Today I ventured out for a half day trip to Sunderland. Only a metro ride away from Newcastle, yet it has taken me over a year and a half to go. I thought it was time.
The main motivation for this trip, besides exploring the area, was a visit to the National Glass Centre. The museum's architecture is beautiful! Elegant, light, and provides excellent views of the river and distant sea. As can be expected, the building has lots of glass windows and since it is built into a hill, one whole wall is open for viewing the water front. On the ground floor there is a cafe and shop along with the workshops. The first floor, or entrance floor, contains multipurpose rooms, historical glass objects with information boards, and a few display cases and a gallery room for rotating contemporary glass exhibitions. The centre seemed a little empty of content and I wish there had been some more contemporary works to view. That said, the building itself was stunning to walk through and the staff was very friendly.
The most entertaining event of the day was attending the free glass lathe demonstration. Each day the centre hosts multiple lathe and blowing demonstrations lasting about 25 minutes. I was excited for the lathe demo since I've seen plenty of glassblowing demonstrations before and this would be new for both myself and my friend. It was warm, informative and captivating. To my amusement a little boy in the audience repeatedly covered his ears when the flames went higher. Funny but understandable reaction to an odd (though not really loud) noise.
As a pedestrian approaching the centre, it was rather confusing finding the entrance built into the earth and very much resembling a car park. But, exiting the centre was a far nicer experience. You can walk onto the roof that has periodic glass tiles looking through the centre to the ground over two stories below. If you are not crazy about heights, you can avoid those blocks. Be prepared, it can get pretty windy.
Below is a photograph from the rooftop's edge. You can look down the river out to the jetties and sea or up the river to the bridges marking the city centre. Sunderland is not a major tourist spot and I cannot say I found much there to entertain on a Sunday afternoon aside from the National Glass Centre and the Winter Gardens (which house a nice tropical garden with huge coy fish in a sunny bio-dome with a raised walking path). That said, I would recommend a mini trip there for the glass centre and, weather permitting, instead of heading into town take a walk down to the seaside.