A day trip to Edinburgh

After three weeks without a day off, I finally had some downtime, and headed up to Edinburgh to meet my friend K, who I haven’t seen in years. Edinburgh is only an hour and a half away from Newcastle – and the East Coast train takes you along some of the country’s most beautiful coastline, so it’s a pleasurable as well as a fast trip. The plan was that we would have lunch, do some culture, then have some cocktails before I headed back. And… we managed most of that. You can probably guess which bit got dropped…

I haven’t been to Edinburgh in years – last time was to do some research for A Vampire in Edinburgh, during my unfortunate homeless stint, when two of my Glasgow friends let me stay there when they were on holiday, so I took advantage to do a day trip to the city. I had forgotten quite how gorgeous it is – all those dramatic cliffs!

We started off with a wee wander round the Old Town. Edinburgh Press Club looked promising but we were too late for breakfast, and none of the sarnies appealed, so we settled for coffee then wandered some more. We had planned to do Mary King’s Close but were put off by the cost (nearly £16!) so had a wander around a nearby church instead. Lunch was a couple of wraps at old-school vegetarian cafe Hendersons, which had been much recommended to me, and after that we felt we could justify a cocktail.

I missed my chance to go to the new Ivy in Brighton – it opened just before I left – so was keen to try the Ivy on the Square. K and I are both fans of espresso martinis so started with them. Well-made by the charming and friendly barman, they were very rich and accompanied by a choice of syrups to choose your own (I plumped for Creme Brulee, K – more wisely – Amaretto). After that I plumped for something lighter – a champagne based drink – and then we decided that some shopping was in order.

A quick wander round Jenners and Harvey Nichols followed – while I love the architecture of Jenners, I found HN a bit bland, though I did buy some fancy pasta and a notebook there, partly cos I wanted to buy something. (K bought a Count Gracula garlic crusher, which looked enormous fun). We rounded off the day with cocktails at The Refinery, then headed back to the Ivy for chips and a last drink before I caught the train home – a fantastic day out, and home before 10? I could get used to this…

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Back at Stack

Yesterday I popped into Stack Newcastle, as I had heard there was a branch of Love of the North there and wanted to check it out. It’s teeny – 3 customers was a crowd – but has some gorgeous geeky Geordie goodies and I suspect I will be doing some of my Christmas shopping there.

Next door was a fine wines and gin shop called Fourteen Drops that I also plan to check out properly when I am doing my festive shopping. It’s also small – though there were tables at the back so they must serve drinks or food – but stocks an interesting array of wines and gins that piqued my interest…

For the Love of the North

While I was in Monkseaton I couldn’t resist popping into a shop I have been dying to try, having followed them on Instagram for a while now. For The Love of the North is a super cute gift shop which also stocks a lot of geeky stuff with a Northern spin – my beloved Angel of the North Cyberman came from them, and today I got a lovely Star Wars pin. I could have quite happily bought the whole shop so a return visit is definitely on the cards…

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.

Geek quarter

Heading to see my aunt last night, I wandered along Grainger Street and discovered, to my joy, that what I fondly think of as the Geek Quarter (home of Travelling Man and Forbidden Planet) seems to have expanded since I last visited. A gift shop called Flying Wizard stocks a wealth of Harry Potter merch, alongside Star Wars, Game of Thrones and the like, and a shop/cafe called Geek Retreat is next to it: a venue that hosts games nights. I am tempted to buy a few notebooks, but refrain, promising myself a return visit.