Before anyone gets too offended, please note that Wellington, New Zealand, a town many would regard as a pleasant stepping stone to nicer destinations on the Shaky Isles, came in at #4 on the list. Newcastle was placed between Delhi (#8) and Chiang Mai (#10). ‘
I had a day’s work at the Newcastle Kids’ Comedy Festival this week, so I took the camera with me and in a free hour or so before my hilarious storytelling sessions were due to start, did my best to find out what all the fuss was about.
My verdict? Newcastle is a perfectly pleasant town, and is probably a great place to live. It has a reputation as an industrial town, a place where the coal from the Hunter Valley mines is loaded onto ships.
Newcastle’s role in World War Two is celebrated in information panels on the waterfront. On June 8th, 1942, a Japanese submarine sent several shells into the town, taking out the switchboard of Ryland’s Port Waratah works. The only other casualty of the shelling, according to newspaper reports, was bombardier Stan Newton. He was a passenger in a taxi when the shelling started and the cabbie made him get out and walk, saying ‘You’re on your own from here, mate.’ He suffered no further damage. So much for Newcastle’s history.
If I worked for Lonely Planet (and yes, I’m open to offers) I too would want to be hip enough to discover unusual places to visit. If my top ten included Paris, London, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Cape Town, they’d think I wasn’t trying hard enough. So instead I’d try to find reasons to visit Dijon, Birmingham, Haarlem and Durban. Maybe Tamworth too.
However, a list like Lonely Planet’s puts pressure on Newcastle to be something that it’s not. It has some history, friendly residents, a few attractive older buildings, excellent uncrowded beaches, interesting arts festivals, decent food and damn good coffee, but unless your parents live there it’s not somewhere you’d choose for your annual holiday. Not if Barcelona was also an option.