Heather and I had been in York, but instead of heading south back towards life we headed north, to my home town of Newcastle!
As per standard on arrival we had to call into Centurions. We hung around there until it was time to wander down the hill to check into our hotel. The room had a lovely view of the Tyne Bridge tower, but that did mean we got the noisy kittiwakes (and the mess they make).
We left them in town and headed back up the hill (perhaps next time we’ll pick a hotel not at the quayside, though it’s pretty much impossible to evade the hills in Newcastle). A bit aimlessly we ended up in the The Goose, a bit early for our dinner reservations.
Dinner was at somewhere we’d been meaning to try out for ages, Blackfriars Restaurant. The main restaurant area is actually within the refectory of the old monastery, certainly one of the oldest eating places we’ve visited! The food was as fine as the surroundings, and the staff very attentive regarding any possible allergy (they checked with the kitchen several times to ensure Heather wasn’t going to run into any issues with citrus). They did describe us by describing Heather’s starter as “soup” on arrival, and it did leave us hunting for a spoon later on. Fortunately we were sat by the sideboard with all the cutlery in so helped ourselves! My sea bass starter and pork main were good, and the chocolate moose and honeycomb very dessert very good. The only minus point was the mead we finished things off with didn’t come in goblets to fit the ambience.
We left the restaurant to head back towards the hotel, only to find it beginning to rain heavier and heavier. That forced us to duck into The Bridge and an interesting conversation about allergies with a random chef. We watched the rain out windows overlooking the High Level, and once it had eased back, headed to bed.
Next morning while Heather went down to breakfast I lamented the lack of Juliet balcony, though at least the kittiwakes made it feel a bit seaside like. We wandered down to the river, strolling along the quayside. Intrigued by the sight of a fire engine parked near the Tyne Bridge we found a couple of boats moored up, one with firemen readying to go on the water and one with police. You might think it a joint exercise but they didn’t seem to be interacting much—the firemen went off well before the police were ready; perhaps they considered them amateurs.
We watched the boats for a bit and then wandered further along, finding, just past the Millennium bridge, some sea-saws which Heather got upset I wouldn’t go on. I did sit in one of the giant deck chairs for a selfie though (and a rest!) The rest was needed, for we had to head back up the hill to meet a familiar face. Having only just left her in York, Gemma turned up in Newcastle.
Reunited we had a bit of a wander through the city centre, dragging Gemma past Yo Yo Noodles and into the Grainger Market. There we couldn’t drag Heather past the card crafting stall, so had to explore the rest ourselves, impressing Gemma with the tiny Marks and Spencer “Penny Bazaar“.
The wandering tired us out so we looked for a rest, finding ourselves in Lady Greys for a sit down. By now it was almost lunch time, so it’s a good job we had a slot booked with the cats at Mog On The Tyne. It’s always good to try eating lunch with the puds trying to steal it. We also got to make cat bandanas, though I wasn’t so successful with the infants style glue used to stick fabric together!
It was, as always, an enjoyable hour or so, and left us nicely filled ready for the afternoon. On the way out we called in the Glamorous Owl, where we did buy things. Surprisingly we then had a wander around Waterstones without buying anything! Finding ourselves at a loose end again we went to visit somewhere we hadn’t been in too long, Trillians! The place barely seems to change (though they have redone the furnishings) which is all for the better.
We did have something to do later on though, namely one of our favourite activities, in crazy golf, or in this case, Space Golf. Carefully timed to catch the cocktail deals we enjoyed a drink while conquering the three courses (I won of course). When we were done it was still some time until dinner, so we headed back to that always welcome pub by The Bridge.
We’d booked Prima for dinner, somewhere Heather and I have been before and enjoyed. The seating under the railway arch is still spectacular but it seems they’ve went a bit downhill, pandering a bit much to the fast and loud crowds than they used to. Still, the food was okay, if not spectacular, and we just about got Gemma to the last train home before it was time for bed.
As Friday arrived we got up late enough that hotel breakfast wasn’t really an option so I accompanied Heather in search of some. We settled on Quay Ingredient, who’s shutters we often notice adorned as they are with an image of Gingy (who in these pandemic times has acquired a facemask). They were more than satisfactory choice and fueled us up nicely for the day’s adventures.
Those adventures saw us toiling up the hill again, with a brief stop off at the gift shop beneath the towering railway arch. We headed for the Central Station, and a Metro to the coast (pleased to find an old friend in Rocket snowdog in the Metro station too).
We stopped first at Whitley Bay—I always forget how far the Metro station is from the coast there. The last time we were there we’d found a somewhat sad and run down place, as quickly abandoned as its environs seemed to have been. We were happy to find that now it is much more vibrant and welcoming, once past the streets round the station. This is helped in large part by the now sparkling Spanish City. The funfair may have gone but it still seems have plenty to offer, though admittedly nothing we actually wanted right then—and it seems a shame there isn’t an obvious way to just have a wander around the building. We did find a couple of gift shops though, including a little shop from which the wonderful Heather bought me some cinder toffee because she knows how I like it.
Done with Whitley Bay we decided to head along the coast. It’s a long time since I walked along the coast around there, and even longer since I did the bit between Whitley Bay and Cullercoats, but that was the way we set off. It was an interesting walk, along the lonely promenades just above the rocks. At times desolate, with the hint of pools and structures long gone, and at times beautiful, the sun playing of distant wind turbines and lighthouse. There was just enough wildlife to excite Heather, notably little black and white oyster catchers among the rocks.
It is though quite the walk, especially in the open and wind, so by the time Cullercoats bay was approaching we could do with a rest. As if by magic the pub appeared, complete with local beer. We collapsed into seats outside to enjoy the sun and view and recover.
Soon enough we were walking down to the bay itself. Walking down the ramp to the beach was so evocative of childhood memories—this was the place my mother would bring me to the seaside. The bay itself is still lovely, harbour walls stretching out and the cave riddled cliffs behind with the lifeboat house. Heather went for a splodge in the cold north sea, and we ducked into some of the wonderfully coloured caves. Turns out there is still an automatic sadness on walking back up the ramp.
We very briefly considered walking along to Tynemouth, and then sensibly decided to hop the Metro along. In Tynemouth there were some interesting gift shops to explore. It also had a load of smoke, apparently blowing over from a large fire in Shields. What it didn’t have is anywhere particularly inspiring for dinner, so we ended up having burgers in the pub. At least there was a dog, and a baby, to entertain.
After dinner the Metro carried us swiftly back to Newcastle, where there was a call in the excellent CentrAle to pick up some beers (including more Cullercoats offerings), and cider, and mead before heading back to the hotel, to hold the Friday night quiz to finish off the evening.
We had one morning left in Newcastle so we packed and left cases in our room to go and look at what they’ve been doing to the cathedral up the hill. Inside they’ve removed the rows of pews, opening up the space. They also seem to have acquired a load of roving welcomers, and have no compunction about the noise they make. It seems a shame to have spoilt the quiet that could be found in there. It’s not so bad the further in one ventures, and I see what they were trying to achieve, but still. The outside is much better, the grounds having seen a make over and the opening up of the area at the rear particularly good (just a shame they can’t do much about the alley down one side).
When we got back to the hotel, it turned out our keycards didn’t work, something they “do close to check out time” apparently (so why not have them do it after check out time?) We crawled our way up the hill a final time and sat in Centurions to wait for our train (with a trip to nearby Greggs to get lunch and stotties). And then it was a whoosh back to London. After a quick call in the Parcel Yard we headed home—complete with a reminder we were back in London with an annoying, arrogant man queue jumping at St Pancras. I miss the north.