Road Trip 2.2 – Newcastle

[August 18, 2007 – Saturday]

We immediately ran into our first hiccup of this road trip moments after we left Birmingham city proper.

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Uh oh… what the heck is that?
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Crap! There’s no loose change for this!
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Toll booth! In Birmingham? WTF?!

You see, unlike Malaysia, most of the motorways (highways) in the UK are toll free. In fact, when we were planning for this road trip, we did not even know tolled roads existed in the UK. We thought all roads in the UK were free of charge.

Apparently we did not know enough. Apparently, there are two ring roads in the UK, one for London and one for Birmingham. They are built to allow motorway users to bypass the heavy traffic going into and out of both these cities. Understandably so, because London is the largest, and Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK. And both these roads are tolled.

To make matters worse, we were supposed to have no business coming to this tolled road, we only ended up having to come face to face with the toll booth because took a wrong turn. And ended up being Β£3Β poorer for it! And ended up having to take another detour through some village roads to rejoin the correct road, wasting one precious hour!

So what was supposed to be a 5 hours drive ended up being 6 hours instead, and we arrived at Newcastle fairly late into the night.

Well, not Newcastle to be exact. Newcastle is built beside the River Tyne. That’s why it is called Newcastle-upon-Tyne. We arrived at the city just across Newcastle, but on the opposite side of the river, and this city is called Gateshead.

It didn’t matter though, because the things that we wanted to see are actually NOT inside Newcastle, but on the River Tyne herself. And it didn’t matter that it was night, because it was the night view we were after.

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Stroll along the River Tyne

What things we wanted to see? Well, these things…

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Millennium Bridge
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Millennium Bridge
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More Millennium Bridge, with our tired faces in it

It is a very nice bridge, this Millennium Bridge. And have you noticed how the colors lighting up the arch are different? Yes, it changes color continuously. There’s also green and red colors not shown here.

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The Sage Gateshead and the Tyne Bridge

The building on the left in the photo above, that’s The Sage Gateshead. When we were there in 2007, it was a rather new and state of the art performance center. Basically all sorts of musicals and art performances and conferences and rock concerts were held here. And that bridge on the far right, that’s the Tyne Bridge.

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Tyne Bridge

This is an impressive looking bridge! Even more so at night!

And then I’m going to show you an even nicer photo…

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View of River Tyne from the Tyne Bridge

Magnificent, isn’t it? Views like this made that grueling 6 hours drive so worth it in the end…

My friend took these photos of Newcastle. He is a great photographer isn’t he? He now lives in Tokyo. If you are ever in Tokyo and wants to engage his photography services, let me know… πŸ˜‰

[August 19, 2007 – Sunday]

We only wanted to come to Newcastle for those bridges and night views. The following morning, we woke up, not knowing what to do. So we took a drive into Newcastle city, hoping to come across interesting places to see.Β We also met some other friends who were on a road trip too, but on different routes.

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Came across this Chinatown arch
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St James’ Park

St James’ Park, home of Newcastle United. What’s Newcastle United? Well, nothing much, merely a joke of a football club (Geordies will kill me for this). To be honest, I actually pitied the fans. You see, when Roman Abramovich (rich Russian oil tycoon) bought Chelsea a few years ago and transformed Chelsea from a crap team into a world beater, it started a trend where all the rich people wanted to buy an English Premier League club.

The problem was, not all these rich owners bought the clubs out of passion. Some saw it as an investment, a money making vehicle. Newcastle United was bought by one such owner, a certain American called Mike Ashley. Unfortunately for them, these English clubs are actually bad investments. They regularly make losses year over year so the owners actually have to prop the clubs up with their own money. Mike got a taste of it, didn’t like it, and he tried to sell the club after a year or two. But he couldn’t find a buyer.

So he decided to turn this football club around by running it like a business. Sold all the good players and replaced them with cheap players, and promptly got them relegated to the lower leagues, making them even more worthless. They just recently made it back to the Premier League and have not recovered completely. I think Mike is still there as chairman by the way, but I think he is more sensible now.

Anyway, enough of football talk. We quickly discovered that there was nothing to see inside Newcastle city. No, that’s the wrong way to say it… We quickly discovered we did not know anything about Newcastle city, so we could not find any places of interest worth checking out. So we made our way back to the riverside.

Good move, because apparently there was some sort of a Sunday market going on along the streets.

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We spent a couple hours lingering in the market, looking at goods and food and stuff. It was a good call that we wasted so much time there, because just as we were about to leave, we were treated with another awesome spectacle. If we had left 5 minutes earlier we wouldn’t see this.

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Woah! What’s happening to the Millennium Bridge?

You see, the River Tyne is a major river and many boats use it, including some fairly big ones. This Millennium Bridge, sitting low as it was, blocks the path of those bigger boats. So the bridge designers designed it in such a way that when a big boat wants to pass, they have a mechanism to raise the bridge by flipping it up by 45 degrees, like above. This way, the big boats can pass.

We left Newcastle/Gateshead after lunch. We had one last place to hit before leaving Newcastle for good. This place is a short drive away from Gateshead. You will be able to see it from afar as you drive towards the motorway.

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Angel of the North
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Angel of the North

Okay, you might think, what’s so special about this Angel of the North? It looks just like an ugly, rusty bronze sculpture.

Well… let me show you another photo of it to put things in perspective…

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Remember I said you can see this from afar? This thing is massive…

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Like, freaking massive! I don’t remember why they built this, to commemorate some miners or something I think. But I do know that this structure is crazy. You know, if you read physics, the law of physics demands that in a building block, the base should be large and the top should be small. That’s why the pyramids were built like that. That’s why the skyscrapers that are in the race to be the tallest are shaped like how they are. Even a tiny bit, but the base is always bigger then the top.

And then we got this Angel of the North with its freaking wide span of wing at the top half of the structure. And that wing means there is a very big surface to be attacked by blowing winds. The fact that this thing can stand and remain stable itself is already an amazing mystery, worthy of us making a visit to see it up close!

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Spectacular! And that’s how we draw our Newcastle chapter to a close as we proceeded to our final stop before heading back to Liverpool…

[to be continued]

18 Comments

  1. The Angel of North statue is certainly impressive the way it is. I wonder if it does sway when there are massive winds blowing through the area.

    From reading all of your travel stories, it seems that all of you squeeze in quite a lot of sight seeing. What time do you make a head start each morning?

    • It probably does sway, and it was really very windy when I went there. Thankfully it stood strong.

      I can’t remember, but whenever we left Liverpool, we always left early in the morning, planning to hit our first destination at first light. And I don’t think we really hit many places. Like Newcastle, we only really just hung out by the river, nothing much. A true blue traveler would most likely snigger at my “adventures”.

  2. That Angel of the North, I was thinking it must have something piled into the ground to anchor it firmly. Then I re-look at the illustration and it looks like so. The sights at the Millennium Bridge at night is lovely. So it was good that you guys got there at night.

  3. Yes, Mike Ashley is still the owner. The fans have always been accusing him of not spending enough. I don’t think you can run a football club like a business. Newcastle is now languishing at the bottom of the table.

    • You do know your football huh. Don’t tell me you are actually one of them Toons?? OMG!!

      Unfortunately, football is becoming a lucrative business nowadays. You can’t run it purely out of passion, most clubs get into crazy debts because of that now and administration now. Unless you have a Roman Abramovich or some sheikh behind you, you have to manage your funds properly.

        • You mean, super hates! Bloody feck, they play like shait, but as expected, they raise their game when playing us. And beat us. Good thing is that that cheating c*nt striker got retrospective punishment he deserves!

          • Wei, don’t talk like that about my player. Aiyah, football fans will always rally behind their players. This time though I think he did deserve his punishment for that slap on Koscielny. But so did the Arsenal player who kicked Costa in retaliation, you just can’t do that (even if provoked). That’s why it’s very important for players to keep their anger in check during matches. They need to go to anger management classes if you ask me! πŸ˜€

            • You know, I agree with you, and am glad that both of them got their just punishments. Gabriel still has to serve a one match ban. But then, I sort of miss the good old days when the English game was more physical. You know, that “slap” on Bosscielny, it would’ve been pretty common if it was a Martin Keown/van Nistelrooy tussle and not something to be whistled at. I miss those fiery, battling qualities of Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane, Alan Smith and the likes. They were the ones who would stand up for the team and go “if you dribble once too many or foul one of my mates, I’ll go after you and break your legs!”, and it was very entertaining to watch.

              It used to be a game for men. Now it becomes too lucrative a business and the players are more protected and as a result, are more of a wuss. πŸ™

  4. I like the guy wearing white T shirt who is on the extreme right, he has a charming smile, hee hee

    Young days is the best, those were the best years of our life

    That thing is huge

  5. Wahhh… RG, you have been to so many places in UK ah… And can remember all the names and what you did as well.. good memory! Next time I got to write down the names too.. now actually I started doing that already otherwise by the time I blog, I might end up giving wrong names and info.. πŸ™‚

    • If you just write it down, maybe next time you will wonder: why I wrote these things? What are they? Hahaha! πŸ˜€

      Me, I refer to my old blog, and photos…

  6. I only know and walked on the Millennium Bridge in London but not this one which looks very nice. The angel with the huge wings – maybe that area does not have strong winds so ok lah. How come you did not write about where all of you stay for the nights?

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