Chris' Previous Journal
August 24, 2010, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England
We have been looking forward to our stop here for quite some time, as we are going to meet up with a friend, Fran, and her daughter, Fiona. We met Fran and her husband, Norman, when we were on our Asian cruise in 2009. Fran and Fiona are going to show us the sights of Newcastle upon Tyne (Newcastle) and the surrounding area. They live in Morpeth, about 25 minutes from the cruise terminal.
Fran and Fiona were waiting for us as our ship docked. We could see Fiona's car from our balcony, so we headed down to the main deck as we wanted to be among the first to disembark.
Newcastle was originally named Pons Aelius, and was a Roman fort founded in the 2nd century. The name Newcastle came about after Robert II, Duke of Normandy, built a new castle here in 1080.
Newcastle is located in the northeast of England, in the county of Northumberland.
Our first stop was the Segedunum, which is a museum located at the eastern end of Hadrian's Wall, on the River Tyne. Hadrian's Wall, built by Emperor Hadrian, was originally constructed to protect the Roman Empire from the Pictish tribes in the north. It was 73 miles long - stretching across the country from coast to coast. Part of the original wall is still here.
From Segedunum, we headed into Newcastle's downtown area. The River Tyne is crossed by six unique bridges, the newest being the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. The bridge is both a pedestrian and a cyclist tilt bridge. John and I crossed the bridge to Newcastle's sister city, Gateshead. A new performing arts center is located in Gateshead: The Sage. The locals have nicknamed it "The Slug".
The photo will show why the nickname is somewhat appropriate.
We told Fiona and Fran we were treating to lunch since they were taking their time to show us around. In the older part of Newcastle is a delightful Italian restaurant which Fiona suggested. She and her husband visit it quite frequently. It was wonderful. Service was outstanding and food delicious.
The Newcastle downtown is delightful - some old and some new and it all blends together in a cohesive and attractive appearance. There are several major shopping areas in the city centre, including one of the largest Marks and Spencer stores outside of London. The main shopping street, Northumberland Street, has been ranked as the most expensive shopping street (rent) in the UK, other than London.
The river walk area, Newcastle Quayside, along the Tyne offers a pleasant walkway, various sculptures and outdoor cafes.
In the city centre, around the River Tyne, many of the streets remain medieval, and can only be traveled by foot. Newcastle is a very attractive city, and Grey Street, which runs by Grey's Monument toward the river, has been described as one of the finest streets in England.
In 2010, in the Google Street View awards, Grey Street came in 3rd in the British picturesque category.
We headed out of the downtown area to visit the "Angel of the North", nicknamed "Rusty Rita". There's a photo of "her" here. (There is quite a lot of argument about the sculpture - is it a man or is it a woman? No one seems to know for sure).
The sculpture is made of steel, built to withstand winds in excess of 100 mph, using 600 tons of concrete to create the foundation anchored by rock 70 feet below. It is estimated that the "angel" is one of the most viewed pieces of art in the world, seen by one person per second, and up to 90,000 people per day.
Nor far from Newcastle is the city of Morpeth, where Fran and Fiona live. It's smaller than Newcastle - population about 25,000. There are some beautiful landmarks, including the town hall, a freestanding 17th century clock tower, an old castle and a charming, quaint downtown.
We drove to Fiona's home, passing Morpeth's beautiful gardens on our way.
It was wonderful getting to meet Fiona's husband, Kenneth, playing with the dogs (we miss dogs) and enjoying their beautiful gardens in both the front and back yards. We had an enjoyable visit before heading back to the ship.
We had such a nice day - sight-seeing, but most of all, spending time with Fran and Fiona. We have promised to return when we can stay longer and absorb the local culture.
We were onboard the ship in enough time to freshen up a bit, and head to our 8:15pm dinner.
We're sailing back to Rotterdam, The Netherlands. We will arrive early morning on Thursday, where some passengers will disembark and new ones come aboard for the next 12 days as we travel around Norway.
We will be changing currency again. We will no longer use the British Pound, which today was about the same rate as we've had the last several days - our dollar was .643 cents to one Pound.
More info about The Netherlands
Northern Europe Trip Page... (including photos)