Historically, Sandgate was the area of the Quayside to the east of the city centre where the “keelmen” lived and operated. A keel is a traditional boat of this region which was used to transfer coal from the river banks to the waiting colliers, for export to London and elsewhere. A famous song, The Keel Row, is set here:
” As I came thro' Sandgate,
Thro' Sandgate, thro' Sandgate,
As I came thro' Sandgate,
I heard a lassie sing:
'O, weel may the keel row,
The keel row, the keel row,
O weel may the keel row
That my laddie's in.'”
The Keelmen were highly skilled boatmen. They wore a uniform of a short blue jacket, slate-coloured trousers and yellow waistcoat, and a black silk, flat-brimmed hat. They were a strong, tight-knit community who formed a benefit society and founded the Keelmen’s Hospital which still stands on the City Road.
Today the opening lines of the song are carved into the flight of steps that descends to the Quayside from Sandgate, near the Malmaison Hotel and Pitcher & Piano pub. Also here, at the top of the steps, is a bronze sculpture, Siren, seen in my main photo. Below, on the Quayside, is a companion piece known as River God. Both are the work of Andre Wallace, while another artist, Neil Talbot, was responsible for the relief carvings on the sandstone of the steps which depict the keels and other activity on the Tyne (see photo two).
By the way, you will see some sources which suggest that The Keel Row is a Scottish song, but the references to the Tyne (“He's foremost 'mang the mony Keel lads o' coaly Tyne”) and to Sandgate indicate its Geordie origins.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Quayside Sunday Market
This is a Newcastle institution and has been operating in this same spot for several hundred years. On a Sunday morning the road along the Quayside is closed to traffic and the stalls are set up. The nature of the goods on sale may have changed somewhat over the years but local families are still drawn here in search of a bargain as they always have been, although increasingly these days are joined by visitors to the city.
In the past you might have seen such novelties as escapologists, monkeys dancing to organ-grinders’ music, and pets such as mice and budgies for sale. No longer, but some typical traditional stalls remain – fish and seafood caught locally in the North Sea, cheap plastic toys and pseudo designer clothing, random electrical and household items. These tend to congregate at the Tyne Bridge end of the market, while further down, near the Law Courts, you will find the more modern and upmarket newcomers – hand-crafted jewellery; artistic photos of local landmarks such as the Angel of the North and the various bridges; rustic loaves and fancy cup-cakes; leather goods and decorative items for the home. And if you are hungry there is plenty to choose from. On a recent visit I spotted Polish sausages, locally-farmed roast pork, Middle-Eastern wraps, hot-dogs and classic burgers, and more.
The market gets going at about 9.30 and lasts most of the day, though some stalls seem to close mid afternoon. The nearest station is the Central Station (mainline and Metro trains) from where you need to walk east past the castle and down to the Side.
A beach on the Tyne
It has become popular in recent years to introduce a little of the seaside atmosphere into our cities, and Newcastle has joined the trend. This small patch of sand on the Quayside offers deckchairs, a volley-ball net and plenty of space for the children to make sandcastles. There are even some palm trees! And what it lacks in size (and possibly weather – though we were here on a warm and sunny August morning), it gains in views. Not many beaches, with the possible exception of some in Sydney I guess, can offer such a stunning bridge as a backdrop!
So if you’re here with the kids, the sun is shining, and you don’t want to spend a fortune on keeping them amused, why not pack up the buckets and spades, and a picnic, and head on down to the Quayside where they can play in the sand while you soak up some rays and watch the world go by?
New Year's Eve Parade
New Year's Eve is a big deal here on Tyneside! Maybe this is because the city is not very far from the Scottish border (and in Scotland Hogmanay is bigger than Christmas!) or maybe because the Geordies simply welcome any excuse to party. Whatever the reason, December 31st means lots of drinking, First Footing, and in recent years a parade and fireworks display in the city centre. What is rather nice is that unlike elsewhere, the fireworks take place in the early evening, so families with young children can enjoy them and then get home safely, before the celebrations get too raucous!
But I am getting ahead of myself. Before the fireworks comes the parade, and this is a great affair. Each year there is a theme; in 2011 it was a Nordic festival. Soon after lunch the various components of the parade start to congregate in the streets around Grey’s Monument. There are usually some very strange sights – one year we saw people at least ten feet high and with musical instruments instead of heads! This year there was a fire-breathing dragon, a huge white wolf with glowing eyes, a sea-monster and (my favourite) a towering witch-like figure with fiery limbs. These contraptions were accompanied by groups of children dressed as snow-flakes, frost and other wintery motifs.
As darkness fell, and parade time approached, we found ourselves a good position along the route, on Northumberland Street (the map of the route is published in advance on the local tourism website, NewcastleGateshead). There were crowds of people lining the streets, probably helped by the fact that it was an unusually mild and pleasant night for the time of year. The parade moved slowly enough for everyone to enjoy all the various sights, and it was especially nice to see the children getting so involved in their roles!
After the parade had passed, everyone started to move in the direction of the Civic Centre, a little to the north, where the fireworks display was to take place. As we got nearer we realised that we would not be able to get right up to the location but we found a good spot near the Haymarket Metro station (just by the so-called Dirty Angel war memorial). This proved to be a great place from which to watch the display, which was really spectacular! But like most firework displays it was soon over, and the crowds dispersed – families to catch the last Metro home (unfortunately these stop running quite early on a New Year’s Eve), and others like ourselves to eat and/or drink in the city centre. It was, as so often, party time in Newcastle!
Directions: Take the Metro to Monument to see the parade assemble (from about 2.00 PM onwards, but best around 4.00 PM), to Monument or Haymarket for the parade itself, and to Haymarket for the fireworks.Related to:
- Family Travel
Fenwicks' windows at Christmas
Fenwicks department store is a Newcastle institution. Every Christmas since 1971 the large windows that run the length of the shop along its Northumberland Street frontage have been transformed into a series of tableaux to delight the young, and not so young, of the city. Few families would dream of shopping in Newcastle’s city centre in the run-up to Christmas without going to see what Fenwicks' windows were displaying.
This year (2007) there was a Beatrix Potter theme, with favourite animal characters such as Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck and Squirrel Nutkin. Most of the scenes, as always, were animated (hence my slightly blurred photos). Last year we were treated to scenes from Gulliver’s Travels, and in other years I have seen Peter Pan, A Christmas Carol and The Snowman featured. There’s a complete list of past window themes on the Evening Chronicle’s website if you’re interested.
These window displays are reminiscent of the way the large London stores used to promote themselves at Christmas when I was a child. Obviously it is a great PR exercise for the store, but they never take the marketing element too far – you won’t see goods that are for sale inside incorporated into any of the scenes for instance. The only advertising involved here is the part the windows play in drawing people to the shop, which is refreshing nowadays.
These traditional North Eastern instruments (played here by a busker on the Quayside) work on a similar principle to the Scottish bagpipe but while the sound is related, it's softer in tone. Some Northumbrians claim that Northumbrian pipes are best heard indoors, while the Scottish pipes are best outdoors, preferably from a distance of twenty miles away (I disagree – I love the Scottish bagpipes too).
There are actually two kinds – the Smallpipes and the Border or Half-long pipes. Both are played by inflating the "bag" with bellows held under one arm (rather than by blowing into it as with Scottish bagpipes) whilst the other arm is used to gently deflate the bag through the various "pipes".
The origins of the Northumbrian pipes are apparently unknown, though I rather like the almost certainly erroneous theory that they were played by soldiers on Hadrian’s Wall.
To hear the pipes played at their best, check out the music of Kathryn Tickell, an acclaimed local musician: http://www.kathryntickell.com/Related to:
Wear the strip with pride!
In Newcastle the wearing of the football team's black and white striped shirt isn't something restricted to matchday. The Toon Army wear their colours as a badge of honour and can be seen all over the city, such as here out shopping on a Saturday morning.
If you want to blend in there are shops selling all things Newcastle United near the Monument, in the Eldon Square shopping centre and of course at St James's Park.
It was mid-February during our visit and pretty cold as you'd expect but we could count on one hand the number of people wearing coats. We were wrapped up in 3 or 4 layers while most of the local guys were wearing short-sleeved shirts and the girls wearing very little too. And this wasn't just for going out in the evening - even during the day there was a similar dress code.
Larn Yersel a Geordie
Geordie dialect is widely used by the folk living in Newcastle and places nearby Tyne river. Some Geordie patriots would even argue it's a whole different language and that it has nowt to do with English.
Apart from distinctive "oo" used instead of most of the vowels (Toon, poob, soonday, mootha, ...) Geordie has it's own catch-phrases, terms, some of which are quite similar to Scandinavian languages. Others quite funny
Anyway, here's couple of practical advices:
1) equip yourself (yersel) with patience and one of humorous Geordie phrasebooks available in bookstores.
2) Don't think your English is crap when you speak with the natives
3) if possible, get in hold of Sid the Sexist comic or 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet' serial before your trip, just to get introduced.
4) check-out one of the following Geordie dictionaries in order to alleviate the culture shock :)
Of stotties and pints of OJ
The Stotties are not , as their name might suggest as sub-species of the Geordie tribe.
I remember them well from student days, When college cooking dropped to the level of complete muck - stotties would come to the rescue.
It is in fact a largeish white flattish bread, native to the region which can be filled by just about anything edible.
Greggs the Bakers are usually given the credit for reviving the food on a mass-scale although they are also available from many other cafes and shops.
You can also find freshly squeezed orange juice in Newcastle - in pint milk bottles.
I believe the local dairy do it as a sideline - and very useful too !Related to:
- Budget Travel
'Chip Butties' are the official food of the English. To make them you need bread, butter and chips (like thick french fries) Butter the bread, cram a load of chips on one slice then place another slice on the top carefully, next place your hand on this top slice and squish it all down. Ketchup, Brown Sauce, or Mayonaisse is optional. 'Chip Stotties' are the same thing using big bread bun.
You also get bacon buttles, fish butties, jam butties... you get the idea.
The range of average monthly temperatures in Northumberland is between 6C (in January and February) and 18C (in July and August). October – December are usually the wettest months and April – July are the driest.
Being an essentially rural County, the foods of Northumberland are mostly of the traditional country type, especially lamb, fish, game, cheese and bread. Traditional English fish and chips and fresh crab sandwiches are available in most pubs and cafes along the Northumberland coast. Northumberland has a particularly strong reputation for its grouse, pheasant and venison. Smoked fish, especially salmon and kippers as well as Salmon and Trout are other County specialities.
Newcastle has submitted a bid...
Newcastle has submitted a bid to become capital of culture in 2008 and looks like it might win with a great mix in cultures here and everyone gets along. Newcastle has a china town which is brilliant for great food, king lous being one of my personal favourites. People of all colours, shape and sizes are welcomed in newcastle. You might have trouble understanding the Geordie accent but you'll pick it up as you go along. when on trains and buses the more elderly passgengers would prefer a seat and it would be very kind of you to give up your seat if there is none left and a elderly person comes on.
When visiting Newcastle pay...
When visiting Newcastle pay attention to the maps that are around the city centre as they give locations of interesting places to see.
Such as the Discovery museum in Newcastle near to the Centre for life.Here you can learn about the history and shipbuilding heritage of the region.
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