English Notes: Newcastle upon Tyne
Named after a castle built in 1080 by Robert Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror (the first Norman King of England who reigned from 1066 to 1087), the city of Newcastle was built upon the River Tyne, and consequently its name, Newcastle upon Tyne. The city was central to the wool trade in the 14th century, then coal mining, and in the 16th century, was one of the world's largest shipbuilding and ship-repairing centers. Newcastle is one of the northernmost cities in England, a mere 103 miles south of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Since 1981 the city has hosted the Great North Run, a half marathon which attracts over 57,000 runners each year.
Most major big cities in the north are party towns (Newcastle in York, Carlisle near Lake District) - where partying till wee hours of mornings on weekends are a common occurrence. You could hear drunken men on the streets shouting and kicking empty beer bottles at 4, 5, 6 in the morning. I've been told that people from all over England make their way to Newcastle to stage stag and hen nights. Why? It just is reputed to be the best place to party, what with abundant pubs, bars, and restaurants for drunken revelry.
There aren't many homeless people, unlike in San Francisco, but the few there are in Newcastle can be pretty aggressive. I encountered one each outside the hotel I stayed in next to the train station in Newcastle and Carlisle. Both times as I walking out of the hotel at night to look for something to eat, a homeless man would ask, "you got any spare change?" I didn't and would continue on my way, and from my back would hear him raise his voice and shout threateningly, "hey miss, you got any spare change?" I would hurry along faster. My friend Paul advised that I not establish any eye contact to avoid potential aggression. Point noted.
3) Wages and cost of living
People in the northern counties (north of Leeds) are friendlier and thinks people in the south, especially Londoners, are unhappy, rude and unfriendly. This is easily explainable - southerners, particularly Londoners, have a lot more pressure - the cost of living in London is 5 times more than the north, yet wages are only twice more. On average, an office worker in the north makes GBP$25,000 per year; in London, the wage is GBP$50,000 per year. A professional, say a doctor or a software engineer makes GBP$80,000 a year (for reference, this is much lower than wages in Silicon Valley, California, though I shouldn't and can't compare because of economic differences). Now back to England - a 2-bedroom apartment in the north rents for GBP$400 per month while a 2-bedroom apartment in London rents for GBP$2,000. How does anyone living in London afford any margin with such wage and high cost of living? If you like a fast pace of life, London would suit much, but bear in mind the lack of space, extra cash, and margin in life. If you don't mind or prefer a much slower pace of life, the north would suit very well indeed, plus your cash goes a lot longer and farther. I know I'd prefer the former any day.
4) Gateway to natural outdoors, i.e. North Pennines and Lake District
A short hour drive from Newcastle brings you to the North Pennines AONB (Area of National Beauty), which in the US, is known as a national park. The North Pennines is home to the second highest mountain in England (mountains in England are also known as fells, which really are hills by the US' standards - sorry for rubbing it in). Two hours drive from Newcastle brings you to the Lake District, the most visited place in England and home to Scafell Pike which at 3,000 ft, is the highest mountain or fell in England.