This weekend we took a short trip to Newcastle and Durham. For most of our travel around Europe, we base our trips on where we can get a good deal. For this case, we did the same thing. We saw a deal for a nice room in downtown Newcastle, that included a bottle of wine and a full English breakfast, so we figured it was a good time to go explore Newcastle.
We didn’t know too much about Newcastle before we went, but we have drank Newcastle Brown Ale before, so we figured it must be a cool place. It turns out that Newcastle Brown Ale isn’t even made in Newcastle, although it used to be. It was brewed there until a couple years ago, and then it was moved to Tadcaster, which is in north Yorkshire. Still, one of the first things we did when we arrived in Newcastle was have a Newcastle!
Other than the Newcastle Brown Ale, Newcastle is also home to a rotating bridge. The bridge is a pedestrian/cycle bridge, and it literally rotates up by 40 degrees in order to allow ships to pass underneath. We didn’t actually see the bridge rotate while we were there, but apparently it does it at noon everyday. However, we took a walk down by the river and over the bridge. It was cool to see at nighttime because there were these changing colored lights that lit up the bridge.
Newcastle is also known for its nightlife, especially in the Quayside area. Although we managed to get our Newcastle Brown Ale, we didn’t have the energy to have a full evening out. We did walk through the area, though, and it was definitely bustling. Tons of people were out, and even though it was quite cold, all the ladies were wearing mini dresses. I was wearing multiple layers of clothing, and I have no idea how they were surviving.
On Saturday we checked out the “new” “castle” for which Newcastle was named. It was a nice old castle, although I’m not sure how much different it was than the other castles that we have seen. I’m still enjoying going to castles though, so I had a good time.
The best part of the castle was definitely the view from the top. You had to climb up a lot of stairs in the spiral staircase, but it was totally worth it. We were also really lucky with a sunny day!
Newcastle actually reminded me quite a bit of Pittsburgh. I think it was the fact that there was the river with multiple bridges spanning it. We were in Pittsburgh last summer, and here is a picture to compare.
After exploring the castle, we walked through the other parts of Newcastle. We passed by the cathedral of St. Nicholas. We didn’t go in, but we read the information board outside. It told the story of how St. Nicholas became known as Santa Claus. Apparently during his life he was always giving to the poor, and on one occasion, he dropped some coins down the chimney of a poor family, and they landed in the stocking of the daughter who lived there. And there you have it! St. Nick = Santa Claus! I also didn’t know that St. Nick was actually from Greece, and spent his whole life there. How come nobody ever told me that Santa Claus was Greek?
You may have heard of Earl Grey tea. Well, it comes from this guy named Earl Grey, and he is from Newcastle, so we checked out his monument. It turns out they were having a food festival all around his monument, complete with fudge, crepes, meats, etc. The smells were overwhelming and we ended up getting some chocolate for later in the day.
We also walked through the Central Arcade, which is a shopping avenue with some really cool architecture. The tourist information center was also conveniently located in there.
So we spent about half the day exploring Newcastle, and then we headed to Durham. I wouldn’t have known of Durham if it weren’t for my friend, Alex, recommending it to me because she went to university there. It turned out to be a great little city, and it was only 30 minutes south of Newcastle (which was also on the way home).
We did the park and ride on the outskirts of the city because Alex had warned us that there was not much parking once you were in the city. Great choice! Especially because Durham University was having an “open day,” which meant it was more crowded than normal with tons of parents taking their kids to check out the university.
The northeast of England, which is where Newcastle and Durham are located, is known for having really friendly people. We found this to be especially true in Durham. We didn’t exactly know how the park and ride worked, but everyone was really friendly and helped us out, even before we asked! When we were on the bus, this nice old man asked if we were trying to go to the city center, and he told us exactly when to get off the bus. Then, as we were getting off the bus, the bus driver told us where to go in order to catch the bus back (not the same location as the drop off). Then, even as we were wandering the streets, we had multiple people stop and give us directions and guidance, without us even asking them! The people were definitely friendly!
So in Durham, we walked the streets, explored the cathedral, and took a stroll by the river. The cathedral was really impressive, and apparently it has starred in Harry Potter. I have only seen a couple of the Harry Potter films, and Doug hasn’t seen any, so we need to watch these films again. We have seen many places throughout the UK that have some sort of tie to Harry Potter, so we really need to get better acquainted.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the cathedral (although Doug snapped one before he saw the sign), but it was quite impressive. We have seen a lot of cathedrals in our travels, but I would say this was up there with the best.
We climbed another spiral staircase with even more steps than the castle in order to get a spectacular view over Durham. The view was great!
The Durham castle was actually closed due to some private event, so we didn’t get to go in. However, we weren’t too disappointed since we already went in the Newcastle castle that day.
Oh, by the way, as we were walking around the streets, we saw a bride and groom taking pictures! I love going out on Saturdays and seeing that!
We took a nice stroll by the river, and it was a beautiful day. A little chilly, but still really sunny. There were a lot of people out in canoes on the river.
After exploring Durham, we headed on home. We were contemplating going to York for Saturday night, and then exploring York on Sunday, but we couldn’t find a cheap hotel deal, so we decided to save York for another weekend. I drove the whole way home because Doug had to watch the Virginia Tech football game on his phone…