The itinerary on the Ocean Princess included a stop in Newcastle two days after we departed Dover. Now, the distance isn’t that great so a few of us started hoping, in jest, of course; that our nice captain would consider stopping off in France or Amsterdam. Now, that would have been a treat, but we know that extra port calls mean extra expenses, but this would have improved our already very interesting itinerary and thrilled a few of us.
We knew about the treacherous Goodwin Sands from our visit to the South Foreland Lighthouse. Over 1000 wrecked ships lie in this area, but we tried not focusing on that nor on the fact that we seemed to just be floating all the way to Newcastle. Some of us wondered if we had gone the long way around Great Britain. Well, we will just have to save a visit to those temptingly close ports for another cruise.
From the Ship to Town
The ship does not dock in Newcastle, but rather eight miles away in North Shields. We took a taxi into town, but the other options include a shuttle or 15 minute walk to a metro station to get into town. Several passengers who used this option were disappointed to find that exact change was required for the metro, so be sure to have some smaller coins on hand.
Sites in Newcastle
Our first stop in town was the excellent Tourist Office at the Guildhall, where we obtained maps and got suggestions for the town highlights. We found free internet there as well. The map was especially helpful because the map that our ship provided seemed quite strange to us. Closer examination of the ship provided map revealed that we were looking at the plan of Newcastle all right; but the Newcastle on the ship map was the one in Australia. Maybe Australia could be added to the itinerary.
High on our list was experiencing the opening of one of the seven bridges in town. We found out what time it would open -noon- and scheduled our tour of town around that event. This particular bridge is referred to as a winking eye, but seemed more like an opening and closing mouth.
We headed along the river browsing at the vendor stalls lining the way. These offered food and products. Some of the stalls had interesting items, while others contained typical flea market junk. Movement on another bridge caused us to look upward where we saw people staging to zipline from the bridge to a tower on the other side of the river. It looked scary as the participants needed to climb over the railing and perch themselves on the other side of the bridge. We bypassed this event – we were short of time after all.
Not wanting to venture too far from the bridge, we headed to the Seven Stories, a museum that focuses on books and book illustrations for children, where several families with children took advantage of the fun displays or sought out a space to read to each other. On several levels, this museum has a life-size illustration of a book that we strolled through. We could see how kids would beg to come here over and over again. There is a cafe in the building so it’s easy to take a lunch break and return to a different area of the museum.
Gateshead Millennium Bridge
We did dutifully watch the opening and closing of the bridge after we had walked over to the Gateshead side of the river. A street busker provided the entertainment and we almost worried momentarily that the bridge might stay raised for an extended period of time and we would be trapped on the other side or in the worst case would have to walk over one of the other bridges. The bridge stayed open only long enough for a tour boat to makes its way and return. As the bridge let down, the crowds started their walks or bicycle rides back to the other side.
To be continued…