Newcastle: When You Seek City Calm

Staying overnight at a friend’s house on Monday, our Tuesday began with homemade omelettes and green teas. Energised, we hopped onto the Metro in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and headed into the city centre. Using a blend of Google maps and backtracking, we wandered through the city streets. Admiring the low buildings and preserved details, my friend slowly walked beside me, an amused smile on his face as I stopped every few minutes to photograph another captivating façade. As such, it took us an unnaturally long time to arrive at The Castle. Neither of us minded. It was a beautiful day for a slow walk. The sun set everything aglow, covering us in its warmth.

The very landmark that gave Newcastle its name, in circa 1080 AD Normans had constructed a wooden fortress in this space. Robert Curthose’s castle, being a status symbol and a statement of authority, was a Norman seat of power. From there, they controlled the surrounding lands and people. Less than a century later, between 1172 and 1177, King Henry II commissioned the construction of the stone fortification on the site of Curthose’s castle. We wandered through the small landmark, admiring the preservationist work done to the site. Passing a film crew working on a Newcastle tourism advert, we continued on our way.

Walking on cobblestone and pavement, we headed off towards the Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas. An eleventh century edifice, the Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Newcastle. Upon entering the Cathedral, marble monuments greeted us on the left side. These tall statues celebrate three influential Newcastle men of the 1700s to 1800s. From left to right, these men are James Archbold, Robert Hopper Williamson, and Si Matthew White Ridley. Dying in 1840, James Archbold’s sister commissioned his monument to commemorate his civic duties as sheriff of Newcastle. Robert Hopper Williamson, his image on the left, was portrayed in his working clothes. A judge of forty years, he maintained records of Newcastle’s civil and criminal trials. Sir Matthew White Ridley, depicted as Roman senator on the right side, followed in his father’s footsteps and became Mayor of and MP for Newcastle.

The organ, a wood and chrome construction standing from the floor to ceiling, was inscribed with the Latin phrase, ‘Omnis spiritus laudet dominum alleluia’. This translates into ‘Every breath, praise the lord, alleluia’. Atop the organ sits three golden angels. Two calmly lounge and gesture to the angel above them, who holds a trumpet up to the sky.

After wandering up and down the cathedral, we headed off deeper into the city center. Passing by the orange and blue Travelling Man, we both immediately did a double take and walked back to admire the window display. Bright balloons and unique cover art beckoned to us. We would’ve been fools to ignore it. Holding a wide selection of graphic novels, the store is a treasure trove. Mangas line entire shelves, both revolving and wooden. Marvel and DC is a staple must. Board games and DnD texts rest at the back. At the far left side, independent graphic novels are organized by category and author name. Opposite this, a small collection of indie zines created by local artists sits proudly. After purchasing a copy of ‘Beauty’ by Jeremy Haun, we popped into Mark Toney.

A café, restaurant, and ice cream parlour all in one, Toney’s was established in 1892. The interior, wooden furniture and soft lighting, gives its customers a warm, nostalgic feeling. The waitresses are kind and patient. This was a godsend, as I took forever to choose an ice cream flavour. Settling on cherry sorbet, the treat was unbelievably light and flavourful. We spent the rest of our day in here, marvelling at how it slowly filled up with people who were clearly regulars, exchanging witty repartee with the staff. Saying our thanks to the waitresses, we left, discussing how enjoyable it would be to be greeted like a friend at your favourite hangout spot.

Newcastle, providing spaces to catch your breath and fall into a sense of familiarity, was a lovely Tuesday away.

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