Durham circa Christmas


Professor Clifford Johnson’s blog post describing winter in Santa Monica has made me a bit homesick. So I’ll do my best to return the favor by putting up a few photographs of Durham University, where Dr. Johnson was previously before moving to USC. By the way, I’ve learned that it’s pronounced DAR’em, not DUR-um and certainly not like anything that rhymes with the name of US soccer player (‘footballer’) Mia Hamm.

I was in town for the 2006 Annual Theory Meeting (more on this later) and to work out details of my upcoming research MSc. I had just enough time to do a tiny bit of sight seeing and take a peek at prospective colleges. (Durham, Oxford, and Cambridge are the only UK universities to operate on the college system… apparently some people use the phrase ‘Doxbridge,’ but I get the impression that Durham is usually forgotten by its older brothers.)

This is the sign walking from Grey College towards the ‘Historic Cathedral City.’ I thought it was a characteristically foggy and chilly in Durham… but apparently it was just as cold in Cambridge while I was gone. It hovered around freezing, dipping below in the evenings to give us a lovely layer of frost:

The above photo was the main lawn of Grey college, which I’ve been told makes an excellent tobagganing hill. I also went to go check out Hild & Bede college which is located close to the rivier. It was a foggy morning, but the cathedral’s presence in the city was still there.

Here’s one more photo from just North West of the cathedral, which is located on an island which was described as ‘impregnable’ as a medieval fortess.

Here’s a closer look at the cathedral, including the gravestones in the foreground.

And here’s the rose window:

I found out later that there’s an opportunity to climb to the top of the cathedral, from which the view is apparently rather breathtaking.

One more image from the door of the cathedral. The knocker is actually a reproduction, but I found it rather charming all the same.

There is some construction going on in the Northern transept. For what it’s worth, I think the scaffolding adds a nice touch to the ambiance. It’s a reminder that the cathedral isn’t just something that was built a long time ago, it is continuously upkept by the people of Durham: both physically and in literature:

Why, it’s a perfect little city. If you have never been to Durham, go there at once. Take my car. It’s wonderful. (Bill Bryson in Notes from a Small Island, the American-born writer is now Chancellor of Durham University.)

And I just though the following picture was very pretty. Durham definitely feels like an ‘old European town’ … but then again, what the heck do I know about old European towns?

The main shopping area is full of curvy, slightly hilly streets. Among the stores was a Pizza Express (a fancier-than-it-sounds Italian pizza restaurant whose desserts I’m very fond of), a teddy bear store, an ‘indoor market’ that’s a bit like a swap meet, a Waitrose supermarket. But nowhere did I find the lemon tarts that Dr. Johnson purchases from the Tudor House in Santa Monica.

Finally… a parting image of the cathedral surrounded by fog…

… and a panoramic view from the Howlands Farm site. This is the site of the graduate college (Ustinov) and the brand new Josephine Butler college. At the center of the housing is a large mound (‘The Mound’) with quite a view.

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