River Escapes

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Sometimes it's good to play at being a tourist where you live, which is what My Other Half and I did when we booked to go on the City to Countryside cruise with River Escapes. We'd done the city to sea cruise a few years ago, which was on a bigger vessel, and enjoyed that. Now it was time to head upriver instead. We checked the weather forecast a couple of days before and as Sunday promised to be warm and sunny, booked for then. Boarding was at 12.15, so we went for breakfast at the wonderful Quay Ingredient nearby, then had a stroll through the Sunday market before we joined the queue outside the Pitcher and Piano. The Coventina has seating for about 40 people, but the table layout means it's like a train. Some people have to travel backwards. We were near the back of the queue and were pleased to find two seats on their own with a little tray table, facing the way of travel. Leg room was a little restricted, but we had a good view, There is a recorded commentary as you travel upriver which was very informative. We learnt a lot about the seven bridges which cross the Tyne and saw them from a very different viewpoint. The commentary explains the history of the river and the adjoining areas, and some tales from the narrator's own experience of rowing on the river too. A lot of what you see is industrial, so it's not that 'scenic' until you get to Newburn, where there is a nature reserve, but I really enjoyed seeing the Dunston Staithes, an enormous wooden structure, used to send coal from the area and now earmarked for restoration. We live in Blaydon, so were very interested to have the site of the island where the Blaydon Races took place identified. It's hard to imagine so many islands in the river and so many activities taking place on them. Being a Sunday there were a lot of canoes, sailboats and little boats full of Sea Cadets out, so lots of waving done by us and them! Refreshments are available to buy on board. Tea, coffee, soft drinks, beer and wine plus chocolate bars. We had instant coffee at £1.50 for a small, lukewarm cup, so wouldn't recommend that, but it must be hard to cater using only insulated pump pots. The return journey has no commentary, so we enjoyed chatting and seeing if we could spot our house just the roof) and watching the cormorants and gulls. On some trips they have seen seals. There were two little girls on board and they were invited to go to the front and help to steer, which they really enjoyed. The vessel is all glass on the top, so even in March on a sunny day the sun was quite fierce and sunglasses are recommended. The view of the Newcastle and Gateshead quayside is quite stunning, with the Baltic gallery, the Sage music centre and all the old buildings seen from a very different view. You also go under the Millennium Bridge, known as the Blinking Eye, which is the latest addition to the many different bridges and definitely worth crossing when you disembark. We really enjoyed our day and would recommend it. It costs £10 for adults and £9 for 'seniors' but it would be worth visiting the Newcastle Gateshead website before booking as we got 10% off. Also, the leaflets in the tourist offices have a voucher to buy two tickets and a third travels free.

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