Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Going to see an Angel

So we're off again and our next stop on our travels was the city of Newcastle. The main reason for our visit is to see the famous “Angel of the North” sculpture which is featured heavily in many tourist advertisements when promoting the north east of England. Aside from the Angel, we’ve also heard Newcastle is a bit of a ‘party town’ for many students who live there, so we were excited to explore the city and see what it has to offer.  

The “Castle” of Newcastle-upon-Tyne
We arrived in Newcastle early afternoon. There was thick layers of snow still set on the roads and pavements from the day before. As we made the trek to the hostel we were staying in, trying not to slip over on the icy paths, we noticed the city was packed and there were herds of people all making there way in the same direction. We were a little confused at first, until I quickly relised that Newcastle was playing Southhampton in the football. The people were all heading toward St James Park. This made the city and all the pubs quite a buzz. We dropped off our bags and set out for an afternoon of exploring and possibly a few cheeky pints whilst watching the game.  As we explored Newcastle, we found ourselves standing in front of “The Castle” of Newcastle.  A fort which originally dated back to Roman times. It was built for defence purposes, protecting the bridge, which crosses the River Tyne. In 1080, the castle was rebuilt, upgraded and referred to as the ‘New Castle' upon the River Tyne, hence the name of the city.  From the Castle we made our way into the centre of town and came to a monument which appeared to looked similar to Nelson’s Collum in London’s Trafalgar Square, but it was actually “Grey’s Monument”. A monument dedicated to Lord Charles Grey. The reason for it’s similarity to Nelsons Collum, is it was designed by the same man, Edward Hodges Baily in 1838. The monument was designed to honour Charles Grey who was the prime minister of England from 1830 - 1834. He is most famous for instigating the Great Reform Act of 1832, which changed many things, including the way the electoral system and voting worked in England and Wales.  The Reform Act also included the abolishment of slavery in the UK. 

After exploring some of the history of Newcastle, we decided to find a local pub and watch some of the football. A visit to Newcastle is not complete without having one of there signature beers, the Newcastle Brown Ale. The "Newkie Brown” (as it’s affectionately known) first began Brewing at the Tyne Brewery in 1927. It was created by Lt. Colonel James Herbert Porter. The locals instantly took to this ‘working mans beer’ and it grew in popularity over the years, mainly in Newcastle only. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when Newcastle Brown Ale, took over the UK and peaked in sales towards the end of the 70’s. It died off a little in the 1980’s, but had a resurgance in the late 90’s. Today, Newcastle Brown Ale is not as popular in the UK as it once was, but it is still popular with the locals. It now seems to appeal more to the American market, where they export over 100 million bottles to the USA every year. America is now they primary buyer for the “Newkie Brown”. 

After a nice roast dinner and a couple of Brown Ales, we made our way back to our hostel. The next day we got up early excited about visiting the famous “Angel of the North”. As we made our way toward the site of the ‘Angel’, it didn't take long for it’s giant wings to come into view.  When we arrived at the sculpture, we were blown away by it’s sheer size. It was designed by Antony Gormley, who first began the planning and designing of this piece in 1994. The project cost around one million pounds. It took 4 years to design and build, as it needed to withstand 100mph winds with it being in an exposed location. A man made hill was built around the Angel’s feet to hide the 600 tonnes of concrete used to fix the sculpture into place. The Angel is not just an icon for Newcastle, but it is also an icon  for the north of England.  For Cara and I, the visit was definitely worth it.

The famous “Angel of the North"
As we departed from Newcastle, we reflected and were both happy that we took to time out to visit the city and pay a visit to the famous “Angel”. 

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