Newcastle Science Fest and Edinburgh

Newcastle Science Fest and Edinburgh

Andrew woke up bright and early this morning. About 3 a.m.! At around 6:30 he decided he would go on a nice morning walk to take some photos. I politely declined to go with him so I could sleep a little longer. When he came back he had some great photos of the bridges in Newcastle and the Tyne River. I posted some of those below.

After breakfast we walked North into the shopping district of town on our way to another Newcastle Science Fest Event called Body in Action. It was a fun science-based look at the body and how it performs during physical activity. There was lots of activities to try as well including a grip strength test, a sprinting test, and a lung capacity test. We were a little skeptical at first, but it turned out to be fun. They even had a state of the art system like the one used in Hollywood to map different joints and parts of the body to see how they move. Think Avatar. After that we popped into a quick cafe for lunch and moved on to a seminar on the science of sleep. It was quite informative and the speaker was great. Then we wandered over to a pub so we could get a Newcastle in Newcastle.

The final event of the day was The Alpha Project. I’m not quite sure where to start on this one, but I will say it was great fun in a strange scary kind of way. The Newcastle Science Fest Program describes it as “part theater, part psychological experiment, The Alpha Project is based on real events and explores psychic abilities, blurring the boundary between physical and extrasensory experience.” They tell you nothing else so we didn’t really know what to expect. You enter the first room which is really cold because it’s part of an old castle. You then fill out a brief survey and sign a scary waiver and are moved to another room where they make you change your shoes. We then split up, myself going up another flight of stairs and sitting at a table in a dark room with some white noise that progressively got louder. It was quite creepy because I had no idea what was going on or whether someone was going to jump out behind me (the table and chairs are in the middle of the room). After about 4 minutes Andrew joined me and proceeded to lead me in a bunch of “psychic” tests. There were cards, a crystal, and grainy black and white photographs that were likely of serial killers. I did okay in the psychic tests (guessing games) until it came to the hanging crystal which apparently I was supposed to make swing around with my mind. I was staring and staring and despite my best efforts absolutely nothing happened. I suppose I shouldn’t quit my day job eh? In between the tests there were lots of scary noises and loud talking. At times they shone a hot red light at me and other times it was a white one so bright that I could hardly see. At the end of it all they kind of just lead you out. No explanation or anything. Although this probably seems awful it was actually an interesting and worthwhile experiment. I enjoyed the fact that I was completely out of control and had no idea what was happening. Most of my life is spent in control of things (plans, work, etc.) and just experiencing something with no control was quite refreshing. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, but in a good way. Needless to say it provided lots of conversation on the train ride to Edinburgh.

Since we were already in Northern England, it was only an hour and a half train ride to Edinburgh, Scotland. The ride was lovely. We saw farms, lots of sheep (right up our alley!), some adorable small towns, and the tumultuous Northern Sea known for it’s past Viking escapades. When we arrived in town we could tell it was quite a bit colder than Newcastle or London. We walked to our hotel which was close to the train station and was an overall easy walk if you don’t count the 300+ stairs! Yikes! Drew insisted in carrying the backpack and the luggage so he climbed the stairs with about 60 lbs of extra weight on his back! After catching our breath and checking in we ventured out for dinner to a restaurant that was highly rated on Yelp called The Grain Store. It did not disappoint. We started with some ham hock and leek risotto which may have been the best risotto I have ever had. We then had a little whiskey (when in Rome right?) and moved onto our mains. Andrew had the Sea bass and I had a roasted pork loin with pork belly and vegetables. Both dishes were great. After that we walked back to the hotel and called it a night because we were all quite tired. Oh yea, did I mention it’s freezing here? Cheers, Chelsie and Andrew

The Sage Gateshead during Andrew's early morning walk.

Millenium and Newcastle Bridges

A grafitti robot who loves cheese. Me too!

More views of the Tyne River.

Having a Newcastle in Newcastle

Andrew with the Newcastle in Newcastle

Garth Castle where The Alpha Experiment took place.

Andrew's Sea Bass from The Grain Store.

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Maker Faire

Maker Faire

So we had quite a collection of experiences today. We woke up and had breakfast at the hotel. Andrew had a full English breakfast and I had poached eggs with homemade English muffins. Yes, they actually did call them “English” muffins on the menu. A little redundant if you ask me. Anyway, then it was off to fix a quick train ticket mishap and on to Maker Faire which is part of the Newcastle Science Festival.

What fun! They had everything from a giant fire-breathing robot dragon to remote controlled trash cans named Sid and Nancy to DIY electrical kits to music made using Tessla coils. Andrew was in seventh heaven. They also do this strange thing called yarn bombing as part of the festival which is basically where people knit items and vandalize public spaces with them. For example, one person knit a seat warmer for a public bench and another thought a tree sweater would be a nice contribution. Who knew knitters here are such rebels? After spending all morning at Maker Faire we had lunch at a little noodle house which was surprisingly good seeing as though there isn’t a large population of Asians living here as far as we can tell.

By the time we were done with lunch it was about 4:00 p.m. and we went back to the hotel for a little R&R to rest up for an evening concert and seminar on creating music using brainwaves. It was pretty interesting although a little anti-climactic since the guy just stands there with a headset thinking about music while a computer outputs sounds. It was an amazing scientific feat, but the entertainment factor could have been amped up. The best part about the evening was the walk to the concert hall. The river and bridges here are really beautiful! I promise to post pictures tomorrow as we have no wi-fi at our hotel so there is no way to get the pictures onto the blog. I am currently posting this from Mickey’s iPad. Our hotel tomorrow night has it so I will update this post then. Andrew took some really beautiful ones of the Newcastle Bridge that I can’t wait to share. Because we had a late lunch and were pretty beat by the time the concert ended, we decided to forgo dinner and just eat some snacks we brought. At the time I’m writing this, Andrew is already sleeping. Hope everyone is well at home. Cheers, Chelsie and Andrew

UPDATE…The photos are here!

Inside the Sage Gateshead where we saw Brainwave. It was a beautiful theatre. Note the pink guy with no pants. He was waaaaaay underdressed.

Maker Faire

Tree Sweater Yarn Bomb (Those hooligan knitters!)

Fire-breathing dragon.

The night skyline from Millenium Bridge. You may recognize the bridge from the bottle label of Newcastle Ale.

The outside of the Sage Gateshead where we saw Brainwave.

Fire-breathing dragon head shot

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We’ve arrived!

Hello everyone! Although today was mostly full of travel, it was a good one. Our plane left LAX a half hour late which wasn’t too bad. (Thanks Dad/Steve for dropping us off at the airport!) Andrew surprised me with an upgrade to extra legroom seats which turns out was totally worth it. We had at least 4 inches more legroom than the other seats in economy and they leaned back further too. We ate dinner on the airplane at around 10 p.m. LA time and then settled in to watch movies. I started The King’s Speech which was great, but fell asleep half-way through and stayed that way pretty much the rest of the flight. Andrew watched Due Date which was apparently pretty funny because I saw him many times out of the corner of my eye having quiet fits of laughter.

In London we got through customs no problem and arrived to Mickey’s around 6 p.m. We ate dinner at a very nice gastro pub near their place called The Fellow. Andrew had perfectly cooked Venison with haggis and “neeps and tatties” which are mashed turnips and potatoes. I had some amazing fish and chips with smushed peas. Wow, everything was really good.

Next we were off to the train station to take the last train to Newcastle which is in Northern England. We took off from track 8 at King’s Cross station which as you Harry Potter fans know is really close to platform nine and three quarters (the gateway to Hogwart’s Express) Andrew even pretended to run into the wall where the made-up platform was supposed to be like Harry does in the book, but didn’t get through. Muggle! Ok enough Harry Potter references. I’m reading the books right now so I just couldn’t resist. We arrived a little after midnight and decided to walk to our hotel a few blocks away. We all assumed that since it was so late, it would be a pretty deserted trek. We couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as we exited the train station, we were assaulted by the sights and sounds of thousands of young people partying the night away. They were everywhere…in the street, inside noisy pubs, stumbling around the sidewalks. A good many of them were way too intoxicated for their own good. With a little luck we finally got to our hotel and checked in for the night. Sorry we don’t have pictures to go with this post as Andrew didn’t have time to take any with all the travelling going on. Tomorrow we are headed to Maker’s Faire, a fun hands-on science festival here in Newcastle and I’m sure we will get plenty of pictures of that. Thanks for all the well wishes. We wish you could all be here with us. Cheers, Chelsie and Andrew

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