[Best Place at Dusk: Newcastle in January. The Theatre Royal on the spectacularly elegant Grey Street]
The papers today are full of 'best of' reviews for 2013 which made me think I should take another look at the highlights of my travels this year.
I've been up and down the country on my Grand Provincial Tour and it's been absolutely brilliant. The UK is packed with amazing train journeys, great galleries, fantastic art collections, wonderful architecture, excellent places to drink tea, eat cake, read a book, go for a swim, and endless, endlessly fascinating urban walks. I haven't written here about many of the places I've been to because I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all the material I have collected. I'm told that the guidebook market is dying, but I just don't believe it. If anything, this is a great time for unusual guides with a particular angle rather than standard, one-size-fits-all-travellers books. The comments section is open below if you'd like to say what you think.
While I consider the options, here are some highlights of my provincial jaunts. I still have places on my list to visit which explaiuns the lack of East Midlands highlights (ie nothing from Nottingham, Lincoln and Leicester). Just looking at where I have been makes me realise all over again what a good time I have had on trains, buses and on foot, discovering the riches and delights of provincial culture.
[Best Discovery: Coventry. Nowhere near as awful as I remembered it from when I lived there 1983-4. Blasted cathedral window with remains of stained glass.]
[Most Sexist Memorial: Exeter Cathedral. Kindly shown to us by one of the nice volunteers - a man - who wanted us to see this breathtakingly patronising stone which informs us that Sarah Clarke's mind 'possessed an energy which does not often mark the Female character'.]
[Best Squiggly Writing: Bath. The Bertinet Bakery.]
[Best Winged Cherub on Whitest Church with Joint Best (with Oxford) Ionic Column: Kemp Town, Brighton]
[Best Chequerboard Brickwork: Reading. Joint best with Swindon and Wolverhampton for Most Vilified Place That Doesn't Deserve To Have Such A Poor Reputation.]
[Best Cafe Name: Didsbury, Manchester. Manchester is also joint winner with Salford and Stockport for Best Crocuses in Spring.]
[Best 1970s Mosaic: Southampton. Created by ceramic artists Henry and Joyce Collins in 1970.]
[Best Steps: Stockport. One of many sets of stone steps around Stockport Market. I'd forgotten just how northern Stockport is until this year when I really noticed the steps and hills, valley and mills. Stockport is also joint winner with Salford and Manchester for Best Crocuses in Spring.]
More best bits of the provinces tomorrow.