Well, I've been in Durham at Durham University for a week now, so if you've not seen me around LJ land this is why.
Durham is the tiniest, prettiest little place ever. It is like being in the 1850s. Old brick buildings, famous centuries-old cathedral, castles with turrets and spikes, twisted iron gates, glass, cobbled streets. There are ornate stone bridges over the wide river, forests with waterfalls, flowers, old English rural pubs, mahogany, tall windows, foliage, hills. There are a few chain shops - Topshop, Accesorize, Thortons - and many little independant shops which sell either Armani, Gucci, Prada, Scottish tweed, or tailor make ballgowns and corsets, or jewellry, or musty litle bookshops and dark hidden coffee shops. All the shops are in the original sites, which means they are cut into stone or with old wooden doors. Some go downstairs into dark stone rooms where the lighting makes the jewellry and sparkly shoes glitter like you are in Aladdin's Cave.
Durham is pretty like a postcard. Not the sort of postcard that looks amazing but when you get there it's full of tourists, and there's an overflowing bin, and a screaming kid, and a row of dirty cars and someone selling over-priced ice creams and the bloody thing itself looks drab and smaller than you expected. No. Durham is picture perfect. I could go out now and take a roll of film and everyone could be used for a postcard with no airbrushing at all.
Durham is a University town, in term time 10% of the population are students. It is very plain to see when you are walking around that people are either under 25 or over 55. At night 99% of who you see will be young, rich students in party clothes laughing, drinking, dancing or throwing up. The locals are insanely friendly - the sort who, when you're lost, not just give you directions but walk you there also, or smile and wish you a nice day at the market. It is a mark of my London upbringing that at first I seriously thought they were being sarcastic. I heard the North was friendlier but I wasn't expecting such bloody niceness. And such cheapness! A mudshake cost £1.50...in London it was at least a fiver!
My halls are nice, they are on a hill but I can deal. The girls on my floor are great, really friendly and leave boxes of chocolates or biscuits out with post-it notes saying 'help yourself! :)'. On one side of our building is huge University rugby playing fields and forest (it is very nice to see red-cheeked boys with nice legs playing rugby on cold misty mornings as you walk to your lectures), the other side is a high security prison (possibly the only ugly building in Durham).
Durham has a lot of nice bars, pubs (no clubs, Newcastle for that), coffee shops and cafes. Also, the college puts on some nights (last one I went to was themed 'Seven Deadly Sins', it had a chocolate fountain for gluttony, poker table for greed, podium dancers for lust etc) so the students don't get bored. It's not quite London. But it isn't so bad as I was expecting.
PS, I missed my first Anthropology lecture today, because I was at a poster sale. It was worth it, though, because I got three for £10 - A Vintage Chat Noir poster, the famous Théophile Alexandre Steinlen one, (btw, The Chat Noir was an old Cabaret theatre/cafe in Paris in the late 19th Century, all piano and poets and musicians and low celings and smoky bars and artists) A gorgeous one of the Grand Central Station in New York, in black and white taken in the 1930s (it has a lot of business men and bankers in suits with top hats), and also a Guns N Roses one. 'Cos I love 'em.