Night at the Museum – the Science Museum

October 16, 2008 at 10:22 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Random, Tourism, Travel, UK | 2 Comments
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Wednesday night (24 September) was London’s Science Museum’s inaugural late night opening specifically for adults. All in all a great time made all the more pleasant by having some friends to share the experience.

The best part of the night was hands down the lack of children and massive crowds. It made navigation and enjoyment so much easier and less stressful. The museum put on several bars and a DJ. Remember t bring your I’d as the doorman/ bouncer will check. The computers exhibit featured a build a robot/robot wars activity. There were also Lindy Hoppers dancing up a storm. The crowd (and our) favourite was the hands on section. Normally dominated by children but for a few brief hours adults could play, laugh, learn and revel in the wonder of science.

Unfortunately I do have one criticism. Namely that the entire museum was not open. I’m not sure if this is the result of crowd control and security concerns but it seems to go against the concept of a late opening.

Overall, the crowd was very cool with a healthy mix of suits, geeks and the groovy hopefully brought together by science! I know I had a big grin when one of the ever present and helpful Explainers … explained the maglev concepts. If most people came away with a similar experience then it was a worthwhile night.

I probably won’t go back for a few months as I don’t want to kill the novelty but I’ll wait and see what they have planned for the night.

Other late night events around London can be found at lates.org

There are some less than stellar mobile photos at Flickr.

Newcastle – Overview

October 16, 2008 at 9:30 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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I came to Newcastle to visit relatives and I guess I’ll have to do that again in the future but without that impetus I’m not sure what the city has to recommend itself.
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It’s fine, it’s pleasant but not outstanding.

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It has some interesting and well known bridges plus the upper/lower city dynamic I found fascinating in Edinburgh. Perhaps I’m being too harsh and using London too much as a benchmark?

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Newcastle does have a long and colourful history and it’s compact enough for the casual tourist to wander.

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I’m not going to come back anytime soon but the city was pleasant for a short break.

While in Newcastle I stayed at (another) Euro Hostel. These looked like operational college dorms (during term months anyway). I booked for an ensuite but the room only had a salle de bain. So it was a communal bathroom. I should have asked but I didn’t care that much. That and I didn’t want to be a nuisance especially as the staff where particularly friendly. OK I’m weak. On that note I found everyone I encountered in Newcastle friendly and helpful.

More photos at Flickr.

Newcastle – Discovery Museum

October 16, 2008 at 9:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The Discovery Museum is a cross between local history museum and science centre. It’s free so that’s also a plus!

If I hadn’t already been to the castleSegedunum or the Centre for Life I would have been more entertained but I found much of the content repetitive. For the newcomer or someone on a tight time frame it will be fine. The historical content was both interesting and annoying. For example saying there were important riots but not providing context around them.

There are also sections dealing with the local ecology, the river and the city’s maritime trading history. Finally there is a hands on science discovery section.

The museum provides a good overview of the city and for a first time visitor would be worth a visit.

Newcastle – Centre for Life

October 16, 2008 at 9:14 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, UK | Leave a comment
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Newcastle’s Science Museum known as the Centre for Life covers a wide range of topics from evolution to climate change and space with a few special exhibits and events thrown in for good measure. While I was there they were focusing on nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.

Most science museums offer the same content and will have a range of interactive displays to teach you these principles. Newcastle’s offering is no different. That’s not to say it isn’t fun because it is. It’s not to say it isn’t educational because again it is. However if science museums aren’t your thing then you may not get much out of it, or if the entry fee of £8 is too much try the free Discovery Museum.

It was an entertaining respite for a few hours and pretty informative too!

Located on the corner of Westmoorland Road and Marlborough Crescent.

Newcastle – Segedunum

October 16, 2008 at 8:52 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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A brief 20 minute metro tip from Newcastle’s city center is Wallsend. Funnily enough this is where Hadrian’s Wall ended and at this terminus there is the ruined Roman Fort Segedunum, which has been progressively excavated. Of course when I say ruined I actually mean a rough outline of where the buildings used to be with the odd surviving mortar and stone dotted around the site.

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Entry is £3.90 but you could probably enter unnoticed via the excavation pits but why would you do that when the price is so cheap? The information centre looks like an airport terminal with its viewing platform overlooking the site.

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The museum while child focussed has enough material to keep an adult’s attention. If not you can always play the games!

The site is located near a shipyard and the area’s modern industrial past explains why so little of its Roman heritage remains.

Across the road is another smaller excavation site that features part of Hadrian’s Wall.

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No that big wall isn’t it. The barely visible strip on the right are the wall’s remains. Uninspiring. The staff helpfully apologise and explain that the former coal mine destroyed the wall. The reconstruction on the left does help a little. If you want to see the real wall from Newcastle you’ll need to take a day trip.

The other part of the site is a reconstruction of the Roman Fort’s Bath House. It’s opened on the hour for 20 minutes so you’ll need to plan your visit accordingly. I assumed that if it was only open for a short period it must be at least partially operational but this wasn’t the case – except for a little bit of water. Still it was good to get an idea of the bath’s layout and operation. Still I think a trip to Bath might be a better option.

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Segedunum, which sounds a bit mantric the more times and faster you say it, is fine and interesting for those with a limited knowledge of the Romans but it does help to provide some contrast to the rest of the city.

Newcastle – Castle

October 16, 2008 at 8:37 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Newcastle’s Castle is an absolute steal to visit.
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For only £1.50 this is a great deal and climbing onto the roof of the keep provides excellent views of the city – well it would if it wasn’t raining.

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The rest of the castle provides a history of its (re)construction, which provides the city with its name. Not very original obviously. Granted it’s no Edinburgh Castle or Tower of London but the castle has seen the Normans, civil war and Scottish invasion before being left in disrepair and now being revitalised.

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The masonry and depth of the walls was fascinating.
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Overall, it is quick, cheap, has views and offers a snap shot of local history. If you’re in Newcastle you should visit, well, it’s castle!

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Edinburgh – Overview

October 16, 2008 at 8:17 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 2 Comments
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I rather enjoyed Edinburgh. I found it pleasant and quite fun but honestly after a few days I had become restless. If I stayed longer I would investigate day trips while using Edinburgh for the night life, anecdotal evidence suggests it’s pretty good – albeit with a 3am closing time.

One of the features of the city that I found fascinating was the levels. There’s an upper and lower city. From the lower area – presumably for the poorer classes back – you can look up at the bridges connecting the upper city. It’s quite striking.

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There are an assortment of small quirky shops around town that you can stick your head into or a range of gardens to take a brief respite from the city. Besides shopping here are a few other places of interest:

Greyfriar’s Kirk is a historic graveyard to wander around and inspecting the gravestones
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The Police Museum on the Royal Mile is actually a working police station with some  small exhibits on punishment, law and order in the city. From what the officer on duty said the museum is to try and help tourists feel comfortable about reporting problems. It’s quick but nothing like Japan’s.

-Above the Palace and Parliament is the impressive Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat. You don’t need to be fit or even wear particularly good shoes. I made it to one of the main sections but I should have brought a bottle fo water and was a touch dehydrated to venture further up or to some of the other areas. Still worth it and pleasant.
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Parliament was closed on the day I tried to visit. Hopefully it has an information center or guide. Let me know!
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Calton Hill is another good vantage point to look out over this self-styled Athens of the North. It features a half finished version of the Acropolis.
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Overall I found Edinburgh fun and in my short time there I feel like I’ve learnt something about what it means to be Scottish. Not a great deal but something.

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While in Edinburgh I stayed at the Euro Hostel. Dorm style rooms with a common bathroom. The single bed was clean, the bathroom was less so but still ok. A decent place for a short, central and cheap stay in the city.

More photos at Flickr.

Edinburgh – Scott Monument

October 16, 2008 at 7:13 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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As the name suggests this is a monument to the novelist Sir Walter Scott.

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Apparently it is the largest monument to a writer in the world and indeed it is a very high spire.

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For only three pounds you can climb to the top. There’s only one stairwell to come up and down so on a busy day that could get a little tricky to navigate. The stairs, particularly at the top, are quite narrow.  About half way up is a small exhibit talking about the construction and Scott. Once you reach the summit – assuming it’s a clear day – you’ll have an excellent view over the city.

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Even on a cloudy day it’s not bad and certainly it’s good exercise! Just as much fun as the Monument in London.

Edinburgh – National Galleries of Scotland

October 16, 2008 at 6:50 pm | Posted in General, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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This National Gallery is relatively small, positively tiny compared with its big brother in London.

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Unless there’s a specific exhibit or you’re of the artistic persuasion there’s probably not a lot to offer you.

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After a quick 30 minute walk I was done and fairly non plussed.

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Edinburgh also has a few other galleries if you’d like to dip further into the Scottish art world. Entry is free and the gallery is centrally located on Princes Street.

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