The following morning, I woke up to the sound of my alarm clock, it was 5.00 a.m. Others in the dorm were still fast asleep and one of them was snoring loudly. The rain had stopped and breakfast would only be served from 7.00 a.m. I decided to go for a short walk over the Tyne Bridge, a prominent landmark in Newcastle which resembles the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There was little traffic in this early hour, and for the first time I had used my new Cokin Filter to capture a descent photo of the bridge during sunrise.
The weather was forecasted to be cloudy but no rain. It was a perfect day to explore the city on foot. After another hefty breakfast at the hostel, I was back on foot to explore the city. I wanted to see more of the city and wonder how much it has remained or changed after 23 years. My first stop was Grey Street, which is only 2 blocks away from the hostel. The street lies within “Grainger Town”, a beautiful and historic heart of the city with classical streets built by Richard Grainger between 1835 and 1842. Some of Newcastle upon Tyne’s finest buildings can be found along Grey Street include the Theatre Royal. The theatre which was opened in 1837, presents more than 380 performances a year. It is the third home after London and Stratford-upon-Avon of the Royal Shakespeare Company. If you like theatre performances, the tickets here are a lot cheaper compared to those in London. Listing of performances can be found at http://www.theatreroyal.co.uk.
One could not miss Grey’s Monument, located on the upper end of Grey Street dominates the square. Built in 1838 in remembrance of Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey. The square is a popular spot for people watching, buskers, fairs and protestors demonstration. An entrance to Central Arcade, a beautifully preserved Victorian shopping arcade, could also be found nearby. Everything looks familiar but I can see that the al fresco restaurants and bistro culture have really catched up in the North East.
From Grey Street, I entered Northumberland Street, the main shopping high street in Newcastle. Fenwick department store is still at the same spot. I remembered how during every winter and summer sale I will come looking for bargains to complete the Eternal Beauty tea set that I was collecting. Newer high street department stores such as Primark can also be found here. I came across a Vodafone shop and bought a data packet for my phone which allow me to surf the internet and keep in touch with friends through social media network and email. When I passed over Argos, I can’t help myself from not smiling. There were a few occasions I bought a camera and video player, used it extensively and return in less than 30 days from date of purchase. It was one of those money back guarantee policy that was abused and used to my advantage. Finally as I approached Haymarket, a familiar Newcastle University buildings came into sight.
Opposite of the university campus, is a small park which housed the Civic Centre and Church of St Thomas the Martyr. The grounds also include various war memorials including The Response, 1914 by Goscombe John, said to be one of the finest sculptural ensembles on any British monument.
I also noticed that the university has a few new buildings. What was an empty park in front of the Student Union Building is now a theatre. Modern looking wooden benches have been put along the path leading to the Student Union Building. Unfortunately I was not able to enter the building as access is through the student smart card. I remember that I will come here for the cheapest sandwich in town. As the Malaysian Student Society treasurer, occasionally I had to visit the student bureau to apply for funds for the society activities. The Student Union Building is also a good place for information. There was a huge notice board for lost & found, buy & sell, lodgings etc. The building basement was also used to host gigs by upcoming bands. One of my favourite part of the university is the Armstrong Walk, some referred it as the University Quadrangle. It is lined by the university’s oldest building which housed the School of Architecture, Fine Art Building and the Old Library Building. Convocation would normally be held at King’s Hall here.
My final stop is the Great North Museum also known as the Hancock Museum managed by the university. The museum displays some outstanding natural history collections from the Ice Age era to the history of Hadrian Wall, the Egyptians and Romans. What I like about this museum not only entry is free but you are allowed to take photographs.
Since it was a Bank Holiday weekend, many of the shops were offering discounts up to 70% discount. I spent the rest of the afternoon browsing at shops along Northumberland Street and in Eldon Square. My only purchase for the day was a light weatherproof jacket by Northface. It would cost more than RM500 in Malaysia but I got it for RM250 here.
Later that evening, I went for a stroll along the Quayside. Walking along the waterfront of River Tyne has always been my favourite pastime but again my expectation for a quite walking experience fell short as the place is now a lively waterhole with a string of pubs and restaurants. I could see the new additions to Newcastle cityscape, the Millenium Bridge and the Sage. There are plenty of great viewpoints, the cloud has cleared and I had my tripod with me for the evening shots.
The following morning, after breakfast I checked-out from the hostel and picked up my car rental. It’s bye-bye Newcastle for now. I took the A167 to see one of the city’s new attraction, Angel of the North before venturing into Durham County.