One of the best things about living in London is not just how easy it is to travel to cities in Europe but also within the country itself. When I studied in Spain, I was lucky enough to make some British friends from Newcastle. And so it was a perfect excuse for a trip up north.
Less than three hours from London Kings Cross Station by train, Newcastle upon Tyne or ‘the Toon’ as the locals call it, is a university town that has grown quite the reputation. Perhaps most popularised by the TV series Geordie Shore, the UK’s answer to Jersey Shore, Newcastle is a compact city is full of bars and clubs where you can get ‘mortal’ (wasted drunk) and the girls go out wearing next to nothing despite the freezing temperatures. It was actually my second visit to the Toon, visiting the same friends here some five years ago, so I had vague memories of all this before. In true Geordie style, we went to the notorious and aptly named club, Sinners, known for ‘trebles’ (triple shot drinks).
Like all things though, a second look and the passing of time will always reveal something more. The town lies on the river Tyne, which is where you will find the Tyne Bridge (almost a mini-me version of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge) and the Millennium Bridge – two icons of the city. It’s against this backdrop that you’ll really discover Newcastle in all its glory. We found a great deal on an AirBnB apartment right on the Quayside with a water view, if you are ever in Newcastle, a view of the Tyne is key to soak it all in. Here you’ll find the nicest places for a drink, runners zipping past on the walkways (although not so great to see when hungover) and markets that I visited on Sunday, where you can try some Northern delicacies like ‘pease pudding’ (a chickpea spread) or get your fortune told in a gypsy caravan.
Immersing yourself in the history is easy with sights like Newcastle Castle, which stands tall with incredible views of the city while walking around town and through its 1800s architecture will take you back in time. Known for its such buildings (but also the strip of bars and clubs) Grey Street is perhaps the most well-known area in all of Newcastle and marked by the Greys Monument at its Northern end, a 130ft column and statue that is a central meeting place for locals where you can go up for a bird’s eye view of the city. The history is also still echoed in the dialect of the people from Newcastle or ‘Geordies’ and its surroundings area that can be recognised by their broad accent, which is unique to the region. While all regions of the UK have their unique languages, the Georgie accent is really something to behold and can be difficult to understand at times – even if English is your first language (my friend admitted to changing her accent on the phone so ‘an Australian to understand’). Over the course of the weekend I learnt some new lingo (‘tab’ = cigarette, ‘aye’ = yes and ‘wey aye man’ = hell yes!) and that the term ‘Geordies’ itself is a derivative of the word ‘George’ due to the loyalty of the people to King George back in the day.
In contrast to the deep history is quite a vibrant modern Newcastle – shopping, restaurants and some quirky attractions like cat cafes (there are two!). Not the world’s biggest fan of cats, I was convinced to go to “Mog on the Tyne” (‘mog’ = cat) where I tried my best to enjoy a coffee and scone in the presence of some curious felines. As for the nightlife scene now, it’s still going strong but since my first visit it does seem that trebles are not so much the trend anymore. Besides the debauchery, what really sets Newcastle apart is the unique setting, history and people that captures your imagination… and so what if you find the time to have a wild night out on the Toon?