It’s been about two weeks since I have returned from Newastle so it’s high time for a blogpost about it! It’s a rather long one though, so make sure to get a cup of coffee or tea.
Together with my former colleague and lovely friend Mare, I set out for Newcastle on October 30th by boat. After a rather rocky night (literally) on board in a small cabin, we disembarked in true zombie style (due to the crappy sleep we had had) in Newcastle at 09.15 UK time. After clearing customs we were ushered into one of the busses that took us to the town centre.
For some reason I cannot quite phantom there are absolutely no storage lockers in Newcastle. None. So we were at a bit of a loss what to do with our luggage as our hotel has a no left luggage policy *sigh*. Thankfully though someone from dfds was able to point us to a local newsagent that would look after our bags for 5 pounds each. It wasn’t cheap, but it was sure better than having to lug our baggage around.
So, what do you do on your first day in Newcastle? Right! You explore the city centre. We set out for Grainger Market as a number of websites mentioned this was a must see. It was clear that most of the stores were geared to women that were +50, except for this one kick ass store that sold Disney shoes! Yes you read that correctly: Disney SHOES. Although I was tempted I decided against buying them, as I was quite sure they wouldn’t accommodate orthopaedics… Didn’t keep me from drooling at the display though…
The central arcade was right around the corner, so we looked at that as well. But quite frankly this was a bit of a disappointment. The architecture is alright, but it pales in comparison to the ones in Cardiff.
After a quick stop at the very comfortable Waterstones café for a much needed sugar boost (Chocolate milk and Bakewell tarts apparently do wonders to revive you from zombie mode), we ventured into Eldon Square shopping centre. There we visited only a number of stores before we positively fled the premises. For some reason it had suddenly become incredibly crowded there, which was simply too much for two very tired introverts.
We found sanctuary at the Laing Art Gallery. We hadn’t planned on visiting this, but a museum café seemed the best place to escape the still growing crowds. And we were right. The gallery had a lovely café with a beautiful stained glass window, delicious tea and sandwiches… and best of all: nothing but elderly citizens who chatted away whilst keeping their voices down so as not to bother other people…. Don’t judge me, I was tired haha.
After having sat there for at least an hour, we picked up our bags and went to the hotel. By the time we got there, it was nearly time for dinner, which we had at Piano and Pitcher. Now this is a truly lovely restaurant with one hell of a view, and hands down the most scrumptious sticky toffee pudding that I have EVER had.
Our awesome view of the open bridge.
On the second day we roamed about the Quayside a bit in search of breakfast and took this lovely selfie 😀
After breakfast we headed to the Victorian open air museum Beamish. Now THIS was fantastic. The museum is huge and offers a tram and bus service to transport visitors in between the several Victorian towns and farms that they have. And the best thing is: the mode of transportation is 100% Victorian.
Yep you get to ride this… for free.
The people working there are obviously nuts about anything Victorian and have a boat load of knowledge that they are eager to share. We had a particularly lovely conversation with this gentleman at the bank.
Gosh… I wanna work here too! Dream job goals people! Dream job goals!
Whilst visiting their website before our trip I had discovered that there was a photography shop…. So needless to say I couldn’t help myself and had another picture taken in Victorian style. At first when the photographer pulled out the dress, which was a light pink, I was a bit doubtful, but as he was clearly a man with a plan I rolled with it. And the result… Well judge for yourself:
One word of advice when visiting Beamish: get there early or plan to go for two days. Seriously, this place is massive. We didn’t even get to see half of the museum despite being there at 12.00. So yes, keep that in mind.
That evening we ended up eating at Las Iguanas, a Mexican restaurant which to my lovely fellow traveller’s extreme delight has a vegetarian menu. And their vegetarian food is good: honestly, the Portobello fajita’s that are TO DIE FOR. Oh and make sure to try to non-alcoholic cocktails. Those are good too.
In the morning we discovered the place that hands down serves the best and most affordable breakfast at the Quayside: the café at the Baltic Museum for Contemporary Art. The music selection is relaxing, the staff is friendly and the food is good. So good that we ended up having breakfast there the next day as well.
The museum shop was also well worth a visit, as they have lots of fun gifts. We did briefly go through the several exhibitions, but as neither of us are much into contemporary art, we didn’t enjoy it much. What we did like, however, were the viewing decks which allowed you to overlook Newcastle AND the pretty epic staircase.
After our brief visit to the museum we left for the Biscuit Factory. This is an art gallery where artists display their work and where people can buy it. Some of the work is both stunning and affordable, so it is definitely a visit when you are looking for some new art to decorate your walls (or just to admire the art).
By this time our tummies were rumbling quite a bit so we made our way back to the Quayside to visit Catpawchino, a cat café. Now this was absolutely lovely… and not just because we had to take off our shoes, which our aching feet greatly enjoyed. The owner of the café has an number of cats which all have their own personality and their own charm. My personal favourite, however, was Alfie; the candy monster and king of the castle. Just look at those eyes!
Oh and if cats at a café aren’t enough to make you want to visit: the tea and food are also great. So make sure to give this a try :D.
We spent the rest of the day back in the city centre to visit amongst others Marks and Spencer’s and to revisit Waterstones to pick up the newest Dan Brown novel that was on sale for only 10 pounds.
This was our last day in Newcastle. After dropping off our bags at the newsvendor we visited the Lit & Phil library. Although this is by no means the most beautiful library I have ever visited, it was definitely the most welcoming one. Upon entering we were greeted by a lovey elderly librarian who welcomed us and invited us to wander around and read as many books as we wanted whilst enjoying some coffee or tea. Whilst browsing their book selection I actually found a book that will help me with some of my research. So yes, super happy we went there.
Afterwards we roamed through Newcastle in search of a quaint little shop called The Glamorous Owl. Now this cute little giftshop is a hidden gem that is really hard to find if you aren’t actually looking for it. The entire shop is dedicated to handcrafted items and they are surprisingly affordable. I ended up buying a pair of really cute, silver, floral earrings (for only 25 pounds!). So if you are into cute, handmade things make sure to drop by.
By now it was time for lunch, and I knew just the place to go to: the Tea Sutra Teahouse. This is very close to the Eldon shopping centre, but rather tucked away so nice and quiet. They have an enormous selection of tea, which they serve in different types of tea pots depending on which tea you get. You also get a little timer so you know when to pour your tea, preventing it from getting too bitter or strong. The food is really good as well! Oh, and when it says your food comes with a salad, don’t expect the spoon full of sorry looking leaves you usually get. No you get half a plate heaped with really, seriously good salad. 😀
The tea house has a bit of a new age/ middle- eastern vibe to it, which is incredibly soothing. And I cannot help but complement the owners on their impeccable music taste: whilst we were there they were playing a Porgy and Bess cd.
By now it was almost time to head back to the boat. We dropped by Marks and Spenser’s to pick up a Christmas pudding, amongst other things, before making our way to the pick up place for the bus which was to take us to the boat.
The return journey on board was pretty smooth (though the food on board left something to be desired: soggy scrambled eggs… really?), and we were actually able to get some OK sleep (which might have just been because we were exhausted hahah).
I had an absolutely lovely time with Mare (thank you for being awesome!) and am definitely planning on returning to Newcastle at some later point in time. Though if that will be by boat is up for debate haha.