We hopped on a train that took us a few hours north to the town of Durham and right into the open arms of our fantastic friends Andy and Miranda Byers (and their incredible children who I've always wanted to steal). They've moved to Durham for Andy to pursue his PhD at Durham University in the narrative structure of the Gospel of John...or something like that. Andy and I got to know each other when we were both working at Mountain Brook Community Church, and it's not too often you find someone who is truly a kindred spirit. Plus, we're both pursuing artistic dreams and our families are sacrificing big time to do so, so we just sort of get each other. Needless to say time with the Byers always encourages, refreshes, and pushes us forward. The long and the short of it is, we just really love the Byers.
It was freezing when our train rolled in to Durham, and Miranda had made us a pot of potato soup as a quick warm-up before we took a tour of the town. We saw the kids' schools and the Durham city center, which is a really amazing mix of ancient city and college town.
Then they took us to the beautiful Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle.
The courtyard of Durham Cathedral was used as the Hogwarts courtyard, so if the utter architectural grandeur of the place wasn't enough, we were satisfied because it was a Harry Potter set.
|Ellen is making that face because some lady fell on her butt as we took this picture.|
|Surely you've noticed I'm wearing a purse in all these pictures.|
The next day was Sunday so we got to visit their church, then we drove north past Newcastle to Alnwick (pronounced "an-nick" because that makes sense). This is where Ellen found her happy place - a spot called Duchess View.
We toured Alnwick Castle. Sorry, you can't move in. Someone lives there already. No, really. And they have a Downton Abbey-esque staff. We talked to a staff member who said he would have been a footman, so I'm thinking... William?
The kids got to dress as knights and pretend to fight a dragon. Cavan, their youngest son, solidified himself as the coolest guy I know when, as we were leaving, he yelled over his shoulder, "Goodbye, dragon. I'll kill you again on another adventure!"
We had dinner at a quaint inn called The Church Mouse and then just spent time talking with the Byers. We also gave them the gift of Bill Dance. The next morning we were off to the train station to head to Helmsley...
Europe I: London, Europe II: Leavesden Studios