I went to Durham: A tale of coffee shops, schnapps and friends

Ramblings from a coffee shop
I have begun writing this post sitting in a coffee shop of which this will be my third visit, partly because it is just so good and mainly because I don’t know where else to go as a non-resident of Durham. It feels a little bittersweet to write a post about how brilliant Durham is as I had my heart set on studying here for so long, so I already knew what a wonderful place it is. In fact, I did have concerns it would be a little upsetting to be here and be so involved with the student lifestyle I once thought I would be living. However, this visit has so far reassured me that although Durham is wonderful, Bristol is the city for me after all and I can continue to write this post about my wonderful trip with no bad blood or dramatic sobs of ‘WHY OH WHY?!’. So now I’m going to carry on sipping my raspberry tea whilst I wait for my friend to join me and enjoy the rest of my time here with a refreshing sense of contentment that everything has worked out for the best.

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The trip itself
We move forward to my train journey home, where I am sat listening to James Blake feeling slightly exhausted, very content but fairly sad that I won’t see my friends again for a few weeks now, and probably won’t be back to Durham until at least next year. I chose to spend the majority of my week off for half term visiting three of my friends who all happen to go to Durham University, which is very handy, I must say, so thanks guys. Writing this only a few hours after leaving my friends means the past 5 days still feel like a bit of a blur. Although, perhaps that was due to the schnapps.

There would be little point documenting every moment of my trip as I feel most people wouldn’t enjoy a blogpost that mainly consisted of ‘and then we snoozed and talked about our mostly non-existent love lives whilst eating chocolate’ – and considering I went to see three of my closest friends that was definitely a common theme. However, I did get up to some things that would interest those uninvolved in our general chit-chat. Or my mum and dad at least.

Monday.
I love looking out the window on the train as we pull into Durham. The castle and the cathedral stand impressively as a centrepiece to the medieval city that was described perfectly by my friend as ‘a cross between Edinburgh and the Lake District’. There is something very British about Durham, with its cobbled, hilly streets and river made for a watercolour painting… No wonder they plonked a collegiate University in the middle of it.

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***COLLEGES FOR BEGINNERS: The college system basically means each student is assigned a college where they will usually live in first year at least and each college is different whether that be in size, location or general atmosphere. For example, when I got an offer I was placed in Van Mildert, a large college that is only 50 years old and is catered and fairly sporty. However, I applied to St. Chads, a much smaller and older college, also catered with mainly shared rooms.***

My friend picked me up from the station and we headed to her college, Trevelyan’s, which is apparently a ‘modern representation of the castle’. Hmm, I’ll let you judge that one yourself. Trevs is obsessed with hexagons, and is known as a musical college. If you were interested. I don’t know, maybe you want to apply to Durham or something.

After spending a little time in the centre, I then headed to Van Mildert to meet up with another friend. Van mildert is obsessed with ducks and has a giant lake, hence obsession with ducks (I’m sure you are all loving these college reviews). My friend took me to Spags which actually has a much fancier name but I truly can’t remember what it was. I didn’t take pictures here, but I wish I had because the food was perfection and so cheap, and everyone should go there. Shame I can’t remember its actual name… I’m very helpful, I know.

My evening then consisted of chilling with my friend’s corridor, drinking £5.50 schnapps and 55p cloudy lemonade (we really pushed the boat out there) and getting ready to hit the clubs, because it was my week of being fully immersed into student life after all. Club reviews: both Jimmy A’s and WiffWaff were a little mediocre but were both a bit like partying in a dungeon due to their stone walls which was cool. However, the club review does get better on Wednesday, so don’t panic, stop being impatient.

Tuesday.
I’m sure you can imagine what most of morning consisted of (sleep is very important, guys). I did make it into town by midday, however, and visited the indoor markets which were pretty cool, then headed to topshop (a common theme on this trip) before meeting up with my friends, and grabbing lunch with one of them at Chapters. This coffee shop is a must in Durham, and please just get the club sandwich. So good, guys. So good.

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After lunch we headed towards Palace Green to see the cathedral and castle and take cheesy selfies, followed by a wander towards Matriculation Bridge. I have no idea if this is its actual name, but it is what my friend called it so blame her if not. The view from here was stunning, and we spent a long time chatting on this bridge. I think the main pull of Durham is how peaceful it is; it’s a student city engulfed in countryside full of quiet hiding places, and aspiring writers would probably get a lot out of its serenity, I feel. Well, Wordsworth probably would have done at least.

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After our wander around the quieter parts of Durham we threw ourselves back into the busier area and headed towards the science site, where I gatecrashed a human geography lecture on breastfeeding and globalisation. It was very strange, but I do know now to avoid Nestlé bottle milk mix. Life lessons, I suppose. We then headed to Josephine Butler, the third college I would visit on this trip. Butler isn’t as far away as everyone thinks, but does have a very mean hill to climb, and then a mound that you can climb if you feel so inclined. As the adventurous type I bravely ventured to the top of this mound – it was practically a mountain if I am being truthful (Hint: I’m not), where I was greeted with some lovely views of the city and surrounding area. I liked Butler, but it was very different to the other colleges I have visited, probably due to how young it is.

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Forgetting it was pancake day, we made stir fry but luckily were treated by one of my friend’s uni friends (not confusing at all) to pancakes which made my day. To further make my day, a few of us, including two of my friends, went to a bar called Whiskey River which specialised in slightly pricey but extremely quirky cocktails. For me; Strawberry Cheesecake, followed by Earl Grey and Lemon Martini. The former was weird but quite good, the latter was tasty but one of my friends thought it tasted like lemsip. I do quite like lemsip though, so make of that what you will.

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Wednesday.
I again spent the morning sleeping in my friend’s bed, but did meet up with the other two for a very quaint little lunch, which ended up lasting a few hours and involved some delightful food. If Chapters is hipster heaven, Flatwhite must be heaven’s after-party. Tiny, but jam packed with wooden tables, cushions and bookshelves full of old books, this coffee shop is perhaps the sweetest place in Durham. Add homemade butternut squash and ginger soup, gorgeous green teas and a gluten-free triple chocolate brownie to the mix and you have the makings of a perfect spot.

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The rest of the day was mainly chilling out with my friends, and failing terribly at the celebrity round of Heads Up, so it wasn’t until the evening that we were back out again, this time at Lloyd’s, a much larger and much better club than those I visited on Monday. In fact, this club had a great mix of music and a great mix of people and if I hadn’t of been so tired I probably would have even got into the S Club 7 and Abba at the end of the night a lot more too. Somehow I did manage to stay up until half 4 chat to my friend when we got back to Van Mildert though – even when everything changes, nothing really does it seems.

Thursday.
When we finally woke up, I headed to chapters, and it is at that point I started writing this post. All went pretty downhill from there, to be honest. Actually more like uphill. So many hills in Durham. Like my attempt at humour there? Blame the influence of my Dad and his awful jokes. After a long natter with one of my friends, we wandered back to Mildert where I may have basically snoozed and slowly got ready for a lovely evening at Trevelyan’s to see my friend in her college production of that well known classic ‘My Favorite Year‘. Okay, so I’d never heard of it and neither had my other friend who came to see it with me and is obsessed with Broadway and musicals in general… But it was a really charming, quirky show that I would definitely recommend- and my friend made a brilliant crazy bride! The rest of the night was spent eating popcorn and chilling with the lovely Trevelyan lot, and was the perfect final evening to a brilliant trip.

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Friday.
Be warned: two Topshop lovers in Newcastle can only end in a blow to the bank account.

For my last day I had no idea what to do, as I had booked my return for 6.48 pm but my friends had already had to put up with me enough (they love me really). Luckily, the suggestion of a day shopping in Newcastle which is only a tiny train trip from Durham was enough to make one of my friends, let’s not say skip, but ‘choose not to attend due to prior, highly important engagements’ (naughty) and off we went. I don’t know what I expected Newcastle to be like but it certainly was much more impressive than I had expected. Sorry for presuming you were a bit naff, Newcastle. Tall buildings, and lots of lovely shops made it feel a bit like the London high streets, and as my friend studies classics she was loving all the Corinthian columns (I hope I got that right, I always asked her for classical references when we both did English Lit at college). I don’t know what else to say about this day other than Topshop lipsticks are pretty good, lush lip scrubs are fab, Thornton’s ice cream is to die for and I really loved spending time looking at clothes I can actually afford for once in my life with the most stylish friend I have (I hope you are blushing).

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The final words
This brings me back to the end of my journey, and I’m so happy I got to spend five days with three of my favourite people. Get the tissues, it is getting emotional. I was both ridiculously excited and worried for this trip before I went; ridiculously excited because I finally got to spend some proper time with the people I used to see most days for hours on end -one for over 10 years of my life- but worried because I was scared we would have all changed to much and it wouldn’t feel right. However, I’ve come back feeling closer than ever to them, and apparently soppier than ever, oh dear, so I shall wrap this massive post up before we all burst into tears at my beautiful sentimentality. University is weird, but it isn’t weird enough to make things weird. Weird that.

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One thought on “I went to Durham: A tale of coffee shops, schnapps and friends

  1. Pingback: February in review: I’ve turned it into a pointless diary | My Unexpected Gap

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