For my second petsit it was destination Newcastle. Apart from what I’d seen on two English crime shows, Wire in the Blood and Vera, I knew only that it had a bridge like the one in my hometown of Sydney. Turns out the bridge in Newcastle was the inspiration for the one over Sydney Harbour, and though I didn’t stumble across any crime scenes, I did find a stall selling Vera’s headwear and a plaque acknowledging Robson Green, star of Wire in the Blood, as one of Newcastle’s favourite sons.
To my great joy, I found Newcastle is a city for walkers. My ‘sit’ was a fifteen-minute walk from the Quayside, and there was a string of beautiful parks, Jesmond Dene the biggest of them, just around the corner.
Newcastle is a place of considerable historical significance with a medieval cathedral and a castle that dates back to Roman settlement, and of course, Hadrian’s wall once ran right past. The River Tyne would have offered a natural defence against the Scots but the Romans wanted to make a point.
The Quayside boasts a ‘beach’, upmarket pubs and so many bridges — including one, Gateshead Millenium Bridge, that tilts for no reason I could fathom. At the Quayside market, there were ‘Vera hats’ for sale. Also, a trio of adolescent boys busking, excellent until the guitarist dropped his plectrum and it went down the drain. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere — maybe don’t busk next to a drain?
Facing the city from the opposite bank of the Tyne is a massive art deco building, the Baltic, once a flour mill, now a gallery of contemporary art. If the art doesn’t interest you, it has a viewing deck looking back to the city and an excellent cafe.
Up the hill, in the main shopping district, Earl Grey (he of the tea) surveys the city, or at least a massive statue of him does. Like Robson, he’s another favourite son.
Film maker Ridley Scott’s great uncle opened the Tyneside Cinema in 1937 as a ‘news theatre’ to run news reels. More than just a happy survivor from a glorious past, Tyneside Cinema now has several screens, several places to eat and lots of activity for cineastes.
One beautiful blue day I took the 10 km walk to Tynemouth, a village at the mouth of the Tyne (duh). The day was warm but the North Sea breeze was chilly. Part of this walk, along the river, made up the start of my six-day Hadrian’s Wall Walk — more about that in my next post.