Newcastle Christmas Market

I haven’t been home for Christmas in a while, so not sure if this is a new thing or not, but very taken with the Christmas market around Grey Street. A lovely mix of food and gift stalls, it’s perfect for a browse on a winter’s eve, and though I am not sure of the weekday opening hours on a Thursday night it was bustling!

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A Miracle on Grey Street

So, I was in an incredible grump today that was proving hard to shift. Luckily when I emailed my friend M to see if she was willing to meet up and shake me out of my mood, she agreed. We went for dinner at the newly revamped Carluccios, but not before a wander around the Christmas market and a couple of drinks at festive pop up Miracle on Grey Street. The bar was a bit rammed, though the atmosphere was friendly, and they do an inventive array of cocktails alongside mulled wine and cider. I plumped for the vodka and prosecco Tinsel Toon while M had a rum-based baubles for all and a good time was had…

Drinks at the Botanist

The Botanist is one of the most striking bars in Newcastle – its glass dome part of the city skyscape, moments away from Grey’s Monument – it’s one of the loveliest buildings in the city.

The bar itself has never quite lived up to its potential for me. The first time I went my friends and I accidentally sat in the restaurant bit, and the staff were slightly snotty about what was an honest mistake, which made me less than well inclined to the place.

Tonight was much better – the staff were friendly, though it was busy (I still can’t get used to the fact that after-work drinks in Newcastle start at 5). But it remains a hard place to warm to for me – striking and stylish, but without the buzz or atmosphere I want in my pubs. That said, it is stunning, so worth a visit…

Windows and Central Arcade

Newcastle is full of architectural beauties, and you usually don’t have to wander far to find them. Central Arcade – less than a minute away from Monument Metro and right next to Grey’s Monument – is one such delight.

Home to an array of boutiques as well as chains such as Space NK, Starbucks and Scribbler, it also boasts one of Newcastle’s oldest music shops, Windows (JG Windows, to give it its full name, by which no one ever calls it). It’s been there over 100 years! I remember it well from my youth – the shop where every boy you crushed on bought his first guitar – so I found myself oddly pleased to see such an institution still going strong. Do visit, if you are in town.

It’s a beautiful town

One thing people often forget about Newcastle is just how lovely it is. The majesty of the bridges, the silver ripples of the Sage. ‘Grey’s quarter’ is an effort to reclaim recognition for some of the most pleasing architecture in the country, and as I was walking back to the Monument from my aunt’s last night, belly full of pizza and heart full of love after many welcome-back hugs, it struck me how lucky I was to be here.

(If you want to check out some, um, much better pictures of the city, I highly recommend checking out my friend Simon Lowe’s photos. He does some gorgeous pics of the North East and surrounding countryside.)

The strange beauty of Byron burgers

I have been in Bryon a couple of times in the last few weeks. I’m not a fan of burgers – a vegetarian with a nut allergy, I can’t get myself excited by a bean pattie or a mushroom – but their halloumi fries are tasty, and there’s no solo dining snobbishness. I eat alone a lot, so resent being relegated to a table by the toilets even in a quiet restaurant: every time I have been to Byron they have been more than happy for me to have one of the window booths, if it’s not busy – ideal for me, as it allows me to people watch *and* read my Kindle.

But it’s a place that will always have a place in my heart, because it’s actually one of the loveliest buildings in the city. Not only does the facade benefit from the architecture for which Grey Street is rightly famous, much of the interior remains. It was an odd fit for the previous incarnation (an H&M that never made convincing use of the old-fashioned space), though to me it will always recall the Waterstones it used to be – back when Newcastle could not only support two branches in the same city, but across the road from one another. I like to think going in there to read is keeping the spirit alive…