One night in Newcastle
We pretty much crash landed into January - where it's cold and we're all broke and there's still months of darkness ahead (ah, London) - so you'll forgive me if I hang onto the pretty awesome Christmas break I had a little while longer. This year was my first of having the time off between Christmas and New Years since I've been in full time work. I'm pretty used to working those intensely quiet and boring days in between, so this year, as we were gifted all those days off, it felt like the long and relaxing reset I really needed. It also meant, Scott and I had a couple sweet days to take a trip up to Newcastle - both a fantastic city, and current home to one of my best friends Chiara.
Only catch is, the train journey is a bit of a killer at 4 hours between Birmingham (my home town, and base at Christmas) and Newcastle, so the fun and festivities had to be crammed into just 24 hours.
We arrived hungry and after dropping off our stuff at Chiara's totally dreamy loft - think exposed brickwork, huge windows and the kinda decor which is undeniably cool, kitch and still chic all at once (but that's Chiara) - we headed out to a little pop up restaurant along the Tyne. It turned out to be a kind of alpine themed kitchen/ bar with a select menu, in the kind of obscure sense that I've become accustomed to in London, but that is refreshing and interesting in cities like Newcastle. We ate delicious rostis with pulled pork and accidentally ordered double shots of straight gin, which we thought were cocktails, but turned out to go very nicely with hot apple juice.
Have you ever heard of Bongos Bingo? Well you should have - it's brilliant and also completely nuts. This was my first time, and was held at the very awesome Boiler Shop. The best way to describe it is a room full of intoxicated people waiting for a hilarious Northern bloke to call out bingo numbers, whilst 2 other blokes in dresses dance around and display the prizes to be won. These range from Coco Pops (which are then opened and made to 'rain') to the giant stuffed unicorn of my dreams (it wasn't meant to be) to cardboard cut outs (this holiday special was Macaulay Culkin) to just wads of cash. Oh and you also dance on the benches almost constantly whenever the host fancies - cue calling number 11 and 'Heaven' by DJ Sammy blasting out the speakers...
You make friends, you laugh, you dance, you maybe win, and your legs hurt by the end. It's brilliant, they tour all over the country, and since they tried to recruit Scott as one of the dancers, you might catch him at the Clapham events.
Newcastle, despite it's Geordie Shore rep, has become one of my favourite UK cities - it's got some stunning architecture, hidden quirks, cool pop ups and great food. The venues too have always surprised me - after the beautiful space of the Boiler Shop, we moved onto an awesome little hidden gem No 28 in the centre of town. The wallpaper immediately made me fall in love with the place (banana leaf everything please) and the drinks made me stick around. In true Newcastle style, it was pretty loud and rowdy, but full of energy so the perfect continuance to our night.
In the morning it started snowing - it was so calming and perfect watching it fall in the outside world whilst Chiara made us some real Italian coffee, I thought I could have stayed there forever. But then the hangover hunger got the better of us and we headed out into the snow for the perfect foodie cure at The Bridge Tavern.
We then took a stroll to one of Chiara's favourite features of Newcastle, The Vampire Rabbit (yes you read that correctly). There is little to no explanation, but a few theories, for why there is a vampire looking rabbit complete with fangs perched above a doorway since 1901 facing the back of St Nicholas Cathedral. It's said to be an original feature of the building, perhaps initially a sandy colour but now painted black with red fangs and claws. I like the idea that its purpose was to scare off grave robbers, but it may just be a hare with its ears stuck on backwards - either way, its pretty weird and wonderful, and worth the trip. You can read a little more about it here and here.
A short walk through the snowy toon and our 24 hours were up. Newcastle, you were grand - and really bloody cold - but Scott and I had our own mini (and second) Christmas to get back to. Cue a few hours of snowy landscape flying past our train window. Ignore the rep, and embrace what this place has to offer - if you can get yourself to Newcastle, even for just 24 hours, you should.