OUR GEORDIE SOJOURN
Our only exposure to anything even remotely related to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne was 3 minutes (once, by accident) of that dreadful reality TV show “Geordie Shores*”. It was, therefore, with some trepidation that we stepped off the train this afternoon, having just left all the splendour of Edinburgh behind. Would we be able to understand the accent? Would we be blinded by the brilliance of people’s white, white teeth and brown, brown (slightly orange) tans? So far so good, though; Newcastle is actually quite cute and the accent even cuter. The city’s working class roots are still evident, but so is the city’s funkier side.
*Residents of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne are colloquially referred to as “Geordies”, supposedly in reference to coal miners’ use of safety lamps designed by George Stephenson.
We said our final farewells to Scotland this morning as we boarded the train. The weather was typically British (i.e. cloudy, slightly cool, breezy, bit of rain about, with the odd bit of blue sky and sun every now and again – in other words ALL the weathers, all in at once!), but the views out the window were wonderful. The drama of the Scottish landscape gradually gave way to the “tamer” scenery of northern England.
With its vast expanses of gently rolling farmland and windswept beaches, northern England looks lovely – which is why we’re here! We’re using Newcastle-Upon-Tyne as a base from which to explore this corner of England, and are really looking forward to seeing more of Northumberland, County Durham, and Tyne & Wear.
We knew Newcastle wasn’t going to be the most exciting of cities from a “touristy” point of view, but there’s still enough here to see that we were entertained for the afternoon. This port city of almost a million people was once a coal mining and steel-working powerhouse. The city developed into an important port during the years of the Industrial Revolution. As heavy industry declined in the 20th century, however, Newcastle’s fortunes took a dip. More recently, however, the city underwent a lot of urban renewal and has reinvented itself as a funky, lively city.
The city is built along both banks of the River Tyne, with numerous bridges that span the river. We had to stop and take a photo of one of the city’s most famous bridges, the Tyne Bridge, because it reminded us so much of a certain bridge we have at home. Turns out the Tyne Bridge was designed by the same engineers that built the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
Newcastle was founded around 2,000 years ago as a Roman fort called Pons Aelius which guarded a bridge over the River Tyne. We saw some of the ruins from this settlement during our stroll around town this afternoon.
We also got to see the recently renovated castle after which the city is named. The first “New Castle Upon Tyne” was built in 1080 by Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror, as part of defensive works designed to protect northern England from the Scots. Over the centuries the castle was expended and reconstructed a number of times, but left to go to ruin during the industrial boom years of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Those centuries really were boom years in Newcastle as a royal act forced all shipments of coal from north-eastern England to be shipped from this city. This helped Newcastle prosper and is the reason there are so many gorgeous Georgian buildings along the main streets.
The city’s cathedral, St Nicholas’s church, was also renovated during this time. Founded in 1091 during the same period as the nearby castle, the Norman church was destroyed by fire in 1216 but rebuilt in the 14th century and renovated in the 1700s. We stopped by the church during our walking tour around the city and then continued on to the Great Northern Museum to learn a bit more about the city we’re in and its history.
The museum was our final stop for the afternoon before we headed back to our very nice hotel room* for a movie and bit of R&R. After all the excitement of touring around Scotland, it was nice to have a relatively quiet day and just adjust to the culture shock of being back in England!
*Tomorrow’s our anniversary and we decided to treat ourselves to a “proper” hotel for a the few days we’re here.It’s nice to have a bath and wear fluffy bathrobes once in a while…