The secret's out. Newcastle is, according to the American company Weissman Tourism Report, the eighth best party town in the world. This may seem surprising, but to those who have experienced a night on the Toon, Newcastle sits comfortably alongside Rio and New Orleans. The only question, Geordies ask, is: why only eighth?
Since the death of heavy industry in the area, Newcastle has noisily re-invented itself. To associate it solely with Brown Ale and flat caps, and dismiss it as unworthy of a visit, would be a bad mistake. It is surrounded by beautiful countryside, spotless beaches and as many castles as you can hurl a spear at, yet what brings most people to Newcastle is that it offers the best night out in Britain.
To be in the Bigg Market on a Friday night is to be in clubbers' heaven. More than 50,000 people cram into the city centre, and come 3am another pounds 500,000 has been spent. This is no new phenomenon. Fifteen years ago, young entrepreneurs started to buy derelict old pubs and treat them as clubs without dance floors; Geordies have been coming here ever since. And now they are being joined by others.Geordies-in-exile visiting home are accompanied by disbelieving friends; coachloads come from as far as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leeds.
Increasingly, tourists from overseas are adding Newcastle to their holiday itinerary - to the point that they now put more than pounds 40 million a year into Geordie coffers. Most are from Scandinavia, having a "shop-till-you- bop" weekend spread between the city's mammoth shopping centres and the night clubs.
The city is busy all week, but Thursday to Sunday sees the greatest heights of hedonism. Friday is generally lads'/lasses' night out, with huge groups of mates hunting in packs for the opposite sex and a good time. Saturday is slightly more for couples. People start their evenings early, queuing for entrance to packed bars for one or two drinks only before moving to the next queue, so the streets throng with bar-hopping youngsters.
The notorious Bigg Market is a short street packed with bars that attract mainly those under 25. They have names such as Yell! and CircusCircus and they throb with people shouting above the music, and dancing where they stand. Bottled lager, tiny skirts - the atmosphere is one of high- voltage fun. At the quayside, a short walk away, the dresses cover a touch more flesh and the music changes from rave to Britpop.
No one wears a coat, even in the depths of winter, but the heat generated inside the bars is so intense that this isn't as macho as it sounds. Closing time brings searches for cheap taxis, as Newcastle's buses finish ridiculously early - though the Metro runs later and guarantees a late- night sing-song.
Those who want to carry on dancing can go off to one of the numerous clubs, which, like the bars, are all within walking distance of one another. Two o'clock normally brings respite to the liver, but just as you've recovered it's time to start all over again. Who needs Ibiza?
What Texans returning home on flights to Dallas and Houston make of Newcastle- upon-Tyne
I've heard of Newcastle disease, which affects poultry, but that's about all
Hortensia Emery Is that Newcastle in Texas?
I love Britain, but I've never heard anything about Newcastle. London's a very lively town
I don't know about Newcastle, but there's plenty to do all the time in Houston
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