The best thing of all

Walltown – Northumberland National Park

I knew already before this trip that Northumberland was an infinite succession of amazingly beautiful landscapes, but, what has striken me the most has been its people. My previous visits to UK were all limited to London; big metropolis are, in a certain way, all alike. A melting pot of different cultures and people, a place in which, for a Spanish living in Italy, you will never die of hunger because ninety percent of the waiters in the restaurants are Spanish or Italians. Therefore, this was my first trip to the “real” Great Britain; I would sleep in a small town in the middle of the island and I would arrive there with the train from Newcastle, hoping to have memorised well the road to walk from the train station to our bed & breakfast. I must confess also that I wasn’t able, before leaving, to forget completely one of those absurd commonplaces which, in the mind of an Spaniard, equal British people to a race not very amiable or kind. I know that it sounds something very absurd to read in a blog in which the vast majority of their posts is devoted to a certain English Gentleman. But as I told you, we are talking about an absurd idea printed in the dna of the average Spanish citizen after a childhood spent watching Erroll Flynn’s films with Claude Rains playing the naughty Spaniard and Erroll Flynn the corageous Englishman.

the sea hawk
Claude Rains as Don José Alvarez de Córdoba in “The Sea Hawk”. Click for source

Nevertheless, common places are made to be denied with reality, and so it was. Starting from the flight; we flew with an English low cost company, the only one with a twice a week direct flight between Rome and Newcastle. When we were about to land I was making with hubby the usual tourist-comments about what I was seeing, but I guess that one man sitting in the seat in front of me was not very happy at all to hear that I thought Durham was Newcastle and what I thought was Newcastle’s stadium was Sunderland’s. Therefore the gentleman informed me very kindly of what I was really watching from the window… panic. I did not understand him. After making him repeating thrice what he was saying, I gathered the meaning by the only words I understood (Newcastle – Durham – Sunderland) and by seeing from the window a definitely bigger city approaching. I thought that the communication problem was due to that annoying buzz you hear inside a plane, but when making the passports queue and, once more, not understanding the first time the question the lady organising the flow of people asked me (if I travelled alone or with someone else) I realised that I was not made to understand northern accent.


In this trip we were very lucky, not only with the patient people we met who had to repeat frequently twice what they were telling me, but with the weather. As you see, sun shined between the clouds but the temperature, for us, was definitely brisky. I longed for cool weather after the furnace heat we left in Rome but I realized, watching the people in Newcastle or walking in Haltwhistle that afternoon in t-shirt and sandals, that non only our English, but also our thermostats were callibrated very differently.

The list of incredibly friendly and nice people continued with our landlady (who spoke an absolutely intelligible English), the girls in the pub, the couple of tourists from Lincoln who chatted with us while we were waiting for our food, the bus driver… The next day when we were making a stroll in town a very kind gentleman asked us if we were lost. As I was in a holiday mood I didn’t even think for a moment that it was a polite way of saying “what are you doing here?”, as would have thought the usual and cynical me, but I felt absolutely happy because I understood him without saying the usual “sorry?”

The Black Bull in Haltwhistle. Delicious food, and, according to hubby, better beer

I must write more posts about this trip. Unfortunately, inspiration has completely run dry now. I guess it’s because I’m hungry.

The delicious meat pie I ate at The Black Bull

9 thoughts on “The best thing of all

  1. I’ve never been to the North of England, so I have read this with great interest. Looks like you had great weather. (I always marvel at the difference in climate between Britannia and Hibernia.)
    That whole thing about assuming Brits to be haughty and arrogant – yeah, I think Germans have a tendency to think that, too. I must say I believed the same for many years all due to a very unfortunate first ever impression of an extremely rude Englishman in Oxford. Now I know better (not least because I have acquired a British family-in-law in the meantime *ggg*). So glad that your prejudice was completely proven wrong. The people make up half of the impression of a country. Otherwise it looks like a nice place.
    Looking forward to seeing/hearing more?!

    1. Thank you for your comment, guylty. The freak-Roman in me is moved when reading Hibernia referred to Ireland 🙂 How was the weather there those days? I’ve checked the map (I do not rely on my memory 🙂 ) and I was more or less in the same parallel of Belfast.
      Indeed a non positive first impression is the worst that can happen; fortunately the only “not extremely polite” person I met was the waitress in the hotel’s restaurant the last night we were in UK; I would have got definitely a worst impression were she the first person I met in the North.
      Yup, we all have Brits-in-law’s 😀 😀 😀 and a worlwide extended family, which is something simply… great!
      Yes I will write something more about the trip in the future, but I guess dealing mostly with Roman stones… freaks stuff. 😀

  2. 😀 Oh, the Irish themselves use the word Hibernia/Hibernian frequently. I always think it’s funny – “the winter country”, yet in Ireland it rarely snows, its winters are mild but last for three seasons (autumn, winter, spring). The weather here is generally cooler than on the main British isle, and wetter. The clouds from the Atlantic drop their rainy load as soon as they reach the first bit of landmass 😦 This summer I have been astounded at the beautiful summer weather that London was experiencing while Dublin was dry but 7 to 10 degrees cooler.
    Oh, I didn’t see the “British in-laws” issue like that, but I guess you are right; I have acquired a large number of British, American, Australian and other international cousins… (But I do actually have a large number of RL British family-in-law: a Scottish uncle, aunt and cousins, an English mil, lots of aunties and uncles… My prejudices were firmly rebuked!)
    And I can’t wait to read about those Roman stones. Love all that archeological stuff. Hurry 🙂

    1. Oooops, sorry, I didn’t know about the RL-in-laws and my jolly-obsessed mind went always there 😉

      Well, when I was up there in the North the newspapers talked about the coolest and wettest August bank holidays ever in London, so I guess that this year they’ve had a crazy summer.

  3. Don’t worry Barsine, I sometimes have trouble with a Northern accent too! I’m loving these details of your trip and would like to hear about your first impressions of seeing the Wall.

  4. I’m a native speaker and I occasionally have a hard time understanding people in London! Was in Edinburgh once w/German boyfriend and he had an easier time understanding what was said than I did. Glad it was such a wonderful trip.

    1. Glad to know that also native English speakers have comprehension problems with the British every now and then!
      It’s so curious this thing of languages. I travelled years ago to Naples with my brazilian room-mate: I didn’t understand half a word of their dialect and she understood everything.

      1. I’ve encountered it a lot, and my personal explanation is that we (a) listen harder when it’s not our native language we’re listening to, i.e., I expect to be able to understand English speakers and so I don’t concentrate and (b) in a foreign language, I in general have a much less specific idea of how things ought to be pronounced than I do in my own native tongue, so that a wider range of sounds sound like the same thing to me. I could be talking out my rear there. FWIW.

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