A Weekend in Newcastle Upon Tyne
Newcastle, home of the geordie in a region of England close to my heart. I’ve been trying to plan a trip to the North East for a while, ever since I bid farewell to my home in Sunderland back in 2013 actually, and finally I made it.
Arriving late Friday night the plan was to go straight to bed so we were fully refreshed for the next day. But we’re talking about the centre of Newcastle here, a place plentiful in nighttime entertainment and clubs. Jump ahead half an hour and we’re in Revolution drinking cocktails in our day clothes. Solid effort, and totally acceptable. It’s not all parties, but the nightlife is certainly an attractive draw.
Returning to the hotel at a respectable 1am, we bunkered down ready for the day ahead. Now, there are several different ways to spend a day in Newcastle. We opted for shopping, happening across a Lunar New Year parade in Eldon Square’s shopping centre and a stuntman performing dangerous jumps for crowds of mesmerised onlookers in the street. We also had a pit stop at a cool little spot in the city called Stack, an open air courtyard with live music, heaters, picnic tables and several food and drink options.
But if shopping isn’t your bag, you can head over to The Gate for fun activities like crazy golf, arcades, cinema, the lot, have a walk by the quayside, visit the tiny castle or cathedral, hop on a river boat cruise (summer months only), or even take the train to a neighbouring town such as Durham, which is really a rather pretty spot in it’s own right.
After buying a little too much shopping for our luggage space and walking for hours, we retired early to prepare for the main event, for what would be one of my best Saturday nights in a long time. Donning our makeup, jewellery and dresses, it was time to visit the stunningly beautiful Theatre Royal for a showing of popular stage musical Mamma Mia.
Walking into the theatre is like a breath of fresh air if you’re used to large arenas or other types of function room style places. Rich, red carpets set the tone for the intricate woodwork and gold accented stone sculpting that decorate the building’s walls and ceilings. Wide stone steps lead you to multiple floors, and when you get through to your plush velvet seats you’ll find yourself in a smallish crescent, cosy and grand, just like you’d traditionally expect. And as for the show, well, it’s a definite must-see.
Varying only slightly from the 2008 film of the same name, the story follows Sophie’s distress after inviting her three potential fathers to her wedding, and includes all the most iconic scenes in a wonderfully fun and engaging fashion. The vocal talent is excellent and the staging and set transitions sleek and streamlined for a seamless experience. By the end of the performance almost the entire audience was up on their feet dancing and singing along to some final musical numbers, the atmosphere infectiously joyful and electric. A testament I suppose to what a great evening was on offer.
On a total high, we shuffled outside and dipped right into Popworld for a bit of cheesy tuneage from our childhoods and a good old party. And it was, in a word, phenomenal. Though busy in the beginning, the crowd soon began to fizzle out a little, making it much more bearable – and it wasn’t jam packed with teenagers. Popworld is just one of a whole host of bars in the centre of the city, whether much loved chains or independent venues. And on a Saturday you’ll be in good company whichever you choose.
Newcastle is a very walkable city with several of its attractions concentrated in one area, but if you are planning a visit just be aware of the fact that it is very hilly and in some parts cobbled. There are some slightly steep routes, especially if you have to travel between the quayside and the centre, but anyone with a reasonable level of fitness should be able to manage it.
The people are generally very friendly and willing to help you out if you’re lost or have a question.
If you visit on a Sunday, you can check out Quayside Market for every cuisine and handcraft you can think of.
And most importantly, the local Wilkos store has a cafe!