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michaelhudson

michaelhudson
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Member since: 02.07.2001

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      29.11.2003 22:28
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      Built in 1844 as a half-sized pastiche of the renowned Theseum in Athens, Penshaw Monument dominates an otherwise seemingly unremarkable hill beside the A19 in much the same way as its younger relative the Angel of the North surveys Team Valley and the A1. Dating from an age when landmarks were built to the vanity of landowners and glory of patriotic heroes rather than at the behest of council bosses and government quangoes, the monument was paid for by public subscription and designed by the local architects John and Benjamin Green - who were also jointly responsible for Grey's Momument and the Theatre Royal in Newcastle - in honour of John George Lambton, Earl of Durham, one time ambassador to Russia and the first Governor General of Canada, who had died four years earlier. Grade II listed, the sandstone edifice stands 100 feet long, 53 feet wide and 70 feet high, a grand folly of 18 Greek Doric columns, each almost 7 feet thick, raised on a stone platform, and entirely open to the elements between its imposing end pediments. PENSHAW HILL AND THE LAMBTON WORM The Legend of the Lambton Worm is synonymous with Penshaw Hill, despite the best efforts of historical spoilsports to prove otherwise. In the Middle Ages a young member of the Lambton family decided to go fishing on a Sunday morning, ignoring warnings that it was unlucky to do so rather than attending church. He caught nothing but a worm, which he angrily threw down a well. Years later, while the erstwhile fisherman was away fighting in the Crusades, the by now huge worm emerged from the well and proceeded to terrify the surrounding community, devastating lands and villages far and wide and swallowing young children alive. When Lambton returned from the Holy Land, he consulted a witch (as you do), who told him to wear a special suit of spiked armour and wade into the River Wear to fight the monster. However, she also made him swear to kill the first living thing he saw after the worm&
      #39;s death. If you want to know the rest, it's best to look here: www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/legends/lampton_worm.html THE MONUMENT From the bus stop and lay-by at the bottom of the hill it's a steep 100-step dirt and wooden riser climb to the top. Clambering up the base, just over a metre above ground level, I stand between columns blackened by industrial dirt, their bases spattered with grafitti that grows less imaginative with each passing decade, finally reaching its nadir in a white scrawl of initials that all but covers a century old name carved neatly into the stone. Families with dogs wander round the top of the hill, dodging nettles, horse droppings, vandalised grey cases (covers for the floodlights that illuminate the structure every night) and children playing hide and seek. Down below, on either side of the steps up the hill, the remains of the ramparts from an Iron Age fort ring the grass, though some still say the marks were caused by the worm sleeping coiled around the hill. Standing by the hollow column in the south east corner of the monument (the spiral staircase of which is unfortunately now closed to visitors) I look out over a flat landscape stretching 450 metres down and several miles across to the North Sea, a white ferry reflecting the early evening summer sunlight as it moves silently past Seaburn, clumps of high rise buildings buildings to the south encircling Sunderland city centre, and the browns and yellows of newly cultivated land stretching beyond the waste high scrub land up on the hill. Further to the north, tracing the coastline up towards the Tyne, the matchstick like Cleadon Windmill tops a hill over to the east, marking the border of a panorama along the banks of the river, the distant shipyard cranes overlooking half-hidden suburbs, all fronted by the light-grey corrugated factory units of Washington, Nissan's huge pre-fabricated buildings and the sprawling gr
      een landscape of Washington Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. Off to the west are the rounded hills of Durham, misted by the slowly setting sun, stringing themselves out towards Lambton Castle and Chester-le-Street. The flat land in the foreground is covered with dark green tree cover, standing defiant in the face of the steadily encroaching rows of semi-detached homes, still and orderly except for the occasional car and the repetitive melody of a lone ice cream van. Following the slope of the monument to the south east, I peer down over green fields and terraced miner's cottages, my eyes straining to see wind turbines over the hill and failing to see Durham City in the far distance. And then it's time for home. GETTING THERE A number of buses stop at or near the base of Penshaw Hill, including the X6, X8, 638, 775, 777 and 778. All bar the 777, which departs from Newgate Street in Newcastle and calls at Gateshead Metro station, leave from either Washington or Sunderland city centre. Full details on www.gonortheast.co.uk If you're driving, try http://www.theaa.com/travelwatch/planner_main.jsp WEBSITES http://www.sunderland.ac.uk/virtualtour/penshaw.htm and http://www.bbc.co.uk/wear/360/penshaw_monument.shtml both have panoramic images of the monument and surrounding countryside. www.wearsideonline.com SUMMARY While I wouldn't advise making a journey to Pensahaw Monument for its own sake, it's definitely worth a short detour from the A19, Sunderland city centre or Lambton Castle if you're in the area. As the Monument attracts far fewer visitors than the Angel of the North, you also may just be lucky enough to have the whole place to yourself.

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        19.11.2003 23:38
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        This Q&A challenge can help newbies find out what dooyoo is about and, if many established members participate, what the community is like and will hopefully convince them to stay and become active. To be sure, everything has been said before, but has it had any impact? Only for a limited time until the opinion disappeared from the front page! By presenting the tips on helping new members in the form of a questionnaire which can be done by several members the impact can perhaps be prolonged. several members, better: many members, to show that many roads lead to dooyoo! Is this where I come in then? When did you join dooyoo? July 2nd 2001, though I didn't get round to posting an opinion for another fortnight. I think it took another two weeks for me to stop for breath. How did you discover dooyoo? I was searching for something completely unrelated when I came across one of the freebie sites. The cash section took my eye and dooyoo was listed at the top. I decided to register, then decided I couldn't be bothered and just told my money grabbing younger brother about it instead, who forced me to register so he could claim some extra money on the referral. Why did you join? I'd been working overseas for almost two years at the time and, strange as this may sound seeing as I was teaching English, my language skills were beginning to decline a bit. I thought I could probably string a few sentences together and make a few pennies whilst keeping my vocab up to date. And my horrible anally retentive flatmate had a lap-top hooked up to the interet in his room. And it was too hot to go outside. And 'A Bridge To Far' had just finished and I was in an inspired mood. What was your first opinion on? Football. I was living in Korea, the World Cup was coming up and I thought that nobody else would know anything about the place. I actually got a crown for that one a few days later. In
        the meantime I got a bit over excited and started writing things off the top of my head. I've grown out of that (or I thought I had until just now). Did you find it easy to get the hang of dooyoo? Once I discovered that you had to space the lines to get paragraphs I had no problems at all. That was the only bit of constructive advice I got - no big welcome for me! The rest was pretty easy with a bit of thought. I think most things actually worked in those days though. Did you read other opinions before you posted your first one? Of course not, there's no money in reading. I think I started to write my first opinion within five minutes of logging into the site for the first time. If I could go back and change one thing, I think I would've been better to have spent some time reading before starting on my own opinion. I did learn that lesson pretty quickly. Do you write no/some/many comments? It depends on my mood. As I get a childish pleasure out of reading comments on my own opinions I do try to leave as many as I can myself. I think I probably comment on a third of all the opinions I read, though sometimes nothing comes to mind other than some random platitude. That usually does the trick. When you click on the list of Newest Reviews, do you read your friends' opinions no matter what they're on/according to subject no matter who has written on it/preferably the opinions of new writers? I only read the people who are the likeliest to give me some filthy lucre back in return, don't I?. Seriously, I usually scroll down and see if there are any names I recognise first. I'll read anything by someone of my Circle of Friends (within reason) and then anything that interests me from other members. And, of course, I read all the Travel opinions whenever I'm guiding. I do click on the New Members list and read as many as I can whenever I have time, and I also come across
        a few newer writers through comments they've left on other people's opinions. I'm usually too busy to read more than four of five opinions at one sitting though. For new writers: The very, very best way to get more reads is to put as much effort as you can into your own opinions and then to read, rate and comment like a wailing banshee. Do you write your opinions in one sitting? With the exception of this one, never. I have notebooks full of scribbled writing which I go through in two or three sittings. I usually find it helpful to post opinions a few hours after I've finished them as you can always spot mistakes etc on a second reading. How often do you post a new opinion? Once a day for the first month I was here and then once every month or so thereafter. I think less is definitely more when it comes to writing three or four opinions a day or something stupid like that. If I see someone's name more than twice on the New Opinions list I avoid them like the plague, along with people who use brands and companies in their user names (ranty types). I think I would also have given myself a wide berth the first few weeks I was here. To be honest, I'm usually too busy teaching to find the motivation to write anything. It's a mental thing. Do you use a spell check? I hope I don't need to, otherwise my students would be in a bit of bother. Not that they aren't anyway. Do you think you can improve your chances to get a crown if you suck up to a guide? Yes, but only if they choose me. And I'm not even that expensive. Are you a member of a forum or a chat room? Not unless you count tooyoo. I still think of chat rooms as seedy, anything goes type places. Which is why I'll be signing up to one in the very near future. Does it get to you when members praise or condemn you? Praise is ok, condemnation is just funny.
        Some people get themselves so worked up that they forget where to find the off button. I don't like to say it's only a website because dooyoo is a pretty serious thing. But it's still only a website. What did you do in your spare time before you joined dooyoo? Exactly the same as I do now (secret!). Dooyoo just squeezed into a bit of space. What do you wish for the future? I'm not all that bothered about the capital letters, though it would be aesthetically nice to have them back. Greater levels of positivity, some new members to come, existing members to stay, and old members to come back. And for the 6p a read to last until Christmas 2005.

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          20.10.2003 23:41
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          Syracuse was the New York of the ancient world, its grandiose monuments every inch as iconic to Plato, Archimedes and Cicero as lofty Art Deco skyscrapers, Macey's and the Statue of Liberty are to us. Modern Siracusa, having suffered the debilitating effects of colonial marginalization, aerial bombardment by both the Allies and the Luftwaffe, and a hotch-potch muddle of painted high rise concrete split by traffic clogged roads, retains all too few structures of this bygone age, the unsightly encroachment of post-war development checked only by the crumbling palazzos and tilting side streets of inner Ortigia and the wondrous remains preserved in the Parco Archeologico at Neapolis, one of the five distinct towns that made up the original settlement. Wedged tightly between a municipal athletics track and private tennis courts, the road leading from Viale Teracati to the entrance is fenced by badly parked coaches and rounded gangs of elderly day-trippers, narrowing finally to a parting between two lines of souvenir stalls stacked with over colourful tea towels, shaped and branded lava rock, framed papyrus pictures, fake football tops, glossy pictorial history books and an assortment of shapeless plastic mountains topped by overhanging postcard strips. A bend in the road brings relative silence and the ticket office, where signs point left for the theatre and right for the Ear of Dionysius. THE GREEK THEATRE Entering the arena half way up, the first view is of a curving crumble of steps topped by a purple-flecked incline of patchy green and brown grass and fronted by an impenetrable green curtain behind a fragmentary stage. The 46 stone steps are cracked, rubbled and broken, yet they still retain a sense of order imbued by a wide horizontal aisle cutting across the mid-point of nine vertical wedges. At the top, behind the grass and continuing along the entire 140-metre diameter of the theatre, low set caves with faces full of pastry shape c
          uts signifying an ancient cult of the dead close out the scene. A small waterfall, running off a branch of an ancient aqueduct, slides over moss covered rock, dissipating into thin chains of white bubble that float lazily on the disturbed pool of clear water. Tour groups are marched up the hill, holding cameras through a five-minute lecture in which they hear that Aeschylus and Epicarmo, who created the Greek comedy genre here, premiered new works in a theatre lauded by Plato and Aristotle, which held 15,000 spectators and dates from the 5th century B.C., making it the oldest Greek theatre entirely in stone. Politicians sat in the centre, nobles at the top, and neither paid anything for their tickets. Finally, the theatre was modified in the 2nd century B.C. and largely dismantled eighteen centuries later when the Spanish carted it off to be used in the construction of their fortifications in Ortigia. Lecture over, the tour groups are marched back down to their next checkpoint, leaving me alone against a back wall of limestone watching the harbour shining in the Sunday morning sun and the orange squeezer shaped modern church tussling with an improbably high rectangular building for the centre spot of the horizon. If I were able to edit out the workmen down below - busy hammering planks of wood over the ash grey steps in preparation for the forthcoming classical Greek theatre season - and the slow paced hum of an unseen generator, I would hardly know that a modern city existed hereabouts, sitting still in the breeze and the shade of millions. THE EAR OF DIONYSIUS AND THE QUARRY OF PARADISE Slipping down a shaded path of tightly overhanging, interwoven trees as fragrant as a Saturday afternoon in the Body Shop - medlars diluting prickly pears, blended with oranges and palms and a dash of lemon - I duck and weave my way along a meandering route of flowers and rock tunnels to the bottom of Paradise Gardens. To the right of a stop-start snake of tourist
          s posing in front of its more conspicuous neighbour, the Rope-makers' Grotto cuts back from a sweeping entrance shaped like a pair of heavy theatre curtains parted at their base by a pair of giant, unseen hands. A strikingly smooth ceiling is supported by a broad column sharpened like a carnivore's tooth with its point embedded in a sodden floor of weeds and loose stone. Unfortunately entry to the cave itself is prohibited due to the danger of falling rocks, so you'll have to be content with either the view or the description. Taking advantage of a lull between coach parties I slip into the Ear, which in truth looks more like an oriental eye, 23-metres high and varying in width between five and eleven metres, finally tapering to 30-centimetres or so at the very top. It's wonderfully eerie inside, pushing 65-metres back into the rock and engendering a sensation of being upside down in the gloomy hull of an upturned oil tanker permeated by the ghosts of more than 7,000 Athenians, survivors of a routed invasion fleet, who were imprisoned here in 415BC, forced to labour in the quarries, and then left to a slow death by the tyrant Dionysius. Carvaggio, a visitor some two millennia later, imagined him eavesdropping on his prisoners from far above, their voices carried upwards by the famous acoustics. It's one of those places that requires a few moments of silent contemplation before you can begin to appreciate just what is around you, but the constant stream of anodyne clappers, monotonous chanters and national anthem crooners manage to fill the odd moments of silence between shouts of "Forza Milan", wolf whistles and multi-lingual babble. I spend a few minutes devising hideous tortures for the faces behind the flashbulbs and then quietly leave. Back at the street of plastic souvenirs, pause for a moment at the fence overlooking the Altar of Jeron (Heiron) II, a rectangular sacrificial altar almost 200 metres long and 23 met
          res wide, comfortably the biggest structure of its kind in the whole of Magna Graecia. Built in the 3rd century BC to commemorate the end of the tyrants and the proclamation of the republic, more than 400 bulls were driven up ramps to be sacrificed in annual festivities, an extant pool in the middle of the rock reputedly served to clean up the subsequent mess. It requires a lot of imagination to fully appreciate anything other than the sheer size of it nowadays, however, especially as much of the stone work was removed by the Spanish for their city defences. THE ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE The entrance to the amphitheatre is in the middle of the souvenir stands, a metal gate on the right hand of the street opening to a small path lined with trees and benches. Though impressively large in size - behind only the Colosseum in Rome and the Arena of Verona at 140 x 119 metres - it is nowhere near as spectacular as its Greek counterpart. Elliptical and enclosed, the central arena is overgrown with wild yellow flowers and the surrounding stone steps are broken into patches by weeds and long, unkempt grass. Although visitors are restricted to the very top of the parapet the site has a number of interesting features to go with the wonderful charm – entirely encircled by huge trees it's as if you've stumbled upon a place lost for centuries, rough, eroded, and on the point of collapse except for two perfectly preserved red brick arches. The spirit of an entire island in microcosm. DETAILS Combined admission to the Quarries and the Greek and Roman Theatre is 4.5 euros. The lesser sights in the park - a church by the main entrance and views of the Necropolis of Grotticelle and the apocryphal Tomb of Archimedes - are free. The park is open daily from 9am until two hours before sunset. Remember to retain your ticket from the Greek Theatre for entrance to the Roman Amphitheatre. A season of classical Greek theatre tak
          es place annually at Neapolis from May to July. The outdoor performances begin at sunset and takets can be purchased onsite or from the tourist offices in town. If you're intending to visit the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum (five minutes away in Viale Teocrito) and the Palazzo Bellomo Regional Art Gallery, it's worth buying a combined ticket for all three. There's a 30% discount on admission but it's only valid for two days. The site is a twenty-minute walk from Ortigia (or just over five from the railway station) at the very top of the Corso Gelone. Numerous buses make the journey from the terminus in Piazza della Posta. TOURIST INFORMATION Aside from the small booth at the park entrance, the major tourist information centres are located in Via Maestranza (near Piazza Archimedes in Ortigia) and in Via San Sebastiano (on the other side of the park at the entrance to the Catacombs of San Giovanni, left of the roundabout in Viale Teocrito). WEBSITES www.regione.sicilia.it/TURISMO/Web_turismo/uk/localita/SR/siracusa/homepage.ht ml www.ortigiaonline.it www.bestofsicily.com/siracusa.htm www.apt-siracusa.it/uk/pag1.html

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            07.09.2003 22:30
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            Western Europe was a dark and dangerous place at the beginning of the 8th century BC, the post-Roman gloom illuminated only by dim lights in the old capital and at Jarrow, Northumbria, a small monastic settlement at the furthest edges of their former Empire founded by Benedict Biscop. One man in particular, born of a lowly family who had left him at the Benedictine monastery of St Peter's, Wearmouth, aged 7, "shone forth as a lantern", producing over 150 written works on subjects as diverse as Gregorian chanting, poetry, history, science and biblical translations. His name was simply Baeda (an Old English word meaning priest) but he would be renowned as not only the greatest of all Anglo-Saxon scholars but also "the father of English History" and "the teacher of the Middle Ages." BEDE'S WORLD An atrium at the entrance to the museum building, constructed in line with Roman and early medieval styles, induces an immediate sense of tranquillity, setting the scene beautifully for the interior exhibitions. Reception is straight ahead at a desk to the right of the gift shop - well stocked with books, stationery and small gifts - and opposite the small room housing temporary displays and the main entrance to the Age of Bede. THE AGE OF BEDE In the beginning came the Romans, as evidenced by roof tiles and jewellery recovered from the nearby forts of Arbeia and Segedunum. Life size reproductions of stone figures - an Irish Abbot, a Pictish Warrior King and an Anglo-Saxon man - glare across from an opposite corner next to a reconstructed skeleton found in a cemetery in Cleveland, and a Germanic voice intones the words of an Anglo-Saxon poem, The Ruin, which imagines the lost civilisation of an abandoned Roman city. A doorways opens into the bright white spaces of Northumbria, ahead and to the left are reconstructions of armour, scale models of ancient settlements, displays on the six journeys Benedict Bi
            scop made to Rome and colourful text and pictures explaining the art, culture, history and religion of the kingdom. Biscop leads us to the Monastic Life, with models of the churches he built at Wearmouth and Jarrow and assorted artefacts including carved sandstone friezes, roof tiles, stone carvings, imported Gaulish pottery, a full size replica of an illustrated bible written at Wearmouth-Jarrow and now housed in Florence and a reproduction of the original foundation stone from St Paul's (the original is above the chancel in the church itself). The construction of the monastery was truly revolutionary, as shown by the displays of early glassmaking techniques and the fact that it was the first major new stone building work since Roman times. On the other side of the room are far more simplistic personal objects belonging to the monks themselves and text detailing their lifestyle and accomplishments - up at 1.30am for early mass, followed by hours of prayer, work and study and a bedtime of 6pm in winter and 9pm in summer. At the end, in a plain circular room dedicated to Bede, I sit in four alcoves and listen to extracts of his work and explanations of his role as a teacher, poet, historian and scientist, the narration eerily layered by monastic chanting from the previous room and the sound effects of a video presentation on the other side of the next doorway. Though Bede is best known as the author of the 'Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation', a chronicle of events from the Roman occupation to the time of the book's completion in 731AD which remains one of our main authorities on Anglo-Saxon life and the early Christian period, he also wrote poetry in Old English and Latin, made the first known attempt to translate the Bible into English, popularised the Anno Domini dating system, mastered Latin, Greek and Hebrew, wrote three Latin hymns and believed that the Earth was round "like a playground ball" rather than &q
            uot;like a shield." The only Englishman named in Dante's Paradiso, the breadth of his knowledge is even more astounding when you consider it was likely he travelled no further than Lindisfarne and York in his lifetime. Centuries before the effects of gravity became widely known he understood that the moon influenced the cycle of tides. He wrote of a world influenced by weather patterns and climatic change, and in particular, recognised the annual solar movements into the north and south hemispheres and, in his Ecclesiastical History, not only sourced and acknowledged all his references but also shaped what we know as the English national consciousness at a time when the country was only just beginning to emerge from the various crises and rivalries of the competing nation states. Not bad for a work of Northumbrian propaganda! But by far my favourite section of the whole room is a simple piece of text detailing Bede's reading list as of 731AD, in particular the reference to "a book on the life and passion of St Anastasius which was badly translated from the Greek by some ignorant person." I love the little glimpse of the man behind the great scholar here. Maybe that’s why Ken Livingstone deemed calls for a statue of him to be placed on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square to be "politically incorrect." (Or as politically incorrect as you can get in a space dominated by Imperial Lions and Admiral Nelson anyway!) Before you enter the video room take the lift or stairs up to the first floor, where a room holds facsimiles of stained glass windows and an illustration of Bede’s mathematical prowess (he could count up to one million by way of a complicated system based on shapes formed by the fingers and hands). Spend a couple of minutes admiring the views of Jarrow Hall and the top of St Paul's and then head back downstairs for the video presentation on Northumbria and the world of Bede. To the right of th
            e screen are exhibits on the death of the great monk, including his reputed last words, and later excavated finds from the site outside including medieval floor tiles, Northumbrian, French and Scottish coins and a collection of Victorian clay pipes. At the very end are a number of quotes from great historical figures on Bede’s importance, best among which is William of Malmesbury's: "Born in a far corner of the earth, by the spark of his learning he has touched deeply all lands." What a way to talk about my hometown! GYRWE ANGLO - SAXON FARM The reconstructed timber buildings and farm land of Gyrwe (the Anglo-Saxon name for Jarrow, pronounced Yeer-weh) spread over 10.5 acres of land reclaimed from a derelict petrol storage site. Exiting the museum building from the corridor between the end of the Age of Bede exhibition and the reception area, a dirt track leads past a cone shaped goosehouse built to a 9th century design with limewashed oak posts interwoven with hazel below a thatched wheat straw roof. A flock of geese wander along a fence constructed of long intertwined branches and two Dexter oxen, slightly smaller than modern cows, laze on the edge of Romano-British fields split by a gentle stream, a hazel coppice, Hebridean and Manx sheep and dozens of chickens. To the right fleeces and ducks are on sale, the former hanging outside the large workshop building and animal sheds. A short distance further, behind the pig pen containing two ancient Tamworth breeds crossed with Wild Boar, a path veers up to the high ground, looking back down on a vegetable garden full of peas, onions, leeks, white carrots and wild cabbage and up towards the landscaped edge of the site facing out over the confluence of the wide Tyne and the narrow mud flats of the River Don estuary. Standing next to the Bronze Age burial mound I'm caught in a sudden burst of drizzle and a blast of wind - weather patterns unchanged since the days of Bede himself.
            He probably wouldn't have recognised much beyond the outskirts of the farm, however - thousands of cars lined up for Nissan transport ships, giant oil drums on the Shell-Mex site, electricity pylons, the corrugated iron roof of a factory, the Bergen ferry pulling into the Tyne, and the towering shipyard cranes away in the distance behind the solitary Northumbrian Cross in the far corner. Designed and carved by Keith Ashford, who was inspired by 8th century stone crosses, the monument overlooks one of the most famous stretches of the river from Wallsend in the west to North Shields on the bend to the east. In the opposite direction lie the remaining three restored Anglo-Saxon timber buildings, a willow coppice and an orchard containing Crab apples, elderberries, pears and strawberries. Walk down the path and follow the branch to the left for the first of the buildings, the Hartlepool Monastic Cell - a small dirt floor covered by a reed thatched roof held up by whole tree trunk supports with thin strips of horizontal wood for walls where monks and nuns lived and worked. Loop back across the grass for the limewashed, irregular Thirlings Hall, passing a pole lathe used for making tool handles and furniture on the way. The Hall, large and open plan, is based on a 6th century landowner's residence excavated in Northumberland. As with the other buildings visitors are free to inspect the interior, full of long tables, a huge fire and various implements with a window propped open at one side. The final structure is the Grubenhaus, a simple dwelling with oak walls and a triangular thatched heather roof that covers both sides of the building down to ground level. Four steps lead from the entrance to a sunken dirt floor; the whole thing is reminiscent of a tent built over a tiny pit. From here the track winds back over a ford on the edge of a small pond back through the open vegetable fields, past children fascinated by the animals and adults
            enthralled by the sheer magnitude of it all. JARROW HALL Overlooking the old monastic estate and Drewett’s Park, now full of ankle length grass, picnic tables and a children’s playground, the Grade II listed Georgian building was completed in 1785 as a residence for a philanthropic local shipyard and coal mine owner. From 1935 it was used as a Nursery School, a wartime ammunition store, a store for the park gardener and, following restoration work in the 1970s, the site of the original Bede Monastery Museum. Today, aside from the restored Oval Room (used for conferences) and some wall displays on the history and inhabitants of the building, the main point of interest for visitors is the ground floor café, which sells sandwiches, salads, jacket potatoes and a wide variety of drinks at very reasonable prices. A small Herb Garden is located to the rear of the Hall. Based on Anglo-Saxon and Medieval designs it's a lovely place to sit in the shade, surrounded by rectangular beds, trellises and hundreds of different culinary and medicinal herbs. When you've finished here, wander across the field to St Paul's and the ruined monastery. But I'll save that story for another time. OVERALL Bede's World is an extremely impressive site with a great deal to interest both children and adults. Though the Age of Bede exhibition suffers a little from having relatively little authentic material, the presentation is nonetheless involving and interesting. The outdoor farm is fascinating, especially for kids, and the adjacent St Paul's Church and Monastery is still wonderfully evocative. Throw in the year round educational events - everything from craft fairs to theatrical productions and Anglo-Saxon re-enactments to historical lectures - and it’s easy to see why Bede's World has such a great reputation. And if you still don't want to pay £4.50 to see it all, you can always visit for
            free during the annual Heritage Open Days in mid-September (www.heritageopendays.org) or spend some time browsing the museum's excellent website (address listed below). DETAILS Bede's World Museum of Early Medieval Northumbria Church Bank, Jarrow Tel: 0191 4282361 www.bedesworld.co.uk ADMISSION Adults £4.50 Concessions £2.50 Family Ticket (2 Adults & 2 Children) £9.00 Half price for English Heritage members OPENING TIMES April - October: 10 - 5:30 Monday - Saturday, 12 - 5:30 Sunday November - March: Closing time one hour earlier. GETTING THERE The nearest Metro station is the appropriately named Bede. Travelling from Newcastle, exit the station and turn left in the direction of the Barbour factory. Then follow the signs for Bede's World and Jarrow Hall (10-15 minute walk). Taxis and buses (the 526 or the 527) operate from Jarrow (one stop earlier). The Museum is located two minutes from the south end of the Tyne Tunnel. There are full directions for drivers on the website and car parking is available on-site, both in front of the main building and directly across the road.

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              22.08.2003 20:15
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              Learning Spanish was just another in my long, long list of good intentions that end up trapped somewhere between decision and commencement, like throwing out the old magazines and university essays at the bottom of my wardrobe or finally getting around to buying a digital camera of my own. Then I went to Barcelona and discovered to my horror that the only phrase I could remember was dos cervezas, por favor (the shame, the shame). Cue one trip to a bookshop and a month of afternoons spent intermittently crouched over the play and rewind buttons on a tape recorder. I chose the BBC's Get By In Spanish on typically spurious grounds - a decade old edition was on sale for a bargain £1.99 at an outlet book depot (I won't tell you where because it was strictly one-off availability). Forget all considerations of quality, structure or ease of use, I could put the savings towards beer and my brother had already invested £25 in a Linguaphone course, the cellophane cover of which had since obtained a couple of fingerprints and a nice layer of dust. Aha, but was it money well spent? Well, yes, yes, yes in the case of my two pounds and hmm, maybe when it comes to my brother's year old purchase. The Linguaphone course - nice cardboard box, glossy paper and lovely colour photographs - was a bit too earnest for me and seemed to take an age to get going (unit one of eight covers very basic introductions, ordering a coffee, asking a taxi driver for a hotel and not very much else at all). With no pronunciation guide to get me started, and too much rote learning repetitiveness at the beginning, the tapes went back in their boxes to be used for later revision. In contrast, Get By In Spanish starts exactly where any good language course should - with the sounds of the alphabet. Only once you've mastered these can you begin to work independently of the cassettes, using your eyes and intellect instead of just your ears and short term memory. Luckil
              y, Spanish is far, far easier to pronounce than, say, our own mongrel mix of arbitrary spelling and constant exceptions, and the only thing you're really likely to have any trouble is the guttural 'j' (think of the 'ch' in the Scottish 'loch'). Once you've listened to the examples of correct pronunciation and read the accompanying notes, you're ready to move on to the kind of things that can be learnt more intuitively as you go through the rest of the course - days of the week, numbers, colours and such like. I wouldn't worry too much about memorising this kind of language just yet - remember as much as you can, try to pick out any helpful patterns or similarities you can find (mayo, junio, julio (May, June, July) for example), and then just review as and when you feel you need to. The most recent edition of Get By in Spanish costs £9.99, for which you get a 124-page travel and language book, a 75-minute audio cassette and a transcript booklet. Along with the size, which is genuinely small enough to fit into a jacket pocket, the most impressive thing about this particular course is the way it breaks up the mass of vocabulary and functional language into manageable, easily achievable chunks. It's vitally important that learners are challenged without being put off by too high a degree of difficulty; something this book achieves effortlessly from the very first unit. LIST OF UNITS 1. Hello 2. Shopping 3. Out and about 4. Getting to your destination 5. Living in Spain A clear pattern is established from the beginning: a page of thirty or so key words and phrases (listed side-by-side in both languages) followed by between five and ten short conversations (in Spanish only), for example 'Greetings and Goodbyes', 'At The Chemist's', 'Checking In At A Hotel' and 'What Trains Are There To Barcelona?' The longest of the
              dialogues is no more than ten sentences long, and all are fully explained on the cassette by the two presenters, Isabel del Río-Sukan and Miguel Peñaranda, with good humour, helpful further examples and section-by-section (and often word-by-word) explanations. All in great contrast to the Linguaphone course, where sentences are hardly ever slowed down or repeated enough to save you a trip to the rewind button, and the tapescripts are 'helpfully' listed side by side in both languages, thus making it far too tempting to take the easy option every time you get stuck. After the dialogues come more word lists, containing the vocabulary you've just encountered on the tapes with its English equivalent. Then, and this is the really good bit, come four or five pages explaining any basic grammar you need, extended vocabulary (usually read out on the tape), and lots of further examples of points introduced in the earlier dialogues. In the first unit, for example, we're introduced to the concept of masculine and feminine nouns, articles (a, an, the and some) and simple plurals and adjectives. Fortunately, at least for those of us who didn't even study our own grammar at school, I really think that useful functional language (Two beers, please) should be learnt before you begin to get into the never ending grammatical maze. On the other hand, trying to learn a language without the most basic foundations of grammar is a bit like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle without having a picture to help you. Get By In Spanish manages to judge this balance pretty much perfectly. Exercises follow the explanations, short 'speak after the tone then listen to the correct answer' drills on the tape well reinforced by gap fills and translation exercises in the book itself. There's a full key at the back if you really want to cheat, though, as with the rest of the course, success is relatively easy to achieve as long as you've been paying att
              ention. There is also a three-page test at the end of the course immediately before the reference section and complete word list. Finally, we have the cultural notes, covering topics like Spanish wine, opening and closing times, public transport and eating habits, and all explained in clear, concise English paragraphs embellished with extra Spanish vocabulary and advice on avoiding those tricky international misunderstandings. All things considered, I'd highly recommend Get By In Spanish to anyone wanting to begin learning the language, both as a user of the book and as a language teacher myself. The course is extremely well presented, challenging without ever being off-putting, has clearly defined aims and explanations, gives you all the language you'll need for a brief stay in the country and a very firm foundation for continuing your studies, is compact enough to carry on your person and, best of all, only costs a tenner full price. And for those of you who are already thinking "But I'm terrible at languages".......... TIPS FROM THE TOP Invest in a cheap notebook and write down (brief) sentences, notes and examples as you encounter new language and grammar. Aside from the act of writing itself, which helps to fix new knowledge as long as it's not overdone, you can also customise the learning process, missing out anything you don't need (I don't drive so I'm not likely to be hiring a car) and expanding on topics you find more interesting. If at all possible arrange to study with one or two others. Aside from the benefits of being able to learn from and practise with each other, you'll also find it far less easy to find excuses not to do any work for a week. Learning is best done in short, regular lessons. Set aside about 15 - 20 minutes a day and try not to skip a few days here and there. Try to understand the grammatical patterns behind what you're learn
              ing rather than just memorising individual sentence after sentence - it might take a few extra minutes to study new concepts but Spanish really is easy enough once you give it a try. If you do have miss more than a couple of days of study then recap some of your previous work before going on with the course. The key point is to learn not just to finish. Listen, listen, then listen some more - and I don't mean when you're asleep or concentrating on the TV with the sound turned down. Put the tape on when you're doing your ironing or washing up and try to speak along with the tape as well as just repeating everything. Cut up some paper into credit card sized slips, writing Spanish words and sentences on one side and the English equivalent on the other. Try to translate from one to the other, making one pile for correct answers and another for incorrect ones. If you get anything wrong go back and try again. It's important to feel your own way into the language rather than just being spoon fed little bites of text. Adapt what you learn to make new sentences. And remember to practise your speaking, even if you are only voicing words in your own head. It's widely thought that you need to encounter new words around seven times at spaced intervals before they can be properly remembered. Replaying the tape a few times and then writing some notes might be perfect for your short term memory but you'll be left groping around the tip of your tongue a few weeks later. Try these in addition to the slips of paper and adaption techniques mentioned above: Select a word from a random pile and try to construct a sentence using it. Then read it aloud as well as silently. Connect new words to pictures or sounds that you already know. For example, it's far easier for me to recall a word like mal (bad, badly) by matching it to the name Malcolm or Draco Malfoy. Find more examples of authentic
              Spanish. There are plenty of listening exercises and texts on the internet (online newspapers, exercises, etc) as well as some excellent subtitled films. Remember that Latin American Spanish is by no means the same as the standard Castilian spoken around Madrid, and Galician, Basque and Catalan are very different indeed. However, for the purposes of basic communication, I'm sure that the language you'll learn through any course will be more than sufficient unless you're planning to spend time in remote hill villages. Buy a brief grammar guide to accompany the course. The Rough Guide phrasebook is cheap, has phonetic pronunciation guides - there's not much point in knowing that hasta luego means see you later unless you also know that you it's pronounced as-ta l-way-go - and concise explanations of as much grammar as a beginner is likely to need at such an early stage. You can always buy an extended grammar guide later, and most Brits will only get confused by terms such as definite articles and reflexive pronouns anyway. Get a good dictionary while you're at it. Don't be lulled too much by all those helpful words like un hotel. While this familiarity is helpful in building up an initial store of vocabulary there are also plenty of 'false friends' waiting to trip you up - the Spanish word sensible, for example, translates as sensitive in English. AVAILABILITY Aside from the languages section at Waterstone's and amazon.co.uk, which currently has only used copies in stock, the best place to buy Get By In Spanish is from the BBC itself at www.bbcshop.com. There are lots of other courses available and some great grammar guides. For a taster of Spanish try the links at www.ilovelanguages.com or www.bbc.co.uk/languages/spanish/index.shtml. "To have another language is to have another soul" Goethe.

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                07.08.2003 21:56
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                Leopold, the playboy King of the Belgians, grabbed his share of the African cake at the 1884 Berlin Conference with promises of Christian charity and the abolishment of an Arab run slave trade. He delivered hell to his personal fiefdom, and a 23-year rule in which the population of his Congo Free State declined as quickly as his bank balance swelled and the official records burnt. Joseph Conrad, born to the landless aristocracy in the Polish Ukraine, came to the Congo in 1890, spending six months on a Congo River steamer. An orphaned child of revolution, but a naturalized son of Empire, he came to witness Leopold?s great civilization and found instead "the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience." Heart of Darkness, a novella based on his diaries and published twelve years later, is Conrad's masterpiece, a challenging, engaging, at times insanely difficult read that peers slowly and deliberately back into the abyss. Writing in his third language, Conrad's prose and symbolism struggles for precision just as his imperfect narrator, Marlow, fights against the truth in the mournful gloom on the interminable river. Marlow, framed by an unseen second narrator in one of Conrad's masterful plot devices, is a physical wreck of a man, an ironically observed liberal, "a partisan of methods for which the time was not ripe." From a pitch black berth on the Thames, itself once no more than the very end of the world before the Romans came with legionnaires, wine and tax gatherers, he recounts a journey through the Congo in search of the enigmatic Kurtz, a man who sends in as much ivory as all the other agents put together, an exceptional functionary who came to Africa to improve and instruct, but a man now rumoured to be lacking in restraint. That much is the plot, though 100 pages hardly gives room for much further development. So if you're picking up Heart of Darkness anticipatin
                g action and adventure, or if your head is full of Wagner, Marlon Brando and the smell of napalm in the morning, then reading Conrad will likely as not be an immense disappointment to you. The pace, even when we finally reach Kurtz, is ponderous, the symbolism sometimes as impenetrable as the immense trees on each bank of the river, the characters exist merely to illustrate the incomprehensible, the ending is a compromise between the real and the imagined, and the rest has to be re-visited, re-interpreted and re-analysed for any semblance of meaning. So this is a book that requires work on the part of the reader. Before you open page one you need at least some prior knowledge of what Conrad saw in the Congo, of what he is attacking. You need to feel late-nineteenth century Europe, its deep shadows, rainbow coloured maps and ominous, feverish atmosphere. And then you begin to understand that Kurtz, with his half-English mother, half-French father, German name and Belgian company, is not just a symbol of a continent consumed and corrupted by its own avarice, but also an amalgam of real men, full of ivory lust, altered horribly, self-feeding and defeated by the wilderness within. And only then can you begin to appreciate the evocative imagery of Marlow's return to a Europe unenlightened, petty and impersonal, of the wilderness whispering to Kurtz, a man of high culture and inspired rhetoric, "things about himself which he did not know", of cowardly men "squirting lead" into the tops of trees against which they are but miniscule dots on the landscape, and of soldiers thrown callously into the surf while a limp, greasy French man-of-war stands "incomprehensible. Firing into a continent." Though accused of racism by some African critics, Conrad is merely as flawed as any white European attacking atrocities committed against cultures he sympathises with rather than understands. True, Africa is at times reduced to metaphor
                , and sketches of the indigenous population are made in broad strokes, but his work remains a searing indictment of European colonialism as embodied by the Eldorado Exploration Committee - cruel, reckless and greedy, with the morality of burglars - the unspeakable rites performed by the bloodthirsty pilgrims, and the smashed Kurtz, who decorates his fence with impaled heads and 'trades' for his ivory with Winchester rifles and his own private army. Till in the end we see that the darkness was born of the colonizers themselves, who turned white blanks into so many colours between arbitrary lines on large maps, and brought incomprehension, calamity and supernatural terror to a continent that repays them with internal decay and devastation. This is a beautiful book, full of uneasiness, metaphor, historical detail and autobiography, veering between extremes of brilliance and boredom, of over elaboration and piercing realisation. You'll fall in love or asleep within the first ten pages of this book and you'll still be no closer to its heart if you last to the very end. But Conrad matters. "Why this is hell, nor am I out of it." Mestastophilis. DETAILS Heart of Darkness is available at amazon.co.uk from £1.50 (Penguin Popular Classics, ISBN 0140620486). The 112 page volume is dwarfed by the Norton Critical Edition (£6.95, ISBN 0393955524), which runs to 438 pages including five essays and background sources. John Malkovich and Tim Roth starred in a terrible 1994 film version of the novella. Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now was, of course, loosely based on Conrad?s story. Conrad was not the only writer to protest at Leopold's genocide, which still resonates in the tragic circumstances of the Congo today. The following websites have background information: http://www.crf-usa.org/bria/bria16_2.html http://www.boondocksnet.com/congo/ http://www.stfrancis.edu
                /en/student/kurtzweb/darkness.htm

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                  30.07.2003 21:22
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                  Havana in the late-1950s is a city to visit not to live in, though not many tourists come now that the President's regime is nearing its end. But Wormold, an ineffectual, beliefless vacuum cleaner salesman whose valued personal possessions would fit into a single crate, has problems unrelated to politics. His wife left on the morning plane to Miami more than a decade ago, his 16-year-old daughter spends more money than he can earn, and his company have sent him a new model called the Atomic Pile Cleaner at a time of uncertain power supply and heightened nuclear paranoia. Wormold is full of sad caution, the archetypal rootless urban man set adrift on the dangerous edges of Greeneland. Law-abiding and incapable of action, he allocates six minutes every morning for companionship with his only friend, who still addresses him by his surname. So it's hardly surprising that, when approached to become the British agent in Havana on $150 a month plus expenses, he finds it far easier to invent informers than actually recruit them, selecting names at random from a list of Country Club members and compiling bogus reports with the aid of a large map and the current issue of Time magazine. But his creative imagination takes him into shadowy territory when he passes off vacuum cleaner designs as secret military installations, and fatal coincidences unravel into assassination, blackmail and betrayal. Greene had been an intelligence agent in World War 2, attempting to run agents into the Vichy colonies from Sierra Leone and later dealing with counter-espionage in Portugal, where those German Abwehr officers who hadn't yet been recruited by the British supplemented their modest incomes by sending erroneous reports back to an increasingly desperate Berlin. He had also seen the brutality of Batista's regime at first hand, propped up by foreign governments such as the British, who had sold jet planes to Cuba whilst denying any knowledge of repression o
                  r civil war. Greene's reportage of pre-Castro Havana is beautifully evocative, from the naked dancers at the Shanghai Club and the superstitions of the lottery draw to the pornographic postcards hanging in streets misted by sea spray, full of shabby hotels, crude colours and "pink, grey, yellow pillars...eroded like rocks." But domestic terror is something that is only ever spoken about; confined to a couple of stray bullets, curfews in the provinces, power cuts and "unpleasant doings out of sight." Our Man In Havana is not so much a novel about Cuba as a novel about a Secret Service at once eccentric, ridiculous and lethal, card-index in one hand and revolver in the other. Hawthorne, Wormold's immediate superior, is the epitome of the effete Establishment - exclusive tie, stone-coloured suit, royal monogram on his silk pyjamas and cold, stiff air. The Chief, meticulous, romantic and fatally removed from everyday realities by his literary imagination, is more concerned with trumping the Americans and Naval Intelligence than verifying his agents' reports. Greene's ridicule is full of comic asides, from the French speaking secretary sent to a Spanish speaking country - "It's much the same. They're both Latin tongues" - to the lengthy admiration of the ingenious weapons that look just like two-way nozzles and snap action couplings and a farcical poisoning scene. The book is more satirical than funny, the plot might be a little slow for some, and the characters in Greene's entertainments are never as memorable as in his more serious works. You won't find a Pinkie or a Harry Lime here, though Captain Segura, a humanized Captain Ventura (Batista's real life chief of police), carries a perceptive cynicism along with his human skin cigarette case, and Doctor Hasselbacher, a man of uncertain loyalties, sad and gentle, is well drawn and compelling, sitting in his uhlan uniform on the Kaiser&#
                  39;s birthday, infected with a fragile optimism and a shady past. Our Man In Havana is certainly a topical read at the moment, the dodgy dossiers and dark actors as apt as ever even if the dangerous games between East and West have long since been played out. It's by no means Greene's best work, and I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to the author, but it's still worth reading as a snapshot of Havana at the dangerous end of Batista's regime and a well aimed swipe at the absurdities of government sophistry and incompetence. DETAILS Published by Vintage Classics (224 pages). ISBN 0099286084. £5.59 at amazon.co.uk. Greene also scripted a film version of the book starring Alec Guinness as Wormold, Burl Ives as Dr Hasselbacher and Noel Coward as Hawthorne.

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                    26.07.2003 02:29
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                    The Romans came to Corbridge in 79AD, constructing a timber fort with earthen defences to supply the troops advancing into Scotland. Destroyed by fire almost thirty years later the fort was rebuilt, improved by the legions constructing Hadrian's Wall, and then completely refurbished in stone around 140AD when the Emperor Antonius Pius, abandoning his predecessor's fixed border policy, pushed north to the River Clyde and the Firth of Forth. Following the return of the northern frontier to Hadrian's Wall in 163AD the military function of the fort was downgraded in favour of a civilian settlement catering to the off-duty legionnaires. The new town prospered over the next century, expanding to an area of 30 acres before the Roman withdrawal from Britain led to its eventual abandonment. CORSTOPITUM (CORBRIDGE ROMAN SITE) A small gift shop and cash desk separate the main entrance from a museum holding impressive stone remains, relief carvings, temple friezes, shrine panels, inscribed decorative slabs, the charred remains of an armourer's workshop damaged in the fire of 105AD and shiny red imported Gaulish pottery. The most famous artefact is undoubtedly the Lion of Corbridge - a 70cm high stone sculpture originally used to decorate an officer's tomb and later adapted for use as a fountain ornament. The snarling lion stands triumphantly atop a defeated stag, head twisted to the side, tail swishing hungrily behind and claws hooked deep into the body below, pushing the antlers down into the stone base. The stag lies helpless underfoot, tongue lolling to one side as its captor's mouth opens to devour it. It's as if they have been frozen at the point of catharsis, one doomed and the other momentarily suppressing its ultimate power. The small section of the Roman town thus far excavated stands directly outside, hemmed in by small wire fences on three sides and a tall hedge on the other. Stanegate, the original main street,
                    cuts through the centre of the football-pitch-sized site, replaced as the main route between Corbridge and Carlisle by the main road hidden behind the hedge and the trains cutting through the fields in the valley below, the undulating green of Northumberland spotted with white sheep and yellow crops. At the far end of the road, framed between tall trees and low lying cloud, the pointed rooftops of Corbridge peer noiselessly over the muffled sound of traffic, the tall, slender spire of St Andrew's an arrow amongst the neatly ordered rows of ivy-clad cottages, craft shops and cosy antique pubs. The buildings immediately to the left of the road, fronted by two round pillars which once supported the portico of a sheltered loading area, are the granaries for the old civilian settlement. Built in the late 2nd century, only the foundations and lower walls of the two buildings are visible today: a floor comprised of cracked flagstones resting on five parallel channels cut through the entire building to allow air to circulate and prevent the bread becoming mouldy, drainage channels running under the portico to collect rainwater, and rough, angled walls marking the external boundaries. Walk down the flight of stairs from Stanegate and squeeze through the gap between the second granary and the flat pillar base of the Fountain House building for the only surviving Roman stone fence in Britain - a single rectangular block of stone slotted vertically into a gap 20 centimetres wide and 40 centimetres high. The ingenious Fountain House was once the terminus for an aqueduct leading from the nearby river, water spouting from an ornamental fountain head into a front trough between two large statues. Only the base and side sections of the trough remain today, rough statue bases either side, a diagonal drainage channel in front and the floor of the wide aqueduct channel cutting through the grass behind. Then step back up on to Stanegate, continu
                    ing along the road until you reach the first information board on the right. Across in the daisy flecked grass a few rings of stone are all that remain of a commandant's house and the headquarters building. Mounds either side mark an ancient market place and a storehouse building. The original timber fort is lost somewhere in the far corner, commemorated by a few rows of broken lines on the nearby site map. At the end of Stanegate, in the corner where the Corbridge Hoard of fire damaged armaments was discovered, a wooden viewing terrace overlooks the site, timber fort and granaries to the right, military garrison on the left, and Stanegate stretching back across to the museum building. Follow the gravel path left from the platform in the direction of the East Military Compound, fronted by the uneven outlines of residential buildings that now barely rise above grass level. Walk through the buildings until you reach Side Street, twenty-metres wide and linked to Stanegate before the construction of a wall to enclose the compounds in the wake of the northern uprising of 180AD. On either side of the road the sunken remains of once mighty walls bend their way up and down through blades of grass, raised and lowered arbitrarily by gradual subsidence into earlier ditches. Cut left across the ruins of the Temple of Mithras (the god of soldiers and traders) and step through the low remains of long barrack buildings for the West Military Compound, made up of workshops, a headquarters building and a main gate. An upright stone slab is the sole remaining section of a huge water tank that was connected to the Fountain House building, while the headquarters building itself is situated in the final corner of the field, visibly divided into six rooms with worn steps leading down to a strongroom that held the soldiers' salaries. As you gaze back over the site it requires a little imagination to appreciate the historic importance of Corbridge. Wha
                    t you see before you, hidden by centuries of neglect and destruction, is the Soho of Northumberland, a Bigg Market for the legionnaires on weekend leave complete with some of the most sophisticated Roman innovations found anywhere in Britain. And if you're very, very lucky, you'll have it all to yourself. IN A NUTSHELL The excavations at Corsopitum represent a small fraction of the old Roman town and are probably not worth the journey from Newcastle on their own account. However, combined with Corbridge, Hexham or a longer tour of Hadrian's Wall, there's more than enough here to warrant a stopover of an hour or so. DETAILS Admission: Adults £3.10, Children £1.60, Concessions £2.30 Admission includes a free audio tour with detailed commentary. Opening Times: April - September 10-6 Daily October 10-5 Daily November - March 10-4 (Wednesday - Sunday) Closed January 1st and December 24th - 26th Telephone: 01434 632 349 Managed by English Heritage. GETTING THERE PUBLIC TRANSPORT The Hadrian's Wall Bus departs Newcastle Central Station at 9.25am, arriving at the site 45 minutes later. The return service departs at 5.18pm. http://www.hadrians-wall.org/Timetable.htm http://www.thisiscorbridge.co.uk/roman_villa.asp Bus numbers 685 and 602 run half hourly services between Newcastle and Hexham. The nearest stop to the site is the Angel Inn. The walk from Corbridge Rail Station takes approximately half an hour. Turn right at Corbridge Parish Church and continue in the direction of the A69. Take the second left into Trinity Terrace and follow the road for another kilometre. CAR The site is signposted from the A69. Free parking is available outside the museum building.

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                      18.07.2003 19:49
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                      Che Guevara: Marxist icon, revolutionary theorist, doctor, teacher, diplomat, political leader, guerrilla fighter, "the most complete human being of our age", asthmatic motorcyclist. 'Motorcycle Diaries' begins in November 1951. Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, a 23-year-old medical student from an upper middle class family in Buenos Aries, is fantasizing about faraway places, tropical seas and Asia with his friend, Alberto Granado. On a whim, they decide to travel to North America on 'La Poderosa' (the Powerful One), a 500cc Norton motorcycle. What follows is an almost entirely improvised six-month curve through five "unstable and illusory nations" full of mishaps, mad adventures and riotous scheming. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---- "The person who wrote these notes died the day he stepped back on Argentine soil. Wandering around our 'America with a capital A' has changed me more than I thought." ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---- Three years before his real political awakening during the overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala, five years before he boarded the Granma, and sixteen years before his execution in Vallegrande, the Ernesto Guevara who rides out of Buenos Aries is witty, laddish, ironic and politically incorrect. This is very much the man before the icon, a "motorized bum" who cadges bed and board at hospitals and police stations, spins sob stories and tall tales, kills time in museums and makes "flashy tackles" on the football pitch. Ernesto and Alberto work as removal men and volunteer fire fighters; in Chile they accept work as assistants to 'The Barbecue King of Southern America' and pose as leprology experts in order to get their photographs taken for the local newspaper. There are moments of tr
                      ue farce and hilarity: camping outdoors in a violent gale, the two travellers wake the next morning to find a house round the very next bend. Ernesto shoots the beloved dog of one of his hosts dead, mistaking its "luminous eyes" for a puma on the loose. Struck with diarrhoea in the middle of the night, he relieves himself out of a window only to discover he's inadvertently covered a large tin roof full of peaches left out to dry in the sun. He gets drunk and flirts a little too much with the wife of a Chilean mechanic, resulting in them being pursued by a dance hall full of irate people. And then there's the grand opening of a Peruvian bell tower, restored with money from Franco's fascist government, and spoilt when the band mistakenly strikes up the Spanish Republican anthem. There are also the darker moments, foreshadows of the future Che. Questioning the conclusions of eminent archaeologists; ruminating on the inequalities of Chilean health care and an astute analysis of the forthcoming presidential elections; asserting the necessity of dispensing with the "tiresome Yankee"; scenting revolution in police state Colombia, and decrying the fate of copper miners and teachers persecuted for their political beliefs in countries run by strong arm governments that brutalize and corrupt, and "blond, arrogant" multi-nationals of North American, German and British parentage. And what starts as a boyish adventure, a thirst for new horizons and friendly women, slowly morphs into an embryonic pan-Americanism, a lament for people full of "shame and resentment" and, in his sympathy for the indigenous population, the faint stirrings of the man who would later advocate peasant based revolutions throughout the entire continent. There is much to love in this book, composed of Che's original diaries (rewritten in narrative form long after the original journey), letters home to his parents and a final, clearly
                      allegorical, scene full of classic Marxist thought on the dictatorship of the proletariat. The translation by Ann Wright holds true to the spirit of the journey, full of earthy language, authentic colour and illuminating footnotes. Yet while the book works as a humorous travelogue, it fails to offer much in the way of real insight into the countries Ernesto and Alberto pass through, perhaps due to the fact that it is a mere one hundred and fifty five pages long. Guevara's enforced one month stay in Miami - after his plane develops a serious fault - is mentioned only in the epilogue written by his father. I sometimes felt like a distant observer, albeit an enthralled one, with a sense of detachment that I didn't feel reading the more involving 'Red Dust' by the Chinese dissident Ma Jian, while some of the political passages grafted on later seem jarring and overly serious. But this is still a book that demands to be read, a book that gives a human face to an image on a million walls and T-shirts. This is the Che behind the cliché, unplugged from cameras and microphones and machine guns. A young man on the adventure of a lifetime beginning to realise he is on the cusp of greatness. ------------------------------------------- "Shoot, you are only going to kill a man." Reported last words of Che Guevara ------------------------------------------- DETAILS Published by Fourth Estate. ISBN 1857023994. Available at amazon.co.uk for £5.59. I also highly recommend John Lee Anderson's epic 'Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life.' It's very long - 832 pages - but extremely easy to read and extraordinarily comprehensive. 'Motorcycle Diaries', or at least the section of the journey Ernesto and Alberto completed on La
                      Poderosa, was the subject of a one hour documentary by the Canadian director Lawrence Elman entitled 'Tracing Che'. A Spanish language film version of the book is currently awaiting distibution in the USA.

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                        15.07.2003 22:45
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                        "The football stadium excludes the world, reserves its mysteries for initiates. The TV cannot violate it, cannot even begin to catch it. It's a place of collective passion." Late September 2000. Hellas Verona, about to embark on another struggle against relegation, have lost their manager, half a team to the substitutes benches of Inter Milan, Fiorentina and Parma and their sponsors. The start of the football season has been delayed by the "grim athleticism and loathsome armchair nationalism" of the Sydney Olympics, and the owner has declared himself willing to sell the club as soon as he can find a buyer. Standing outside a closed bar in a grim suburb of Verona at 1.30am in the morning, Tim Parks is about to start a season following the most hated club in Italy. But this is more than just a book about football. A travel book infused with perceptive insights into the way Italians relate to football and to each other; how a weekend obsession interacts with the everyday business of work, family and extra-marital affairs. It's a peek behind the just-for-tourists veneer of rolling Chiantishire, rustic Tuscan villas, grand, imperial Rome and Pisa's Field of Miracles into a nation where rules are stretched to the point of absurdity - just as long as the results are profitable - drug tests can be positive, negative and not negative, and people "spend half their lives getting certificates, not learning to do things." Welcome to a country where you can buy bottles of Hitler and Mussolini wine with your morning cappuccino and croissant, and where four of the ten TV channels in a cheap Milan hotel room are showing football (including a fascinating analysis of every top flight team's chances for the season ahead based on astrological readings - "Reggina have too many Aquarians"), another a wizard contacting the dead on request, and a couple more phone-in tarot readings. Having lived in Vero
                        na since 1981, Parks is at once a knowledgeable insider and a wide-eyed outsider. On his travels to away games with the notorious Brigate Gialloblu (Yellow-Blue Brigade) he becomes at times overly intoxicated with the insane self-parody of hardcore football supporters - the childishness, stupidity, camaraderie and enchantment of the group. Quite ordinary incidents - an encounter with a pretty young girl in a train compartment for example - are given undue prominence, and the book does feel a little stretched in places. Yet there are also moments of sublime madness here: the referee who refuses to stop testing a waterlogged pitch until he finds the one dry spot that will enable him to declare the whole thing playable; a fan accompanied by his wife who mutters "merda, merda, merda" throughout an entire game, breaking off to embrace everyone around him when Verona score and then immediately resuming his downcast mantra; a fist fight with a lorry driver and a mad chase down a deserted motorway; a club president who kicks opposing players down a flight of stairs after his team have lost a vital game, and club officials trying to crowbar their way through a dressing room door shortly afterwards; a 31-year-old man trying to overcome his mother's disapproval of his asthmatic girlfriend on the grounds that "she won't be a healthy wife and mother"; a teenage boy screaming "Thugs! Worms! Turds! Communists!" at policemen while covering his mobile phone so as not to be heard by his mother, who is calling to check that he's finished all his homework. I said that this wasn't just a book about football, but in a country where politicians talk football-speak at every opportunity, matches are seen as rehearsals for elections, and Silvio Berlusconi, owner of AC Milan, is about to become Prime Minister of Italy, the sport permeates every page. The antagonism between northerners and southerners, "the internecine struggle which
                        is Italian unity" is seen through the prism of chants like "Le nostre tasse pagano per voi" ("Our taxes pay for you"), "We have a dream in our hearts, to burn the south" and "It takes soap and water to wash a southerner." When Napoli play at Verona the home supporters don white surgical masks and sing about a smell so bad that "even the dogs are running", and the first chant in Sicily politely translates as "We can't understand a word you're saying." There are moments that any football fan in any country would recognise - sick songs about Juventus supporters killed at Heysel, 'Forza Etna' banners at Catania as the volcano threatens to destroy the city, tirades against the "cat-eaters" of Venezia, chants of "Terremotati" at Udine to remind the locals of a 1976 earthquake that killed thousands, and the moment after a 3-0 defeat to Atalanta when the police are taunted with a re-working of an old Fascist song, adapted to include a topical reference to a helicopter crash in which ten officers died. This is a book about the frustrations of following the unfashionable. A world of blind optimism in the certain knowledge that the faceless "bastardi" will always have the upper hand, of dutiful support to overpaid players who "don't give a damn...except in so far as their own prospects are furthered or damaged by the team's performance", of the fear that always follows an early goal, and the hatred of those who support the big teams for the sake of convenience. It's about something that an out-of-town Manchester United or Liverpool supporter would be as unlikely to fathom as their Italian equivalents at Juventus or AC Milan. About a world where the biggest fear is relegation and the awful certainty that your neighbours will one day overshadow you. You don't have to be acquainted with football or Italy to like this book, but
                        , if you've got no experience of either, I doubt you'd finish the 400-odd pages far in advance of another Verona scudetto. It's by no means faultless - a little too long, a few too many asides and more interesting than inspirational - but it remains a wonderful read for anyone who's never quite outgrown that childhood indignance at the Liverpool shirt in the school playground, who's ever travelled on an overnight coach with the smell of beer and urine in his nostrils, or who can feel empathy for men travelling through Italy in segregated railway carriages to dodge cobblestones in Naples, bottles in Calabria, knives in Rome, police batons in Turin and rockets and coins in Milan - a 'Fever Pitch' for those who don't follow football from the armchair. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Born in Manchester in 1954, Tim Parks moved to Verona in 1981 to teach English. 'A Season With Verona' was his third non-fiction account of life in northern Italy after 'Italian Neighbours' and 'An Italian Education'. His novel 'Europa' was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. www.timparks.co.uk 'A Season With Verona' is available in paperback for £3.99 at amazon.co.uk. 464 pages. ISBN: 0099422670

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                          06.07.2003 02:10
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                          Reggio di Calabria was founded by the Greeks, conquered by the Romans, seized by the Ostrogoths, captured by the Byzantines, annexed by the Arabs, ruled by the Normans, and squabbled over by the Swabians, Angevins, Austrians and Aragonese. But all that was then. The great earthquake of 1908 destroyed more than just buildings, and the modern town, stymied by years of neglect and under investment, hollowed out by mass emigration, and entangled by the malign tentacles of the 'ndrangheta (the Calabrian Mafia), owns to its deflation in every bare piazza, litter strewn back street and graffiti coated wall. ARRIVAL From the north, services terminate at Reggio Centrale train station or the bus stands in the adjacent Piazza Garibaldi, a grey expanse centred on a white marble statue of the hero of Italian unification, hand on sword hilt and legs covered in black marker scrawl. Alitalia and Air One operate flights to the local Aeroporto dello Stretto from Rome and Milan. The scenic route is across the Straits of Messina, hydrofoils (2.60 euro single, 4.20 return; regular departures from Messina) gliding across from Sicily in just under half an hour, slowing to enter the small, semi-deserted port at a concrete berth next to a concrete ticket office. http://www.fs-on-line.com/home/en/index.htm (trains) http://www.snav.it/eng/index.asp (ferries to the Aeolian Islands) http://www.calabriaweb.it/turismo/en/trasporti/traghetti.html (general information) TOURIST INFORMATION The main office is in Via Garibaldi just across from the Palazzo del Governo. A smaller booth is located inside Reggio Centrale station. The only English language information I found in either was a booklet sized City Guide. THE CITY From the steel gates at the port a long and featureless road extends past the grey Hotel Continental to a small area of gravel strewn grass on which immigrant children stare in
                          to the middle distance as they rock back and forth on incongruously colourful fairground rides; their parents stick to the peeling benches behind, listless eyes fixed on the final centimetres of cigarette held tightly between their yellowing fingers. The road widens as I approach the messy metal tangle above the stairs down to the underground Lido train station, and an abandoned octagonal building to the right with smashed windows and grimy walls blocks a corner of the view back across to the half-lit hillsides of Sicily, a shade of blue darker than the cloudless sky and a hazy smudge above the sparkling sea. A wooden stairwell spirals down to the narrow beach, running in a gradual curve to the south past the mid-afternoon joggers, young couples on stone benches and old men staring out at silhouetted fishing boats. Stay on the main road until it bends to the right at Piazza Indipendenza. If you're impatient you can cross now, passing the dark green ice cream kiosk and a clump of tall palm trees on the short uphill walk to Piazza de Nava and the Museo Nazionale. If not, follow the curve of the road into what the fascist fantasist D'Annunzio called "the most beautiful kilometre in Italy." A wide sweep of parallel streets split in two by a line of palm trees and park benches, Reggio's lungomare (seafront) runs straight on to the horizon, facing Sicily on one side and bleakly anonymous buildings on the other. Some low Greek walls, uncovered in 1913, run periodically along the centre near an ancient Roman thermae resembling the bomb damaged remains of a smashed suburb - small mounds of red brick enclosed by a high metal fence. Keep your head turned to the right as far as Athena's Monument, a narrow rectangular arch of marble facing a concrete amphitheatre which marks the landing of King Vittorio Emanuele III in the town. D'Annunzio's kilometre grinds to a halt here, irrevocably ruined by the screeching sound of br
                          akes and the thick mass of overhead cables as trains ascend for the final curve before Reggio Centrale. Cross the road for the Villa Communale - public gardens offering nothing but shade and a few tacky fairground rides - or leave the seafront behind and continue on to the train station, an insipid shell of a building that houses a tourist information office clearly inspired by late Soviet era department stores. Unless you're taking in a football game at the Stadio Communale - where Reggina currently maintain a precarious existence in Serie A - there's really no need to go any further south. Cross the piazza, turn left at McDonald's, and start the long march along Corso Garibaldi. There are times in a journey when you feel yourself trapped, held in place by transport schedules that give you twice as long in a place as you're ever likely to need. Overheating in the afternoon sun, passing closed shops and potholes, each step took me nearer to the end but further into the middle. Piazza Duomo opens to the right - deserted stalls, a bus queue and an inauthentic looking child's toy of a cathedral with too bright walls and too small windows. Cross the square, turn left into Via Campanella and then right into Via Castello for the slightly more interesting Aragonese Fortress. Semi-ruined and almost 1,500 years old in places, the high towers look down on a scruffy park dotted with middle aged men enjoying an outdoor siesta. Hurry back down to Corso Garibaldi, turning right and continuing past Piazza Italia- ripped up by archaeological excavations at the foot of a statue of Italy calling her sons to the cause of national unity-in the direction of the Museo Nazionale. THE NATIONAL MUSEUM AND THE WARRIORS OF RIACE Excluding the walk along the seafront, the National Museum would probably rank as number one of one on most objective lists of reasons to visit the city. Most of the museum's collection comes from th
                          e 235-hectare site at Locri, including the carved terracotta tablets from the sanctuary of Persephone depicting episodes of her abduction by Hades, god of the underworld, and a wonderful array of bronze mirrors, terracotta statues, Greek and Roman coins, funerary implements and thirty-nine tablets showing the judicial system of the city. Artefacts come from every Greek colony in Calabria - vases, mirrors, ceramics and utensils from Reggio, Matauros, Krimissa, Medma, Kaulonia and Laos, while the art gallery holds two Antonello da Messina masterpieces. But the real highlights are downstairs. The Warriors of Riace were discovered off the coast of Calabria in 1972. Lying eight metres below the surface, and visible merely by a single arm sticking out of the sediment, the two bronze statues were sculpted in the 5th century BC and lost when their transport ship sank. The larger of the two statues stands just over two metres high and weighs 250 kilos. Youthful and muscular, he strides forward with a head half turned in a gesture of defiance against an unknown opponent. The detail of his facial hair and muscle structure is extraordinary, set off by copper lips and breastplate and inlaid eyes and teeth. The smaller statue is of an older man, more contemplative and less defined. The raised left shoulder and the anatomy of his back dates the sculpture to the period around 420BC, approximately thirty years after the first warrior was completed. The position of the hands and arms suggest that both were originally carrying weapons, though only a single shield handle was discovered intact. Nearby is the Philosopher's Head, an intense head without a body discovered in another Greek shipwreck with a furrowed brow between arched eyebrows and a visibly receding hairline. Completed by narrowed eyes, a hooked nose and a long, wavy beard, the face is wonderfully engrossing. ADMISSION 5 euro OPENING TIMES 9-1.30 and 3.30-7 daily.
                          PRACTICALITIES There's really no need to stay overnight in the city unless you arrive late and plan an early morning start to Sicily or the Aspromonte Massif. By far the best place to stay is the Hotel Mundial on Via Gaeta (just to the right as you exit Reggio Centrale). The telephone number is 0965 332255. Hydrofoils from Reggio are for foot passengers only. If you're taking a car across to Sicily, you'll need to take a ferry from Villa San Giovanni. Get off the train at Reggio Lido station for the port and museum. The City Pride Pub (599 Corso Garibaldi) seemed to be the most popular in town. There's an internet café on Via de Nava just to the left as you exit the museum. There's also a small supermarket a little further on.

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                            02.07.2003 00:20
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                            On the busy periphery of Temple Bar, visibly equidistant to the south bank of the Liffey and the classical façade of City Hall, the two star Bridge House fills the upper floors of two neighbouring Georgian townhouses on the western side of the bar and restaurant lined Parliament Street. ARRIVAL A red door splits two entrances to the Bella Roma restaurant, rising to a small triangular sign and a larger blue and yellow board above bearing the name of the hotel. I press the buzzer, wait, skirt the 'Fresh Paint' sign and walk up a single flight of stairs to the tiny reception area. A small desk crammed into a corner guards the entrance to a diminutive lounge-cum-breakfast area with tables temporarily surrounded by departing guests' luggage, a portable TV playing quietly in the corner and a free newspaper folded next to pots of tea and coffee. A signature, a key, and it's up six more suburban house sized flights of stairs covered in foot sagging deep blue carpets to my room on the fourth floor. THE ROOMS The door opens at the first attempt to a view of a bathroom door, an off-white wall, a hairdryer on a twisting cord, a clothes rail in the corner and a folding chair stacked with fluffy towels underneath. Stepping inside, two crooked pictures hang above a pine headboard, facing a wall mounted portable TV in the corner and a window in the far wall which, swung open from the bottom, fills the room with the whir of engine noise from the street down below. A yellow lamp stands on a chest of drawers separating two beds, a remote control placed diagonally on top. Everything is spick and span like a newly furnished guest room in a leafy, lace curtained Victorian commuter town - conservative, respectable, clean, and familiar down to the radiator under the window sill and the British terrestrial channels I spend twenty seconds idly flicking through on the way to RTE, MTV, the Discovery Channel, Sky One and Sky News. The view from the window starts with streetlights on the Liffey as it flows up to the concrete edge of Grattan Bridge, the pale green dome of Penney's Department Store away to the north in the middle of Henry Street and a section of the city's sky high ring of cranes behind. Directly opposite, a copper brewing kettle stands in an upstairs window of the red brick, green wood Porter House pub, and the cobbled start line of Temple Bar stretches across the beginning of Essex Street East. Lights flicker on along the lower floors of the four-storey Georgian buildings, illuminating the front of a late night Spar, Zaytoon Persian restaurant and the Little Sicily eatery next door. Into the brightly lit bathroom, where spotless blue and white tiles surround a circular mirror, a slightly undersized sink and a basket of soap curiously absent of shampoo. Three sliding plastic panels open to a shower big enough to stand three people in comfort (not that I tried, honest) and a hot water control that requires just a few seconds of tweaking to get the best temperature. BREAKFAST At a quarter to eight in the morning the breakfast room is deserted as I take up my seat next to a window overlooking the bustling street outside. A table wedged between two corners of a back wall holds a big bowl of fruit, plastic containers full of Rice Krispies and cornflakes, a sliced loaf of soda bread, a small row of yoghurt pots, packets of butter and fruit jam, apple pastries, scones full of raisins, ring doughnuts crammed with custard and glass jugs of milk and orange juice. The quantities of each seem a little limited, and the choice is perhaps not as extensive as it could be, but complemented by a full coffee pot, a basket full of tea bags and a large hot water dispenser, it's a more than adequate start to the day. By a quarter past eight most of the guests - a few couples in their mid to late-thirties, a backpacker and a family of four - are milling around
                            the room, and with standing room only I forgo my fourth trip to the box of doughnuts and head back upstairs. DETAILS Bridge House. 24 - 25 Parliament Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. Breakfast is served from 7.30 to 11am. Complimentary tea and coffee are available all day. The breakfast room has only four tables (one for six people, one for four, and two tables for two) so it's probably better to come down either very early or quite late. Reception is open 24 hours. Press the buzzer and state your room number. Earliest check in is at 2pm. The hotel has 20 en suite rooms, comprising 4 singles, 3 doubles, 3 twins, 9 triples and 1 quad. All rooms were fully refurbished in 1999. There is no lift as Bridge House is situated in a listed building. The lowest rooms (numbers 1,2 and 3) are on the first floor next to reception. Most of Dublin's major attractions are within a ten-minute walk of the hotel, including Temple Bar, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Castle, O'Connell Street, Trinity College, Grafton Street, the Ha'penny Bridge, the Four Courts and the Bank of Ireland building. The Guinness Brewery, the National Gallery, St. Stephen's Green, Newman House, Merrion Square and the National Museum (Archaeology and History) are all but a short distance further. The nearest drop-off point for the Aircoach service from Dublin Airport is Trinity College (www.aircoach.ie). Follow Dame Street in a westerly direction for Parliament Street. Dublin Bus number 748 also runs close to the hotel along Wellington Quay. There are no parking facilities at the hotel itself. I stayed at Bridge House for one night on June 17th 2003. The high season room rate was £60 with Octopus Travel (www.octopustravel.com). OVERALL Bridge House is neither the cheapest nor the best hotel I've ever stayed in. You can definitely get lower prices elsewhere in Dubl
                            in - the guesthouses in Lower Gardiner Street being a good bet if you?re on a budget - but the location and cleanliness of the hotel, combined with the friendly staff, just about edge it up to a four star rating. WEBSITES www.hosteldublin.com www.dublin-hotels.net/bridge-house/ www.about-dublin-hotels.ie/hotelinfo.asp?hotel=1083 www.hotel-ireland.com/bridge-house/ http://dublin.city-centre-hotels.com/temple-bar-hotels.html www.visitdublin.com

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                              29.06.2003 02:54
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                              The son of a British bank clerk who later became president of the Toronto Stock Exchange, Sir Henry Pellatt made his fortune through opportune investments in Northwest Land Co. and the Canadian Pacific Railway as the great Canadian west was opened up to development in the early-1880s. At the age of 20 he installed 32 electric lights in the previously gas-lit centre of Toronto, and followed this up by founding Toronto Niagara Power Company, harnessing the power of Niagara Falls to supply electricity to houses, business and public transport in the city. In 1903 he purchased a 20-acre property in the elegant Davenport Hill area of Toronto and engaged the renowned architect E.J. Lennox to build a Gothic Revival castle. Called Casa Loma (Spanish for the house on the hill) by the previous owners of the land it was the culmination of a life-long dream for the self-made, romantic and patriotic industrialist. It would also lead to his ruin. Stepping into the Great Hall from the garden terrace is like traversing four centuries and the Atlantic Ocean. The flags of Scotland, Britain, Canada and Ontario unfurl from a cross-beamed ceiling just a little under twenty metres high, overhanging Georgian furniture, an antique Persian rug, crystal chandeliers and, bizarrely, a Wurlitzer organ. It's all wonderfully pseudo-Gothic, with enough space for hundreds of guests at a time, a majestic 40-feet-high window comprising 738 individual panes of glass and an exact replica of the Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone from Pellat?s ancestral home of Scotland. The Library is just to the right, with French walnut panelling, a herringbone oak floor pattern and the Pellat family coat of arms carved into the ceiling. The bookcases once held thousands of reference books on military and imperial history while a famous Donegal carpet, 40-feet long and identical to one in Windsor Castle covered the floor. Take special note of the floor, laid in stripes of light and dark wood whi
                              ch appear identical if you look at them from above. Through to the Circassian walnut lined dining room, once separated from the library by an ornate three-foot thick wall which was torn down and replaced by pillars when the house was turned into a hotel between 1925 and 1928. High arched windows overlook a room which commonly held up to 100 guests for formal dinners in honour of the Queen's Own Rifles, Canada's second oldest regiment. Sir Henry had attained the rank of Major General for his dedication and loyalty to the crown, and in 1902 he paid for 657 soldiers to be equipped and shipped to London to represent Canada at the coronation of King Edward VII. In spite of the faux-candles on the long table, both the dining room and the adjoining corridor were lit by electricity. Most of the furnishings, including a royal blue and gold Serves dinner service originally commissioned by Napoleon were sold off at auction, though a Romanesque dining set with chairs inlaid with floral designs was returned to the castle in 1965. The large Conservatory is at the end of the corridor. Lit by a large Tiffany domed glass ceiling, the Italian marble floor sparkles next to raised Canadian marble beds full of shrubs and foliage. The ingenious network of steam pipes running up and down the walls kept the flower beds warm in the winter, while a carved marble fountain once dominated the centre of the room under Tiffany lamps. From May to October you can also view the external gardens, now restored but still not quite the spectacle they were in the Pellats' time. Heading back towards the Great Hall, the first room on the right is the serving room. Originally doubling as a small breakfast room, the elaborate carved walnut sideboard remains from the original furnishings along with the walnut chest of drawers and the table and chairs. The kitchens are behind the back wall, though as they are still in use they are off-limits to visitors. Continue
                              along the corridor-named Peacock Alley and an exact replica of a hallway in Windsor Castle-which once held works by Constable and Turner, until you reach Sir Henry's Study. From here the great industrialist controlled his empire of mining, insurance, land and electricity interests, sitting at a replica of Napoleon's desk which was auctioned off along with most of his other possessions. Contemporary decorations are sparse with a typewriter and more electric lamps the main points of interest. Two secret passageways open on either side of a central marble fireplace - a winding staircase up to his bedroom suite and a narrow passageway down to a vault and wine cellar which formerly held 1800 bottles. There are three ways up to the first floor: the secret staircase here, the main one back in the Great Hall, or the first electric lift in Canada, installed by Sir Henry to help his wheelchair bound wife move around the house. Assuming you've come straight up from the study, you're now in Sir Henry?s Suite. A railed balcony looks out over the Great Hall and the walls are finished in mahogany and walnut, but otherwise the decoration is relatively basic with a four poster bed, a couple of wooden chairs, a desk and a fireplace. Family photographs show Sir Henry's father, his son and his wife. A secret storage area beside the fireplace was used for confidential documents. Next door is the bathroom, which alone cost CDN$10,000. It was extremely modern and innovative in its day with white Carrara marble walls and a shower that completely surrounded the body with six taps controlling three levels of pipes. With its own heater, the shower sprayed water from above and the sides at a time when most of the local population were without even rudimentary indoor plumbing. Sir Henry's bathroom connects with his wife's bedroom suite. Painted in Wedgwood blue the room is much larger than Sir Henry's suite as his wife
                              was forced to spend much of her time here. The Venetian bed, which was originally in one of the castle's guest suites, faces a circular sitting area and a wide balcony which overlooks the gardens and city to the south. A small Girl Guides exhibit occupies the next room. Lady Pellatt was the Dominion regent of the Canadian Girl Guides, following in the example of her husband who was involved with the St. John's Ambulance and the St. George's Society. Spend just a couple of minutes here then move through the sliding doors to the second bathroom. Lady Pellat's bathroom is smaller and far less ostentatious than her husband's, though the bidet was extremely rare in austere Canadian homes at that time. It certainly pales in comparison to the adjacent Guest Suite, elegantly furnished with inlaid wallpaper, an antique sofa, an ornate dresser and a large bed. Look out for the imprint of the hotel room number on the door; then move up the staircase to the second floor. This floor was formerly the quarters for the 40 servants employed by Sir Henry, so aside from the gas fireplaces, the corridors are plain and relatively bare. The first room is dedicated to the Queen's Own Rifles, housing regimental trophies, rifles, uniforms, swords, campaign medals and a wooden sign from the first landing craft to hit the beach on D-Day. An original certificate granting 154 acres of land to Private Samuel Smythe for service during the Fenian Raids hangs next to the door alongside WWI helmets, D-Day survival kits, regimental flags and colours. There are some wonderful views back over Toronto from here, with the shadowy outline of the needle like CN Tower poking up from the high rise mass of concrete. If you have a head for heights you can continue straight up into the turreted towers from here, ascending a wooden staircase under the ceiling beams and then a tightly spiralling set of metal steps up to 135-feet, where narrow slits look
                              out in all directions. The Scottish tower has the highest views but the open Norman tower has the best vista of Toronto, though the locked windows don't make photographs very easy. Back down to the second floor, follow the corridor along to the other end of the hall for the Kiwanis Room. Having taken over the property in 1933 in lieu of CDN$46,240 in back taxes, the city of Toronto allowed the property to fall into a state of disrepair while they planned to convert it into a gentleman's club, a railway station, a refuge for unsuccessful writers, a museum for war relics, an Orange Lodge or a monastery. In 1937 the Kiwanis Club, a non-profit community service, licensed the property and re-opened it to the public. Exhibits and photographs in the room record the restoration of the property, although you may just want to continue a little further down the smaller corridor to the Garden Room, which has a nice view of the grounds and some displays on the history and construction of the gardens. The final room on this level is the Servant's Room. Up a few steps from the central landing the restored space recreates a typical bedroom with a small single bed, a table and a solitary chair. Take the central staircase back down to the first floor where the Windsor Room and the Round Room occupy the space across the Great Hall from Sir Henry's Suite. The former was built in the vain hope of accommodating the Royal Family on one of their visits to Canada. It really is beautiful, with the original gilt-framed settee and chairs standing under a plaster ceiling decorated with olive branches. The Round Room, built into the foot of the West Tower hence the shape, has walls, windows and doors specially constructed to fit into the curve of the room. Intended as the sitting room for royal guests, it now houses a piano and some tasteful antiques. We're now back on the ground floor where the smoking and billiard rooms were once used by
                              Sir Henry, E.J. Lennox and officers from the Queen's Own Rifles. Saving the best till last, the Oak Room features exquisite panelled walls full of spirals and pheasants holding ribbons, fruit and flowers which took European artisans three years to carve. The room was illuminated by a ten-foot high Louis XV1 light standard which held 24 electric lights. Now follow the stairs to the right of the Coronation Chair back in the Great Hall down to the lower floor. The castle café was originally intended to be Sir Henry's exercise room, while the three arches in the large gift shop were planned as lanes of a bowling alley. Walk left along the corridor past the wine cellar - cooled by pipes full of ammonia and brine and the largest in North America in Sir Henry's day - to the unfinished swimming pool, no more than a concrete pit with an artist?s impression of what it was to have been - a marble covered extravaganza surrounded by full sized golden swans, arches and cloisters. The 800-metre long tunnel to the stables starts back to the left of the staircase. Passing a furnace where 800 tonnes of coal a year were burnt to heat the building, the stone tunnel opens to Spanish tiles and mahogany, with stalls bearing the letters of each horse in gold. Walk through to the garage and potting shed, where petrol cans, and plants fill rooms the size of a school assembly hall. It's a truly remarkable end to a piece of medieval Europe on the outskirts of Canada's modern metropolis. FACTS AND FIGURES Construction started in 1911, taking three hundred men nearly three years to complete and cost CDN$3,500,000. This would equate to about £20 million today! There were more than 5000 lights in the castle, which at 180,000 square feet was the largest residence ever built in Canada. There were also 59 telephones, including one in the bathroom. The castle's switchboard operator handled more calls than were made in the rest of
                              the city of Toronto each day. Sir Henry had a personal fortune of CDN$17 million at the time. In 1910 he took 640 men and officers to England at his own expense "to show the home country what can be counted on in case of necessity." The regiment sent 120 officers and 7,325 men overseas in 1914. His empire began to crumble when the control of electricity passed into the public sector. The First World War saw Canadians investing in war bonds rather than the land he had speculated in, and the post war slump further deflated his investments. By 1923 he owed the bank CDN$1.7 million. The outer wall of the estate is made up of more than 250,000 stones. Sir Henry paid locals CDN$1 for each stone they brought to Casa Loma. The Library was used as a dancefloor when the Casa Loma was converted into a hotel. Room rates were CDN$500 a month. Sir Henry attended the auction of his property in June 1924. He described the first day as "the saddest of my life" but was laughing and smoking cigars in the Great Hall by the end of day three. He described the sale of his art work, which included Old Masters and oils by Van Dyck, Turner and Sir Joshua Reynolds and took him over 45 years to collect, as "something like having a tooth pulled, once it is over, the pain is gone and it is best to forget about it." Among the more notable sales, a 1,500 pound bronze buffalo head valued at CDN$1000 sold for CDN$50, and his prized Wurlitzer organ, which cost CDN$75,000 was delivered just in time to be auctioned off for a mere CDN$40! The auction realised a total of CDN$140,000 for the estate, less than 10% of the original cost of acquisition. ADMISSION AND ARRIVAL The nearest subway station is Dupont. Upon leaving the station, follow the signs north along Spadina Avenue and then take the stairs up the hill from pavement level. Paid parking is available on site. Opening hours are 9
                              .30 - 5pm daily except Christmas and New Year?s Day. Last entry is at 4pm. The gardens are closed from November until the end of April. Free self-guided audio tours are available in English, French, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Italian, German and Spanish. The main building is fully wheelchair accessible. Cloakroom and toilet facilities are available. Admission is CND$10 (£4.50). WEBSITES www.casaloma.org http://www.digitalozone.com/casaloma www.toronto.com www.city.toronto.on.ca

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                                23.06.2003 22:56
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                                Standing on the corner of Las Rambla Sant Josep and Boqueria, which links the main artery of the city to the Barri Gotic, the modernist Hotel Internacional is supremely sited just a few footsteps from Liceo metro station and the Gran Teatro del Liceo. RECEPTION AND ARRIVAL Built in 1890, renovated for the 1992 Olympics, the wide street level entrance to the elegant four-storey building has a clean marble-effect floor and mirrored walls. The large lobby is up a single flight of stairs along with the bar and TV and breakfast areas. A reception desk faces a couple of armchairs arranged on either side of a coffee table, and Spanish newspapers and hotel pamphlets are neatly arranged on tables leading to the green carpeted staircase up to the rooms. THE ROOMS Bright, clean, whitewashed and strikingly basic, my room was lit by a wall-mounted lamp above a cheap, mahogany effect headboard and a light hanging from a chain fixed to the ceiling. A carrier bag is roughly folded over the rim of a bin decorated with horses, a framed print of an airy forest clearing provides token decoration, and a small window at head height opens to a view of a grey drainpipe and the lower six inches of someone else?s laundry. A black safe box sits above a desk and fake leather chair, while a wardrobe is hinged to the wall near a slightly tattered board detailing laundry rates, emergency telephone numbers and fire exits. A mustard coloured direct dial telephone and a squashed tennis racket shaped electric fan stand on a bedside chest of drawers, both looking as if they've been in existence for quite a few years longer than I have. A wooden door with a fragile looking bolt opens into the narrow oblong shaped bathroom. The first view is of the miniature sink - big enough to fit both hands in - and a ceramic shelf with two upturned glasses and a wicker basket full of soap and shampoo. Just above is a rectangular mirror, a 125V socket for electric ra
                                zors and a strip light, while to the left a second window looks out on the first one above a toilet facing a branded curtain and a nice shower that requires a little tweaking between arctic cold and solar hot before you hit the optimum temperature. The overall effect is something less than impressive, though considering the price, location, and the fact that it would be foolish to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary in your hotel when you?ve got the whole of Barcelona outside, it's definitely more than satisfactory. BREAKFAST Glass doors open to a wrought-iron balcony of circular metallic tables overlooking Las Ramblas. White tablecloths cover indoor tables for four arranged in rows around a central buffet heaped with watermelon triangles, slices of almond cake, hot omelette squares, bread rolls, thick slices of cheese and ham, glass bowls of cornflakes, croissants and flour sprinkled pain au chocolate, mineral water in an ice bucket, tomatoes, a pyramid of yoghurt pots and a few low hills of honey, marmalade and butter packets. Hot water dispensers, jugs of milk and orange and pineapple juice and sachets of coffee and hot chocolate stand on a corner table below the customary framed Gaudi prints. A single waitress darts in and out taking room numbers and replenishing dishes while cleaners mill about in front of reception. Get downstairs before ten o'clock if you want one of the balcony tables, or before half past eight if you want the room virtually to yourself. DETAILS Hotel Husa Internacional, Ramblas 78 - 80. One Star, Tourist Class. Telephone: 93 302 25 66 Fax: 93 317 61 90 Email: hinternacional@husa.es Latest check out time is at noon. Earliest check in is listed at the same time, though I doubt rooms would be ready much before 2pm. The front desk is open 24 hours a day. Breakfast is from 7.30 until 11.00. The hotel has sixty bedroo
                                ms, twenty of which face La Ramblas. Book early and request a room with a balcony. All rooms have heating and direct dial telephones. There is one lift in the hotel and parking facilities are 100 metres away. There is no air conditioning in the rooms, making things a little uncomfortable in the heat of June, July and August. You certainly won't need those extra sheets on top of the wardrobe! Within a five-minute walking distance: Las Ramblas (crowds, the St Josep covered market, crowds, souvenir shops, restaurants and crowds), Port Vell (Old Port and shopping), Placa Catalunya (more crowds, El Cortes Ingles department store and airport buses), Barri Gotic (cathedral and medieval quarter) and the Palau Guell (Gaudi designed UNESCO World Heritage site). WEBSITES www.barcelona-on-line.es/eng/ www.spain-barcelona-hotels.com www.hotel-barcelona.com/husa.html www.eurocheapo.com/barcelona www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g187497-d238718-Reviews-Husa_Internacional_Ho tel-Barcelona_Catalonia.html I booked two nights at the Internacional in mid-June through Octopus Travel ( www.octopustravel.com ) for £109 for two people on the 11th and 12th of June 2003. You could stay at the two star Santa Marta or the neighbouring Hostal Del Mar (Barceloneta metro station) for slightly less, but the location and breakfast give the Internacional the edge. GOOD IF? You're on a budget, want something just a bit better than basic for a couple of nights, don't plan to spend too much time in your room and would like to stay as close as possible to Las Ramblas. BAD IF?? The temperature's over 30. Also recommended: Hotel Peninsular, Carrer Sant Pau. www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g187497-d237153-Reviews-Hotel_Peninsular-Barc elona_Catalonia.html WHAT TO SEE?? 1. La Sagrada Familia (Sagrada Familia metro station) Gaudi's unfinished grotesque fantasy is overpriced, over-hyped, unforgettable and unique. 2. Parc Guell (Vallcarca or Lesseps) Fifteen hectares of fauna and Gaudi overlooking the city. 3. Las Ramblas (Catalunya, Liceu or Drassanes) Flower stalls, people watching, sex shows, human statues and fake football shirts. 4. Barri Gotic (Liceu or Jaume I) Dust and darkness within Roman walls and enclosed courtyards. 5. Montjuic (escalator from Espanya, funicular or cable car from Port Vell) The Museum of Mosern Art, shaded gardens and Olympic stadia. 6. The Eixample (Diagonal or Passeig de Gracia) Shopping, the 'Block of Discord' and the Casa Mila. WHAT TO READ?.. Barca - A People's Passion (Jimmy Burns). Fascinating insight into the history and politics of the Catalonian national team, FC Barcelona. Homage to Catalonia (George Orwell). The definitive first-hand account of the Spanish Civil War in Barcelona. Barcelona (Robert Hughes). The essential guide to the city.

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                                  19.06.2003 17:23
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                                  Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens opened to the public in July 2001 following two years of redevelopment work paid for by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. One of the most visited museums outside the capital, it stands on the edge of the Victorian Mowbray Park a short walk from the Bridges Shopping Centre and the Metro link to Newcastle. At the glazed entrance, a gift shop extends to the right and Museum Street commences directly ahead. The first display is of Sunderland Heroes - campaign medals and a small memorial to the 197 men of the 125th Anti - Tank Regiment who were killed or imprisoned at the fall of Singapore, England caps and club medals belonging to Raich Carter, and photos of the local diver Harry Watts, described by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie as "the bravest man I ever met." Turn right under the widescreen TV for Textile Traditions, a circle of touch screen displays, children?s clothes, 18th century bedding imported from the Greek islands, quilted petticoats and knitted Ganseys, jumpers worn by the Volunteer Life Brigade. Walk across the corridor for the Sunderland Pottery exhibits, held in a bright room with white arched windows looking out on traffic lights and Yates's Wine Lodge. The first pottery in the area opened in the early 18th century, and the city exported more than 300,000 pieces - over half of which went to Holland - at it?s 1818 peak. Teapots, figurines, mugs, creamware jugs, blue and white tea bowls, butter dishes, pots and plates represent the finest work from the 16 potteries that operated before the last closed in 1957. Narrated videos detail the manufacturing process, while display cases are crammed with souvenir pieces sold to visiting sailors, Napoleonic War commemorative work, glazed bowls with Chinese willow, classical Greek temples, landscapes from 'The Grand Tour' and Sunderland's iron bridges, and pottery dedicated to visiting luminaries such as Byron, who was briefly
                                  married to a local girl, and Garibaldi, who visited the region in 1854. Out past the bust of William Pile, a prominent local shipyard owner, continue across the corridor to the Time Machine, a small room showcasing the oldest and strangest exhibits in the museum's collection. A 1920's diver?s suits stands over a 19th century silver galleon. A one-metre high wooden bottle of Vaux stout washed up on a Northumberland beach is propped up in a corner next to the first car off the nearby Nissan production line in 1986. A 19th century walrus head from Siberia hangs from a wall behind Wallace the Lion, a stuffed circus animal who died in the town in 1965 and now glares through a glass partition at Egyptian fossils, a mummified dog, wooden tomb figures, Samurai figures, carved ivory balls and the top of a Chinese pagoda. Next door in Life & Work in the Coal Mining Communities of East Durham, banners from Murton, Seaham, Dawdon, Ryhope and Monkwearmouth collieries hang over the dark, selectively illuminated entrance. Turn left past the murals of black and white photographs and the collection of gas lamps and engraved glasses and sit in the mock pit showing videos on a continuous loop. A solid, half ton piece of coal mined for the 1929 North East Coast Exhibition towers above a scale model of a pit head; rooms from a Methodist chapel and a Rheumatic clinic lead to a colliery house with a kitchen range and décor straight out of Orwell's 'The Road To Wigan Pier', Surrounding a map showing the decline of the area's coal mining areas, a cardboard cut out of Margaret Thatcher smiles through the denouement of 1984-5 - grim faced police lines, scuffling miners and a simple black and white list of collieries followed by their date of closure. The final room on the ground floor, Secrets of the Past, is directly opposite and contains Medieval window glass and plaster, bronze seals, a model of Wearmouth Monastery, a revolving Anglo - Sa
                                  xon stone head, Roman coins, Bronze Age spears, Neolithic arrowheads and animal skulls. A flight of stairs ends at Sunderland?s Glorious Glass, a y-shaped corridor of Art Deco and pressed glass, a 200-piece Londonderry set and exhibition artefacts like glass swords, walking sticks and miniature cannons. Continue up the final flight of stairs for the Art Gallery, a terracotta and blue walled square holding twenty L.S. Lowry works as well as Victorian masterpieces donated when the premises first opened as the first municipal museum outside of London. Many of Lowry's works are on local industrial themes ? he spent much of his later life at a hotel in Seaburn - though there also some darker autobiographical sketches including a self ? portrait showing a dark column rising from a bleak, featureless sea. Burmese artefacts collected during the days of Empire are displayed next to the entrance, with marble Buddhas, teak chairs, ivory hilted silver swords and boat shaped boxes facing a white marble Victorian fireplace, a carved oak Renaissance Madonna and Child and oil paintings including one of the original Winter Gardens, which was destroyed by a Luftwaffe bomb in 1941, across the shiny floor. Outside the gallery The Open Space displays contemporary paintings and photography by local artists and a Special Exhibitions Room is currently showing the Pre-Raphaelite works of William Bell Scott. Down the stairs and through the Glorious Glass exhibit, Sunderland in the 20th Century opens to the right of the central corridor. Colourful boards list important dates such as the launching of the final ship and the closure of the last mine while displays focused on 1919, 1949, 1969 and 1999 include CDs of popular music from each era and novelty objects. There are life size exhibits of a 1919 kitchen and washing room, a 1949 living room, a 1969 teenager?s bedroom and a computer in the corner of a 1999 single mother?s living room, all decorated with period furnishi
                                  ngs and accompanied by video presentations of local women telling their own stories. Glass cases in the centre of the room detail typical meals down the years - cow heel pie, panackelty, ready made steak and kidney pie and pizza and oven chips. Up another staircase to Launched on Wearside, a room dedicated to the locally built ships from a dead industry that spanned 600 years. A full - size reconstruction of a ship?s bow occupies the centre of the floor, its interior playing videos that detail the positive negative aspects of an industry that employed a third of the town?s adult workforce between 1880 and 1950. Poignant displays of famous ships and defunct occupations line the walls amid a soundtrack of riveters' hammers and the constant ring of metal on metal. Turn right back down at the foot of the stairs for Worlds Alive and Lost Worlds, rooms full of rock and fossil samples, video presentations and stuffed lions, tigers, crocodiles and polar bears. Then return to Museum Street on the ground floor and turn left for the restaurant and Winter Gardens. Take the spiralling metal staircase or the glass lift up to the 30 - metre high dome above a glass and steel rotunda full of 146 species of 1,500 plants. A circular walkway at treetop level looks out on overhanging pink flowers, spiky cactus plants, ferns, palm and bamboo, Chinese yam, Australian eucalyptus, Arabian coffee plants and fragrant lemon, banana and orange trees. A cascade of water slides down a rectangular block of stainless steel to a miniature gorge and fern gully running away from a pond full of Koi carp and tiny plantations of tea, coffee, sugar, date palms, mangoes, vanilla and olives. Who would have thought that Sunderland could be so very interesting? DETAILS Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Burdon Road, Sunderland. (0191) 553 2323 Signposted from Sunderland rail and metro station. Open 10 - 4 Mondays, 10 - 5 Tuesday
                                  to Saturday and 2 - 5 on Sundays. Free Admission. Full disabled access. WEBSITES http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/sunderland/index.html http://www.sunderland-echo.co.uk/Custom_pages/CustomPage.asp?Page=688 http://newworlddesigns.co.uk/smuseum/pages/

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