Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A jaunt to Newcastle with #Bloggerlodge

I have long adored the city of Newcastle.  While doing my teaching PGCE in Durham it was the nearest big city, and I spent many happy weekends in Newcastle, making the short hop across on the train to head out to the theatre, or the shops, or the clubs of Newcastle.  Fast forward a few years and I fell in love with a man from the north-east, and Newcastle was back in my life in a big way!  I visit several times a year and it's where Matthew's family are based, but it had been a good long while since I'd visited the city solo.

Until last week.

The lovely Chloe from Talented Talkers had dropped me an email last month, asking if I'd like to visit a city and have my hotel stay provided by Travelodge.  When I saw the list of cities (so many great options and I've read really fun write ups on Bournemouth, Birmingham, Liverpool....), for me it had to be Newcastle.  What a fun way to revisit a favourite city.

I do like a Travelodge, I must confess.  I also like an Aria suite, a Malmaison, a Premier Inn...don't you just love the luxury/budget/middle of the road mix?  I love the range of accommodation available and how different hotels are perfect for different breaks.  In this case the Newcastle Central Travelodge was perfect for my plans to catch up with friends and family, explore a little of the city, do a bit of Christmas shopping....and sleep an awful lot!

 Even though I travel a lot, sometimes I still find myself packing the morning of...

One of the great things about Newcastle is how easy it is to travel to by train - jump on at Kings Cross and in a few hours you are in the heart of Newcastle.  I had a very jolly journey reading my Kindle, watching downloaded shows, noting down a few post ideas and generally relaxing.

Once in Newcastle it was a fifteen minute bimble down to the Quayside to find the hotel.  It was a beautiful, crisp November day, so I took the chance to take in the lovely views and take a few snaps.  Here's the famous Tyne Bridge from a rather different angle!

Check in was swift and speedy and I was soon in my lovely big king size room.  It was the usual Travelodge arrangement - clean, roomy, neat and comfortable.  There's a lot to be said for knowing what to expect.  What was unexpected was being able to glimpse the famous bridge from my room - a lovely touch!

Once I was all unpacked, I headed around to the Bridge Tavern to meet my friend Jo for dinner. I'd heard good things about the pub and thought it was a nice spot to meet for a girly dinner and a good catch up.  Jo and I taught together for three years here in London before she relocated to the north-east.  Her husband Alan has opened a fabulous pub in Hexham, The Heart of Northumberland.  Whenever I'm in the Newcastle vicinity we try to get together.

I had the venison burger for dinner - SO good!  The chips were also splendid, as were the brownies we enjoyed for pudding.  Apologies for the slightly fuzzy image - low light made for a lovely cosy ambience but poorer pictures.

Such a lovely spot for a dinner together.  I loved getting to hear all Jo's news in person!

After bidding Jo farewell I went for a walk along the quayside.  At the weekends this part of town can get a little lively, but on a Monday evening it was calm and chilled.  It was quite moving to see the Millennium Bridge lit up in the tricolore to remember the victims of the Paris attacks a few days beforehand.

After my walk I went to the store for supplies and then curled up in bed with treats, magazines and the news.  The bed was really comfortable and I wound up sleeping for ten hours solid!  I rarely get the chance to do so at home, so this was one of the highlights of the trip.

A big day requires a big breakfast.  I love places like Travelodge where you can pick and choose your options.  On the Tuesday (pictured above) I was ravenous, whereas on the Wednesday I stuck to yogurt and toast.

Another lovely walk along the river, and the Sage looking lovely in the late autumn sunshine!

That street art walk really comes in handy - I can spot it everywhere and anywhere now!

I spent a great morning looking at some of the sights - I popped into Newcastle Castle, had a wee look in at the Life Centre, and then headed off to the Lit and Phil, which had to be one of the highlights of my trip.

The Literary and Philosophical Society is a true Newcastle gem.  A stone's throw from the train station is a building crammed with books, magazines and research materials.  I couldn't believe that despite visiting the city for over a dozen years I had never been!  I wanted to curl up here and write for hours.  I took lots of photos which will probably make a whole new post when I get them from my other camera.  If you are of a literary bent, you must visit!

After bidding farewell to the Lit and Phil, I headed into town to meet my sister-in-law, Elly, and our two niecelets.  I love being an auntie, so am always up for niece time!  We had a nice time doing a little shopping and then went to the Botanist for lunch.  I went for the 'double-starters-instead-of-a-main' option and enjoyed a lovely goats cheese tart and some fair calamari.

Late lunch done with we drove over to Elly & Nick's for some family time, and spent the rest of the day chatting, playing, and generally having a ball.  One of the great things about Newcastle is it's quick Metro system - once it was time for the niecelets to head to bed and me to head back in to town it was so simple to jump on the train and be back in the city centre in no time!

On Wednesday before I checked out I had one more job to do....a few of my friends had sent me this buzzfeed piece and had highlighted the Newcastle option for next time I visited.  Always one to oblige where possible when it comes to my gorgeous friends, I bimbled down to the Great British Cupcakery and enjoyed one for the team.  SO good, and so impossible to eat anything afterwards for ten hours!  The salted caramel delight above was £5, remarkably easy to deconstruct and enjoy, and so yummy.  Well worth a try, but I'm very glad it's several hundred miles away...or we'd have a problem.

Full, happy, and exquisitely well rested I headed back to say goodbye to the hotel and to get to the station.  I had a splendid time in Newcastle and found the Travelodge a good base for my northern adventures.  Thank you for having me!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Very London Christmas

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has meet me / read this blog / spotted me in the middle distance during the month of December to learn that I adore Christmas.  I always have (a running family joke has me as being part elf).  I've already written about my Christmas preparations here on the blog, shown off my card crafting attempts, and am running a giveaway of my favourite Christmas films.  And it's only November.

The Christmas spirit is strong in this one.  I really must remember to add a 'Christmas' category to the options above.

This year, for the sixth year running, Matthew and I will be Christmassing at home here in London.  The first year we did so we got snowed in by one of the worst winter snows the south of England had seen in decades.  Instead of flying up to Scotland to spend some time with my side of the family, instead we were faced with a last minute dash for provisions and then a cosy Christmas a deux.  The two years after that, work kept us down south; and now with the trio of trouble going away is not an option.  We do on occasion have guests for the season, but most of the time it's the two of us for the day itself.

One of the huge upsides to this is the fact that I get to have such fun in London at this special time of year, so today I wanted to share some of my favourite London things to do over the Christmas period.  Some of them I've already namechecked in my A Very British Christmas piece for FOCUS magazine, and others came up on the 'Wine With Friends' podcast I contributed to....others are gems I'm writing up now!  Do let me know if you wind up trying any of these, or if you have other suggestions for me to add to the list.

First up for me has to be a great panto.  There's something so quintessentially British about a panto mine (oh yes there is!).  I've already seen my first of the season (an am dram effort my friend was in), but am looking forward to my yearly trip to the Hackney Empire to see their show: it's always brilliant!  This year they are doing Jack and the Beanstalk and I'm sure it's going to be fab.

Speaking of fun, silly, very British traditions, the annual Christmas Pudding Race in Covent Garden has to be seen to be believed.

Ice skating is a highlight for many over the winter break.  I am an awful ice skater but very much enjoy sipping a hot chocolate on the side whilst others enjoy themselves!  There are super rinks at Somerset House, the Natural History Museum, Broadgate Circle in the City, and the Tower of London.

St Paul's is always a beautiful place to visit, but at Advent/Christmas time I always find it even more special.  There are events and services you can attend throughout the season.

Something I'm longing to try this year for the first time is the Ski Lodge at the Montague Hotel.  Snow, schnapps and hot chocolate, all in the centre of town!

I'm a huge fan of The Prince Charles Cinema and their Christmas showings are brilliant - so many favourites on the big screen!  From Elf to Home Alone to Die Hard, there's so much fun to enjoy.

A look at some of the Christmas lights in town is always a treat.  Bond Street, Regents Street and Oxford Street are all currently festooned with shining baubles and lights.  It's very Love Actually.  A great way to take in a lot of these lights is to hop on a 159 bus at Marble Arch - it'll take you all the way along Oxford Street to Oxford Circus, then down Regents Street too!  It's always worth heading over to Covent Garden too for some beautiful decorations and lights.

I've heard wonderful things about Christmas at Kew, a mile long trail of sparkling lights amongst the stunning botanical gardens.  It's a little far from us but I might see if we can trek over one evening.

A festive afternoon tea is a wonderful treat.  I'd love to go to the one at Claridge's, with their Christopher Bailey for Burberry designed Christmas tree and carols at the weekend, or to sip tea while listening to a children's choir at The Dorchester.

For a different thing to do over the festive season, I think Hidden City's Bright Lights Evening Trail would be a fun undertaking with a few friends. Sparkling lights, a few drinks, and a bit of competition?  How festive!

The Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park has recently opened and for many Londoners is a festive must-see.  The UK's largest ice rink, Christmas Markets, and fun galore.  I've still yet to go, which is remiss of me, given my Christmas mania...

For a little history, Christmas at the Dickens Museum has much to offer.  The man wrote A Christmas Carol, for heaven's sake.

A walk in one of London's many parks is a great idea on a chilly winter's day.  Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park are a few of my favourites at this time of year; we often go for a good leg-stretch on Christmas Day itself!

The choir of King's College Chapel Cambridge do some performances in the city during the festive season - on Wednesday 16th you can see them in concert at the Royal Albert Hall. What a lovely way to mark the season.  I'm also hoping to get across to enjoy Carols By Candlelight on Christmas Eve - what a splendid way to start the festivities!

The beautiful church of St Martin-in-the Fields, right on the edge of Trafalgar Square, runs a lovely selection of Christmas services and performances.  They also have lovely decorations and gifts available in their shop, and yummy offerings in their super cafe downstairs.

What a glorious city we have to enjoy!

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Christmas Claire

Christmas Claire

About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, the home & travel, and a lotmore besides. Let's dish!

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  • November 2015 - Gran Canaria
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