24 Hours in Newcastle
Newcastle is one of those places I have always wanted to visit but never have. Sometimes it seems easier to put aside time for the big overseas trips than to venture a couple of hours up the road! So I have decided to rectify that by making time for some of my more local cities in the north of England. I went by train and if you book in advance you can get a ticket for as little as £10 from Sheffield, an absolute bargain and if you go midweek you can find a good hotel room from about £40.
As you pull into the station you can begin to get a feel for the grand victorian life that Newcastle once had which continues as you leave the station and walk up into town. The streets are lined with grandios architecture that towers overhead. My first feeling was that it was like Sheffield just grander! I had heard about the monument to Earl Grey and as an avid earl grey tea drinker I headed straight for that, which you can’t miss as it is an enourmous sandstone column right in front of you at the top of the road.
Once I’d dropped my stuff off it was back down to the river to explore the many bridges that cross the river Tyne. There are seven within a short length of the river each with a slightly different purpose.
If you walk back towards the station and veer off a little to your left you will come across the Castle (the castle in Newcastle!) and from there it is possible to access the foot bridge section of one of the higher bridges where you get a great view up the river and views back across the town. Turning left at the other end of the bridge takes you up the Gateshead side of the river towards the Baltic Gallery where even if art isn’t your thing there are amazing views to be had back down the river.
I AM interested in art and having never been to the Baltic before was interested to take a wander around. I discovered work by Ifeoma U. Anyaeji which was a delightful mix of found and recycled objects crafted into beautiful sculptures and reliefs. They make comment on environmental issues and also the question of value. Essentially she takes rubbish and creates something stunning, a girl after my own heart! The plastic is woven into braids using the Nigerian hair-styling technique of Ikpa Owu which is fast dying out combined with traditional basketry and weaving. The work celebrates traditional crafts that due to often misguided colonial notions of progress and the wider globalisation of our world are disappearing.
Next on the list was food! Having searched for ‘best gluten free place to eat’ the top choice was Kiln. It is about a 15 minute walk back across the river from the Baltic. You have to search it out as its a little bit hidden but very worth the trouble! Superb food totally delicious ‘Esti’s Middle Eastern Sharer’ usually comes with bread but once I said I was coeliac they provided a big bowl of spicy potatoes instead. This was one of the best meals I’ve had in ages. Plus they make all their own ceramics which you can see being made and buy if you want to take a little of their aesthetic home with you.
From here (needing to walk off some of that delightful food) it is a pleasant wander back through the culteral quater into town passing lots of quality graffiti as you go. On the way you can pop into The Biscuit Factory for a whole range of local art and crafts and very amusing signage on the ladies toilets – where else would you put the screws?
All that was left to do after a spot of shopping (for me this means searching out the charity shops) was to grab a cup of tea in Mason & Rye which can be found in the rather lovely food court of Fenwicks department store. I purchased some smokey earl grey leaves to take home with me which seemed fitting after starting the day with a visit to Mr Earl Grey himself!
After a little rest to let my legs recover it was back down to the river as the sun was setting to explore the castle area a bit more and then found myself drawn in by the warmth radiating from a little place built in the arches of one of the bridges The French Quarter. As I hadn’t booked it was a case of propping up the bar and getting some snacks (gluten free bread available) which was all I needed after the amazing lunch earlier in the day. Delicious food coupled with a large G&T was the perfect way to end a fabulous first trip and I will most definitly be back…I think I fell a little bit in love with this city.