
Regardless of the colour of my glasses…Durham was as lovely as ever, and not just in my memory.
Stay-tuned to hear me wax poetically on the charms of Durham Cathedral! And then, dear Internet, to Scotland we go.