We had been here a week. I’d taken the Metro once, walked my neighborhood once, taken the bus to the supermarket once. I didn’t know my way around, didn’t know what was here, and we had a visitor.
Brian’s brother came down and spent a week with us. Have you ever had a visitor and no idea what to do with them? We don’t even have a TV, so we had a LOT of hours to fill.
Well, if you’ve ever come to visit me you know that I’m the queen of itineraries. I will drag you all over town and back, and find the most obscure or odd things to go check out. I’ll take you to mystery places and get lost with you, and I’ll learn as I go right along with you.
So I bundled Ronald up against the chilly October air and hopped on the metro with no idea where we were going.
All I knew was that we were going to Tynemouth, which is a town on the sea at the mouth of the river Tyne just fifteen minutes by Metro from our flat. What is there to see in Tynemouth? I had no idea, but we were going to find out.
What we found was the Tynemouth Castle and Priory. One of the things I absolutely love about being in Europe is that you can stumble across two thousand year old sites without even trying. Sometimes I just can’t believe that I get to live here, it makes my history nerd senses tingle.
We can put our hands on stones that were put in place a thousand years ago.
We can stand on graves which were filled eight hundred years ago and still read the names on the markers.
We can walk the paths that have been in continuous use for two thousand years, right up to present day. Not just a dead archeological site, but a piece of land that was still used to house soldiers and tanks in both world wars, and had a functioning coast guard base up until just thirty years ago.
This is what I love. History not frozen in the stones, but moving, continuing, weaving right in with all of our daily lives.
This chapel was built nearly eight hundred years ago, and the painted ceiling and rose window are still intact.
The bits and pieces of stone in another store room (formerly the prior’s chapel) tell stories about the original site.
And the more recent history runs side by side with the old. The WWI and WWII ammunition bunkers have been restored and turned into a display, showing some of the fortifications still in place from the days of German U-boats and night time bombing raids.
It’s an odd mix. Ancient religious buildings and more recent military weaponry share the same ground. I suppose there’s a metaphor there if you look close enough.
At the end of the day, Ronald and I had learned a bit more about England and filled in more of the blank spaces on our mental maps of the world. I learned a little bit about where I live, and we had another beautiful (and rare) sunny October day on the English coast.
Day one of his visit was a success. Not bad for a day that started without a plan.
We did this for six days, jumping on the metro and seeing what’s out there. I may have worn him out, but we had a good time. Let’s hope I didn’t scare him off from further visits.
On the map: Click here to see this location on our Google Map.