In August I went on a roadtrip to Durham and Newcastle with Danielle, one of my besties. She ‘s from that part of the world, so I had the loveliest weekend with my friend AND tourguide! We set off from rainy Rugby with enough car snacks to feed an army, and made a quick pitstop at Wetherby Services – better known as ‘Where The South Meets The North’.
We made it to Durham after dark, parked the car in what seemed like a parking-lot-maze and checked into the Premier Inn. Car snacks only keep you going for so long, so we quickly set off in search of some food. My friend had looked up – and really wanted to try – the Fat Hippo, but as it was almost 9pm, food service was closed. This appeared the case in most places, so in the end we wandered back towards the area around Millenium Square and made use of the last 15 minutes to order food at Nando’s. Despite being quite tired I’m glad Danielle convinced me to go to the bar underneath Nando’s, The Bishop’s Mill, and be reminded me of what going out in the UK is like.
We woke up to sunny weather on Saturday and set off to Riverview Kitchen for breakfast. It’s tucked in a little side street and is such a lovely little place! You have great views over the river and with it being a dog-friendly café we were surrounded by giant dogs and the cutest puppies in no time. If that wasn’t enough, their pancakes were glorious and the staff were very friendly. Definitely worth a visit!
With our bellies full we crossed the bridge over the river and wandered around the shopping area. With a pancake sugar-high we decided to take a look at the cathedral. We were doubting a bit whether or not to pay the entry and go in, but writer Bill Bryson (check out his books!) recommends it, so we did. Once inside Danielle remembered they shot some of the Harry Potter films in the cathedral. So fan-girling was mandatory, obviously.
We explored the little market and also popped into the indoor market. We then left quaint Durham for Newcastle, with a little detour via the Angel of the North.
I had seen pictures of Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North, but it’s quite impressive to park up and stand right next to it. You then have to walk away from it againto take a selfie AND fit it in, just saying. Next up: Newcastle! Driving into Newcastle over the Tyne bridge is a very cool experience, I must say. There are just so many bridges to look at! The quayside is really cool, and we booked ourselves a room in the Quayside Travelodge, so quite convenient.
We parked up and with it being too early to check in we went for a wander along the quays. We crossed the Gateshead Millennium Bridge (even saw it move, though not entirely sure why as there weren’t any big boats in sight) and went up to the observation deck in the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art for a view of the city. The Mick Peter exhibition was cool, but some of the other stuff was a bit too modern and far-fetched for our liking.
We decided to loop and cross the river again over the next bridge. But when we got there we saw this hipster collection of foodtrucks in containers called HWKRMRKT, so we decided to check it out. The pancakes had sustained us for quite a while, but with all the delicious smells of the food we were easily convinced to have some lunch. But what to pick? In the end we went for Grumpy Panda Food, an accidental vegan option but very yummy, and of course some cider. And I kid you not: the sun even came out!
Time to explore the city centre! We walked UP one of the hills and stumbled across this random parade! There was a massive amount of people, with Team GB and musicians in procession, overall a really exciting vibe. It turned out this was the opening parade for the World Transplant Games and we found ourselves at the very alphabetical end of it. So being Belgian I had the sudden urge to go find and cheer on the Belgian team! It turned into a bit of a mission – though a very fun one – and several blocks later we found them and got them to pose for our pictures!
At this point we had made our way to the opposite side of the centre and with all the chasing of the parade, drinks were definitely in order. Another opportunity to channel our inner hipsters presented itself at Stack – one very cool pop-up place – made out of stacked containers. We went upstairs, bought ourselves a drink and enjoyed the cover band that was performing.
We checked into a Travelodge and got ready, because you cannot go to Newcastle without a night out! Or so Geordie Shore tells us. We got dressed up and went for some pizza and cocktails! Danielle took me to Colonel Porter’s Emporium, which was very quirky and served us some classy-looking cocktails. Then we put our heels to work and headed up the street to Flares to dance! Our feet were less happy to walk all the way back a few hours later, but hey ho life is tough.
It was hard to top the breakfast we had in Durham, but Violet’s made a very good effort! It was just so pretty! There is also a little market on the quayside so we explored a little bit and indulged the wave of nostalgia it gave us.
One more little trip before heading down South: Tynemouth! As you might guess this is where the Tyne river flows into the sea. We went for a short walk on the beach – which always looks idyllic but ends up being very tiring. The reward for it though was our lunch at Riley’s Fish Shack. Queueing was worth the wait and with a full stomach and a head full of freshly-made memories of the North, we set off for the drive back down South.