Instead of rocketing our way back down from Scotland to London, Mikaela and I decided to take a few days to explore a couple of England’s popular cities. To be perfectly honest, MTV’s horrible program Geordie Shore was the main reason for our Newcastle trip. A boy from Manchester once told me he loves his hometown, but he’ll never go back. That intriguing negativity alone drew me into the city.
Surprisingly, the two cities blew me away—for completely different reasons.
Clean, classy Newcastle has a smart pedestrian area that leads to a gigantic statue of Charles Earl Grey. A daily market offers fresh food and local crafts. Heading south from the monument, an expensive shopping street lined with modern glass benches takes you to the riverfront.
Newcastle upon Tyne receives its identity from the numerous bridges stretched across the Tyne. From the Millennium Bridge staring west, I counted six. The river is a ritzy area, full of business men in expensive suits and film crews casting documentaries. It’s a stunning, shinny area of town, especially when the golden sun is high in the sky, reflecting across the black water and music hall’s large windows.
Despite feeling extremely under the weather, Mikaela and I had to go out. We squished our way into Bijoux and Perdu—two of the Geordie’s infamous hangouts—amongst self-tanned woman in ridiculously high heels and tight skirts.
Still, we had a good time fist-pumping to party music. We narrowly missed our bus to Manchester the next morning.
As the bus weaved its way through England’s narrow lanes, I stared out the bus window, wondering how someone could love a place, but never want to return.
Approaching the city, I understood immediately.
The district of Manchester is run-down and barren. Basketball courts are gated off, public parks are graffitied. In an odd way, it’s beautifully terrifying.
The city center is buzzing. Thomas Street is rambunctious, random, and wild. The entire area is a stark contrast to Newcastle’s pristine gleam. Manchester is honest in a way that most of England’s cities aren’t—it won’t dress up in a frilly sundress and drink tea to impress tourists. It will, however, scream with street art and bizarre side shops and buskers that keep singing the same one line to Wonderwall over, and over, and over.
At night, the various pub, bars, and cafes illuminate the dark cobblestone streets in a warm red glow. Mikaela and I scammed free wifi from a quiet pub to escape the incessant heat inside our hostel. People wore, did, and said exactly what they wanted. I loved it.
Feeling clammy and uncomfortable the next afternoon, we explored the local art gallery and wandered downtown. The ambiance created by the thick concrete and dry parks of the city was enough to make me long for wide open fields and country air.
Manchester is punk and alternative while Newcastle is posh and upclass. I enjoy feeling safe wandering Newcastle at any moment of the day or night, but I was pulled in by Manchester’s urban pulse.
I love the incredible differences in these two English cities that are only hours apart.
Have you been to Newcastle or Manchester? What was your experience?