Thursday 6th May, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.
When I checked my Lonely Planet book for accommodation in York, it listed three hostels. One was a little out of town if I recall, and I was put off another because it was 'popular with large, noisy school groups'. I checked into the third hostel, which was conveniently located close to the old city walls, and within a short walk of the train and bus stations. Soon I discovered that it had been almost booked out by a large, noisy school group. How can such small people make so much noise? It sounded like a herd of elephants was thundering down the stairs, but around the corner would emerge a group of ten or twelve year old kids. When they invaded the breakfast room in the morning, it was like feeding time at the zoo. The handful of backpackers who were quietly enjoying their morning coffee didn't know what had hit them!
This morning, I was unusually lazy. I just couldn't be assed even thinking about hitchhiking- where to start hitching, what highways would be best served with traffic, what was the wacky English weather going to do?- so I strolled down to the bus station and shelled out £11 for a coach to Newcastle. Spending a night in a hostel was a nice break from the social routine, and sitting silently in a bus was equally refreshing after hitching everywhere. The bus ride was surprisingly pleasant, passing through typical English farmland with its stone walls and endless fields of vivid yellow rapeseed.
It was only a couple of hours to Newcastle, where I'd be staying with Kathryn, a Canadian friend of Marcie and Jeremy, who I stayed with in Maine. Kathryn was busy till four or five o'clock, so I went for a walk along the quayside. Down on the riverfront,I was fortunate enough to see the a large ship coming up the river, making it necessary for the bridges to swing and lift. One bridge swung around at ninety degrees to allow thye ship to pass, and the new Millenium Bridge actually lifted up and tilted to the side. It was an impressive engineering feat, that one! When I told Kathryn, she was miffed. In all the time she's been in Newcastle, she's never seen the bridges move!
Kathryn has been in the UK for over a year now, working as a teacher. She lives with another Canadian girl Lauralee, also a teacher. (quite likely I misspelt her name!) Kathryn and I caught the Metro to their place at Wallsend, and the three of us sat up talking till quite late. Both the girls had to be up early the next morning, and I decided I'd get up early as well, since I had a lot to fit into the day.