Exploring Newcastle - Retyrement on 2 Wheels 2 - CycleBlaze

July 24, 2018 to July 25, 2018

Exploring Newcastle

Doon th’ toon, ‘roon the toon an’ oot th’ toon.

July 24 Tuesday and July 25th Wednesday 21kms

Exploring Newcastle

Doon th’ toon, ‘roon the toon an’ oot th’ toon.

Tuesday: Exploring Newcastle reveals that it has has several faces. There’s the shopping precinct Newcastle on a busy weekday with its fair share of families, young mall frequenters and tourists. It’s hot and there’s a fair acreage of tattooed flesh on display. This part of the city spreading under and around the Earl Grey monument, he of the tea (flavoured to combat the strong lime alkaline taste) and other claims to fame, looks fairly dynamic and bustling. The Earl was a Whig and PM for 4 years. He, and wife Mary, had 15 children. Her contribution Was undoubtedly the greater, but one wonders if there was something in the tea.

An Earl with a view.
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Doon toon.
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Then there is the historic Newcastle. In the quieter corners-  the old castle and the cathedral, where the city’s powerful and lucrative past comes to light. This is represented by the castle, a stone monstrosity which must have once kept watch out over the Tyne for invaders coming up or down the river, and must also have protected the river crossing. 

Newcastle.
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The cathedral of St Nicholas, a medieval church in gothic style (founded 1080) which has been altered over the years contains plaques and tombs which provide a story of past luminaries, and not just their lives but also just how civic minded they tried to be. Engineering and shipping combined with pastoral activities seems to have dominated the 19th century, but the arts were not neglected and artists like Turner and later, Lowry have used Newcastle as a subject.

St Nicholas Cathedral
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We also visit Surtee House- an old merchant house with timber frame. We learn that Bessie, the daughter of the house eloped with the son of a coal merchant. Her father was unforgiving for some time, but eventually relented and Bessie’s man went on to become Lord Chancellor. The waterfront area eventually became unprofitable as the High Bridge and railway took over river traffic. 

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The merchant Surtee’s house.
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Something special to look up to.
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The Newcastle quayside, once the province of shipping and dock workers is now a public thoroughfare lined with the bars and cafes.

A little like Auckland Waterfront’s ‘Caterpillar’ but more upmarket.
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The swing bridge.
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 Unfortunately temperatures are  climbing and there was little shade available and so we cross the river to a building that had once been the Baltic Flour Mill and is now the Centre for Contemporary Art. A glass lift shaft, speedily shooting us up 4 flours gives  a wonderful view of the city, river, its bridges and the Quayside area.

The Baltic building has some interesting exhibits - in particular a film by Phil Collins- not the singer- about bringing Engel’s statue from The Ukraine to Manchester on the back of a lorry. It was used as the backdrop to clips about the situations of working class Brits. Sitting in the cool of the theatre viewing this film, with its referencing Engel’s ‘Condition of the Working Class in England’ has one ruminating on the convoluted horrors of Brexit and how the UK might rise above them.

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Town planners once considered the idea of covering the river completely in this way.
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Having finished our time at the Baltic, we walk across to the Gateshead church, St Mary’s, and view the beautifully wrought tapestries of Northumbria on display. A final walk around the graveyard to check whether we can spot any of  Ann’s ancestors. 

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Ann’s grandfather, Robert, jumped on board a ship for New Zealand here in the early years of the 20th century.
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The bridge we parked the night under in our VW Kombi, back in 1979.
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Back towards the city, we have a quick look at the Lit & Phil Library which is Newcastle’s secret library, open to the public and free to all to explore and browse. It was established in 1825 and became a hub of learning and enlightenment long before the city’s universities were established. It has books from floor to ceiling and a wrought iron spiral staircase to get to the balcony. The characters working there seemed quite quirky. There was an “Imaginative museum” with offerings for “Get North”, but other objects of interest as well- Oscar Wilde’s hairbrush and pen, left behind after giving a talk, a pair of wide bloomers hang from a stack, awaiting owner. There is also a wonderful tale of a NSW Governor who sent ‘Home’ a wombat and a platypus preserved in a barrel of rum.

Lit & Phil Library.
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And then it is back to the Grainger, walking up Westgate Hill, past the sundry motorcycle shops and takeaway eateries which line the road.

At the top of the hill the lure of the Middle-Eastern restaurant proves too tempting and we take a table and order two lamb dishes with salad. When a plate arrived loaded with food, we presume it is a combination for two, and later, when the waiter apologised for neglecting to bring us the second meal we assure him that we are replete and that one was just fine.

Back at the Grainger over a cup of tea -Earl Grey- we reflect on an interesting and enjoyable day and look at how, the following day, we will make our way down the hill, avoiding the sprays of broken glass we’ve noticed and head along the Quay towards North Shields and Tynemouth to catch the ferry for Holland.

Wednesday: The journey to the ferry the following day goes easily. We run into another cycling couple- Americans from San Diego -  along the way and compare notes. They’d done some fairly adventurous stuff up in Scotland and the Isles and are returning to Birmingham down the coast. We discussed the challenge of travelling light- at least we weren’t having to carry a store of vitamins and a Cpap respirator as they were.

As a final tribute to Hadrian’s Wall we visit the Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum. Some interesting displays of Roman life in Britain- though a number of displays were labeled ‘out of order.’ Where were those Armstrong engineers when you needed them? From the evidence, life would have been chilly back then, so the hot tub would have been a must. 

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Arriving at the ferry queue, with a couple of hours to wait, we cycle 2kms to the nearest supermarket for supplies to take on board- Fruit and a final pork pie or two to munch on. Back at the sizzling heat of the ferry queue, we are only slightly fazed when the young woman in the kiosk tells us that the booking  reference, organised by directferries, is for the Dunkirk ferry! She doesn’t seem too bothered and taps away on her keyboard. By this stage our feeling is ‘let them sort it ‘ and so they do. 

Boarding for The Netherlands.
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We do the, by now familiar, pedal up the ramp and on board, securing of the bikes, and collecting our baggage into a manageable arrangement for carrying. The only hiccup occurs  when an old German gent, on being asked to reverse his massive Volvo SUV, in a line of vehicles, does so at top revs and nose to tails about 4 behind him. From his nasal prongs and a portable tank, he seems to be on oxygen- perhaps it gave him an extra burst of energy. The Danish and Filipino crew sort it calmly and we vacate the hold, finding our cabin and - at last! - the shower. 

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Later, up on deck, we sit and watched as Tynemouth,  with the ancient priory on its headland and South Shields, its beaches dotted with bathers, fades into a glorious orange sunset. I watch as the sun sinks lower, waiting to see if I can spot that phenomenon of the green flash before it disappears into the ocean. Yes- there it is! Happy days!

The leaving of Newcastle.
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Tynemouth
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Ruins of Benedictine Priory where early kings of Northumbria were buried.
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Farewell UK. Looking for the green flash.
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Today's ride: 21 km (13 miles)
Total: 2,427 km (1,507 miles)

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Comment on this entry Comment 3
Robyn RichardsHello Michael
We did this ferry trip in reverse in August of 2018. What struck me was that you could leave your bikes in the hold while we had to lug ours up to the cabin. However, I've just re-read my trip notes, which reminded me that our bikes were in their bags. That makes sense, though we would have rather left them down below. They definitely took up most of the cabin floor . Enjoying reading your 2018 journal, thanks. Virtual travel from now on!
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4 months ago
Ann HutchingTo Robyn RichardsHi Robyn,
Good to hear from fellow travellers.
The cabins were a squeeze - bikes would have been a challenge! Have you recorded your 2018 trip on cycle blaze?
Michael is editing our cycle diaries for this site, ( previously on Wordpress), so we are re-living the experience day by day.
Any plans for NZ touring?
Ann
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4 months ago
Robyn RichardsTo Ann HutchingHi Ann
No, I only discovered CycleBlaze last year, which was our first year of actual (though 'credit card') cycle touring. That 2018 trip, after a week cycling in Amsterdam, we hired a panel van in Newcastle, shoved the bikes in the back and spent 3 weeks driving to mountainbike parks and rail trails in Scotland, England and Wales. We had a ball!
The year before, we cycled in Switzerland.
I wrote blogs about those cycling trips: peeps-robynr.blogspot.com
I bet you're enjoying reliving your adventures...

I wrote blogs though:
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4 months ago