City Break – Newcastle

Visiting your Student in Newcastle.

Ever been to Newcastle? I hadn’t until my daughter decided to go to Newcastle University. People had told me what a great city it was but, hindered by a shameful “it’s grim up north” attitude I hadn’t ever stirred myself to see.
Surprise! My every prejudice overturned, I found a strikingly beautiful city, a Northern, chunkier version of Bath:

Friendly, easy to get around,newcastlekate3

art galleries:

Lovely shopping area, especially the arcade and Grainger street Market:

Great restaurants and bars… well I could go on. Just go and see for yourself.
I’ve recently been back for another visit, ostensibly to see our daughter. But, I have to confess, I was also drawn by a great desire to stay in one of those hotels perched high above the River Tyne, with the most fabulous views (yes, it is the stuff of fables).
Our usual place to stay in Newcastle is much more prosaic but also a great find for visiting parents on a tight budget.
In Jesmond. Close to the student area, so you can keep a close eye on your child for a while, or at least maintain that illusion. A good budget option a brilliant Persian restaurant downstairs. The street outside is busy at night as it’s a popular night out for the local students (yes, including possibly your own child, but let’s not dwell on that), so if you need quiet, you might like to look a little further away.
This time, however, I’d found a last minute, half price deal, on booking.com. It ticked the right boxes: view over the Tyne, close to the station (I was arriving by train), and close to the centre for shopping and eating. And next door to the medieval castle for added atmosphere:newcastlekate8

So this time I went for the Vermont hotel, Newcastle, and didn’t regret it
Of course, my half price deal at £62 wasn’t going to get me the fabulous view from my window, but you could get it from the rooftop bar:newcastlekate9

A retro art deco exterior (Solid Newcastle style):newcastlekate10

Flashy bars for a Newcastle night out on the town ( you dress up here!)newcastle11

Dark, but comfortable room.newcastlekate12

Mine had a view of the railway arches, but I sort of expected that. And wasn’t bothered by railway noise; the trains creep past here.
Where to eat?

The daughter had come up with a few tried and tested options – we like the Marco Polo nearby in Dean Street, but this time, the daughter needed cheering up after her exams, so we something that sounded fun, and came recommended by daughter and niece: we walked over to Chinatown to meet some more of our family and got ourselves a table at the Japanese and tepanyaki place Hanahana. This is not restrained and elegant Japanese: it’s bold and brash oriental and your spirits rise as you enter. You’re definitely going to have a good time here!
When I say table, well if you opt for the tepanyaki (and you should!) it’s more combined table and grill. Start with drinks in the bar while you look as the menu and make your choice. We chose the Zenzai set banquet, and had to wait a little longer for the table area to be available, but it was worth the wait. We had the great fortune to share a table with a group of Geordies with the best line in banter that I’ve come across in a long while.
Seating is round the edge of the cooking space. Along came our personal chef to preside over our meal. So we sat back and enjoyed the entertainment: marvelled at his dexterity as he swished and flipped, conjuring up little piles of egg fried rice, sizzling prawns, and tasty sauces. He even had a few juggling tricks. Yes, with eggs! And audience participation allowed, with Geordie heckling. Only for the brave.

So what could we do to top that? Well of course back to the hotel for a shivering drink on the rooftop terrace to admire the bright lights of the Tyne. Splendid but cold – even the locals were wearing coats, and they are famous for braving the cold in, well, scanty, clothing.

Connie stayed at:

http://www.vermonthotelnewcastleupontyne.com/
And ate at:
http://www.hanahananewcastle.com/
More info:
http://www.newcastlegateshead.com/

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