MY HUSBAND and I were looking forward to our trip to Newcastle, but the start of our three-day break didn’t bode well.
To begin with, all train services south of Aberdeen were delayed on our day of travel. As a result, we missed our train to Newcastle.
My stress levels were up a notch by the time we arrived, but arrive we did – admittedly a few hours later than we had planned.
We had no problem getting a taxi from the station, despite it being a busy Saturday afternoon, and as we drove, the driver told us our chosen accommodation for the three-night break at the Malmaison Hotel in Newcastle-Gateshead’s Quayside was “canny” (I love Geordie accents).
United by seven bridges across a spectacular riverscape, Newcastle (a city on the north bank of the River Tyne) and Gateshead (a town on the south bank) form a single, diverse and extremely vibrant visitor destination.
The Quayside is a spectacular area day and night with the iconic Gateshead Millennium Bridge, the world’s first and only tilting bridge, linking Newcastle and Gateshead for pedestrians and cyclists.
Antony Gormley’s striking Angel of the North welcomes travellers to the area, which was recently named “hipster” capital of the north in the influential Lonely Planet Great Britain Travel guidebook, and the area is packed with award-winning restaurants, fantastic attractions and a varied retail offering – which I was keen to see for myself.
Our stroll led us to Grainger Town, the Georgian quarter of the city – a fantastic place for a spot of retail therapy.
I could see the look of panic cross my husband’s face, but decided not to scare him too much and opted for a spot of window shopping instead.
The streets are home to a range of flagship stores including Reiss, Jigsaw, French Connection, Kurt Geiger, Office and Dune. Vivienne Westwood even has a flagship store there.
That evening, we ventured out to Cafe 21 in the heart of the Quayside for our meal. It was a relief we had booked a table as it was packed.
There were so many delicious dishes on the varied menu we took time to make our final decision – cheese and spinach souffle followed by fishcakes on a bed of spinach for me, and a platter of meats followed by steak for my husband.
Our meals did not disappoint, and as tempting as the sweets sounded, we were too full to sample any (we couldn’t even share one) and made our way back to the hotel for an early night.
Awaking bright and breezy, we made our way to the hotel dining room for breakfast. Unfortunately, everyone had had the same idea and there was a backlog of hungry guests waiting to be fed.
As staff couldn’t give an indication of when we would be served, we opted to eat elsewhere, and even had time to wander around the Quayside market, which takes place every Sunday. The vibrant and varied stalls include everything from art, jewellery, food and fashion.
The second day, we set out to find out what the prominent building across the water was. On closer inspection we discovered the converted 1950s grain house was The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.
Today it houses five galleries offering a changing programme of contemporary art exhibitions, and we spent the morning browsing each floor, viewing the weird and wonderful exhibitions.
We liked the look of the rooftop restaurant and booked to have our evening meal there that night.
Friends had recommended a trip to Jesmond Dene House, a hidden haven of tranquility just outside the city centre, so we took their advice and visited for afternoon tea. The selection of bite-size sandwiches, scones and cakes was delicious, and we enjoyed a stroll around the picturesque grounds afterwards before making our way back to our hotel to get ready for more food.
We returned to the Baltic centre for our evening meal and I can highly recommend a trip to the stunning rooftop restaurant Six@Baltic – not only is the food fantastic, but the views are brilliant too.
We got some of the best seats in the house to finish off our drinks, looking out across the quayside, before heading back to the hotel for bed. After all, we had a train to catch the next day – and I had everything crossed our journey would be hassle-free.
I’m very glad to report that all went well.
Newcastle-Gateshead becomes a winter wonderland for all the family during the festive season when you’ll find Enchanted Parks, Christmas markets, festive panto and a mystical New Year’s Eve carnival during the area’s annual Winter Festival. To find out more visit www.newcastle gateshead.com
Malmaison Newcastle has a bar, brasserie, cafe, spa, gym, 122 super-slinky rooms and a selection of superior suites ideal for a special treat before Christmas. Visit www.malmaison.com/ hotels/newcastle to take full advantage of the special offers available at the hotel.
East Coast Trains advance return fares from Aberdeen to Newcastle can be booked online with prices starting from £20.70 for Standard Class or £60.50 for First Class. Book via www.eastcoast.co.uk or call 08457 225225.