Playing Tourists – Newcastle

4:55am wakeup. 6:50 local train. 7:43 Leeds train to Newcastle. 9am-something I have a second breakfast of a Gregg’s sausage roll, and Mum and I make our way towards the city centre. We meander up and down the famous Grey Street, as we point out gorgeous architecture to one another and mumble on loop “I really hope it doesn’t rain,” in defiance of what had been forecasted. (It didn’t rain a bit and our luminous rain coats proved a surefire way to find one another in the crowds of people, if we were to have ever got separated.)

In the morning we spent a good while in the beautiful Fenwick’s department store, largely spent with me pointing out all of the beauty brands I know and love, and together admiring the stunning rails of designer clothes.
In Debenhams I ate a lunch of spicy, vegetable, coconut, Asian soup and bread roll, whilst Mum devoured a giant scone. Feeling the headiness of walking round and round the same shop floors, we headed off for some air that wasn’t perfume-scented towards the University of Newcastle.

Fun Fact: we first visited Newcastle in 2011 for a university open day. We were all impressed by the incredibly grand red brick buildings and I did love the uni, but didn’t feel I would be able to achieve the grades to get in. I did..) We wandered up through the central grounds, past the students’ union building which is quite breathtaking, reminiscing about our first visit, comparing it to Glasgow, and taking a well earned rest on a bench with a bag of cherries we’d bought at a street market stall. 
Suitably revived we headed on over to the university’s Great North Museum: Hancock, largely dedicated to taxidermy and Ancient Egypt. I LOVE TAXIDERMY. Understandably it may completely freak people out, but it gives you a chance to see extinct, rare and still-existing animals up close and in awe of their beauty and size. Some of my favourite stuffed critters were the bison, the British and tropical birds and the fighting stags.

The entry to the museum is free, with plenty of toilets, a café and a giftshop, and is well worth a visit if you’re experiencing cabin fever with your little ones in the holidays. Everywhere we looked were little kiddiwinks running around shouting in excitement, trying to take it all in in a blink of an eye.
In need of another revival of energy, we sipped hot drinks in the uni’s Northern Stage Theatre bar/bistro called Mckenna’s. The interiors were exposed brick and lots of thick-cut wood dining furniture which was super snazzy and reminded me of New York. (I’ve never been to New York, but it had that vibe…..)
Having consulted our map we continued our ramble towards Leazes Park past the Royal Victoria Infirmary where we watched an air ambulance land on the hospital roof(!) The park is a good sized metropolitan oasis with a fishing lake, tennis courts and preparations for the Transplant Games, something we had never heard of that were to take place later. 
After a good walk round inhaling the clean(er) air, we discovered a small circular of houses, again built in that gorgeous brick that we just don’t have in the architecture back home. I snapped a photograph and Mum and I headed back towards the city centre for a wander around the colossal, heavenly scented Marks and Spencer food hall and a few other shops.
The Laing Art Gallery was our final tourist destination before dinner. It also has free entry and an exhibition currently on children’s illustrated classics. 

A quick mooch around H&M was finally followed by a complete over-indulgence of Pizza Hut pizza and their unlimited salad bar. So naughty, but so good. Just about able to place one foot in front of the other, I hefted my doubled body weight down through cobbled streets towards the River Tyne. On the way we passed the cathedral, the castle itself and through the Black Gate, the last addition to the castle’s defences.

Finally, we made it to the Quayside, walking across the river on the red and white Swing Bridge, before walking alongside the water and finishing at the Millennium Bridge opposite the mirrored snail-shell music venue of the Sage Gateshead . We were just in time to watch it tilt to allow a party boat to pass and hear the operators bellowing at pedestrians to hurry on over which was quite amusant.

Back in 2011, we’d stayed in the Jury’s Inn just opposite the iconic BALTIC Mill, now a contemporary art centre and had watched the same tilting at night, when it was lit up in multicolour. Having eventually crossed over the Tyne again, we finished our epic day out back where we had started it, at Gregg’s. The funny thing is, we’re not exactly Gregg’s regulars, and I would far rather support independent bakeries than vast chains, but we were in need of pudding and a hot drink before the train at 8 o’clock at night, so we shared a raspberry cupcake and a YumYum, before boarding our 20:27 Northern Rail carriage back home.
The final note I must add is that the North East folk are the nicest people! All of the sales assistants/waiters/general Geordies were incredibly happy, welcoming and seemed to just enjoy life. Which are surely the best people? I recommend travelling to the Tyne if you’re in the mood for getting a good balance of retail therapy and culture. I also hear the nightlife is pretty alright too.. 😉

ps. Have you ever visited Newcastle and recommend any cool places to check out? We planned our trip on a budget, so didn’t try any of the well-rated restaurants I’d spotted on TripAdvisor, but next time, maybe I’ll hunt them down 🙂

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