NewcastleGateshead may not be the first place that you think of when you think about a weekend break with your Mr or Mrs, but this northern city actually works to your advantage.
As darkness descends the streets are filled with groups of blokes cheering and jostling with each other. Giggling swarms of girls dressed in feather boas and little else fill the other streets. Bouncers stand outside the plush cocktail bars and trendy drink lounges ready to either reel them with their friendly banter or to steady them as they sway past. Voted seventh best city in the world for night life in the TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Awards 2010, it’s not surprising that near enough everyone wants to party here.
However, as soon as the clock hits 8am the very same streets are transformed into a calm stillness. Rising from your slumber, no doubt in one of the many convenient central hotels, you step out hand in hand in search of breakfast.
Competition for the first meal of the day is high. Quay Ingredient is highly recommended on TripAdvisor, yet the noisy (and messy) seagulls that line the overhead bridge certainly make you question whether you’ve turned up to the right place. Stepping inside, the travel inspired decor and tiny space make you feel like you’re visiting a close friend’s pad for breakfast. With limited tables, and small ones at that, it’s definitely geared up for a lazy couples brekkie.
Specialising in fresh homemade (the sour dough is divine), Olive & Bean serves a great cappuccino. With free wifi and a cabinet full of sweet treats, it’s a great spot to fuel up for your alternative couples weekend. Boiled eggs and sour dough soldiers, as well as the Eggs Benedict go down well. The breakfast dessert of Rocky Road provides the finishing touch. Obviously.
Back out in the northern air, you enjoy a leisurely stroll admiring the Georgian architecture. The hen parties and stags are clearly nursing hangovers so you have the city’s pretty buildings all to yourself. It’s quiet and peaceful, so you cuddle up on the bench to admire the views. You follow the cobbles down to the river, snapping pictures of the bridges, glittering Sage…and even the temporary beach on Quayside.
Walking over the Gateshead Millennium Bridge you head straight to the BALTIC 39 for a browse of the contemporary art on offer (including the quirky gift shop). Although tempted by the views and talks of afternoon tea, still full from breakfast you skip Six at Baltic on this occasion in favour of a walk to The Biscuit Factory.
Contrary to thoughts of Hobnobs (chocolate ones of course), this former warehouse showcases an eclectic mix of artists’ work. From moody sketches to adorable greeting cards, you compare favourites and laugh over the pink flamingos.
A few hours have passed which justifies the need to stop at one of the many stylish cafes for a bite to eat. Style seems to be second nature to the cafes in this city regardless of where they sit. You’d never guess that the pretty Garden Kitchen was tucked away in a multi-storey shopping centre. Miniature wooden picnic benches adorned with sandwiches and cakes certainly make for a sweet afternoon tea. Alternatively, out near Grainger Market, Cafe Royal is a popular spot. You find a table for two out on the terrace and indulge in an excessive amount of people watching, noticing that near enough every table has a bottle of wine. Clearly good times in Newcastle.
By now the partying groups are returning to the streets, a little bleary eyed, but still up for a laugh. You bypass them by heading to China Town. You gawk at the interesting flavours of bubble teas and walk under the lanterns, through this quiet neighbourhood.
Making the most of the compactness of the city you arrive at the Life Science Centre and visit the BODY WORLD Vital exhibition. You point and whisper as you make your way round the exposed bodies and preserved organs, feeling intrigued and curious rather than scared. The exhibition is one of a kind and is certainly the most educational part of your weekend.
After a brief rest, you’re dressed up ready for date night. You momentarily feel underdressed next to the hens and stags, but judging by your date’s smile you soon return to feeling happily at ease. You enjoy a meal down by the river, enjoying the fact that there are hardly any other couples so you get the perfect table for two in the corner. You order the Puglian wine and reminisce about your Italian adventures.
All too soon hours have passed and it’s time to head back to your hotel. You take the more scenic route home to enjoy the dancing lights on the bridge and the twinkling stars (and perhaps the chance to walk hand in hand again).
Have you been to this city? What’s your favourite spot? What other destinations would you recommend? X
Big thanks to NewcastleGateshead initiative for hosting me.