One of the things I love most about being a blogger in Geordieland is helping people discover the best of what this fabulous region has to offer. I’ve often thought that maybe because I didn’t grow up in NewcastleGateshead, I somehow have a deeper appreciation for what’s around me than those who have lived here their whole lives. In fact, just the other day I pointed out the beautiful stained glass windows above a mobile phone shop on Northumberland Street to a Geordie friend who must have walked past them thousands of times without a second glance.
As well as inspiring locals to be tourists in their own towns I also get great satisfaction from welcoming visitors from further afield, so imagine my excitement when I discovered that this years travel bloggers conference, Traverse, was to be held in my beloved Geordieland!
On the 22nd February, travel bloggers from across the globe descended on the Sage Gateshead to hear seminars from experts in video, photography, journalism, marketing, SEO and of course, blogging! I knew the attendees would be super savvy when it came to checking out what the area had to offer so I felt a little nervous about their arrival and just hoped they’d love it here as much as I do!
I needn’t have worried, even before Traverse got underway, Twitter started to go crazy with positive opinions and stunning photos which I was able to keep up with using the various hashtags that had been created for the weekend, #TyneisNow, #Traverse14 and #GoNewcastle. I felt so proud as I read the hundreds of tweets throughout the weekend and quite smug about the fact that I get to call this place my home!
On the day of the conference, the quayside was illuminated by a beautiful, bright (even if not so hot) sun and the whole area was a hive of activity, there were even people bungee jumping over the Tyne! I had a great day meeting lots of lovely bloggers and hearing about their plans for the weekend, if they didn’t have any before they spoke to me, they certainly did by the time I finished bending their ears!
I even persuaded a few people to share their thoughts on camera and as I listened to the well travelled bloggers talk about the impression Geordieland had made on them it confirmed my belief that this little corner of England has as much to offer (if not more) as any far flung destination on the planet!
What was your first impression of NewcastleGateshead, has your opinion changed over the years or are you yet to visit Geordieland? Share your comments below…by Rachel Kershaw
With schools closed for half term I thought I would do something a little bit different on the blog this week. I invited local parents to give me their top tips on how to keep kids entertained in the North East. They’re the experts, so I knew they would have some great ideas to share.
However, I was quite surprised at how many people suggested heading to the beach, have they looked outside? I suppose Geordies aren’t the type to let a bit of wind and rain stand in the way of a day of family fun! Here are some of their best boredom busting ideas…
Brian Moore, radio presenter on Metro Radio and TFM suggests Tynemouth…
Helen Rogers lives in South Shields with her son Lucas, they love exploring the North East…
“My son Lucas and I love a trip to Beamish, you can spend a whole day wandering its historical cobbles and never get bored. He is a particular fan of jumping on the trams and I love a visit to the sweet shop for my favourite spearmint chews! We also love spending time in The Centre for Life in Newcastle, there is all sorts of gadgets to feed an inquisitive nature and it’s lots of fun for me to watch his inner Albert Einstein thrive! Being a South Shields girl if we are looking for something closer to home we head to Ocean Beach Pleasure Park but he hasn’t managed to get me on the roller coaster… YET!”
Mark Clancey lives in Tynmouth with his wife Sophie and their one year old daughter Izzy…
“We all enjoy a day out at Ouseburn Farm in Byker, I would definitely recommend it. Izzy loves all the animals, they have sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. On a practical note, it’s really accessible for buggies and it’s also free!”
Sharon Wrightson from Heaton has found the perfect way to entertain daughter Daisy…
“My daughter and I love going to Seven Stories. We’re so lucky to have the National Centre for Children’s Books on our doorstep. It’s great to disappear in to a world of adventure”
Gemma Breakingbury (AKA The Real Supermammy) blogs about family life with two kids…
Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas and photos for this week’s blog post, I hope you all have a fun filled week with your little ones! Further suggestions can be made in the comments box below and for more inspiration check out this handy guide put together by Newcastle Gateshead Initiative packed with some of the region’s best half term events: www.newcastlegateshead.com/things-to-do/whats-new/february-half-term-eventsby Rachel Kershaw
I’ll never forget my first experience of Chinese New Year in Geordieland, just a few weeks after I first moved to Fenham in 2006… I stumbled across a cookery demonstration in Nuns Moor Park and was offered a bowl of mouthwatering Chinese food, it was absolutely delicious! When I enquired why the food was generously being distributed and asked what all the colourful decorations were about I was told ‘Kung Hey Fat Choi’ which means Happy New Year in Chinese. If you’re heading to Newcastle this weekend you may hear this a lot!
As the Chinese community welcomes in the Year of the Horse, NewcastleGateshead is preparing for a day of celebrations around Stowell Street and China Town (one of only five China Towns in England!) on Sunday 9th February from 11am till 4pm. It promises to be a great day out for everybody!
Chinese-inspired events will include performances of the lion dance, traditional arts and crafts, interactive games and activities and of course, there’ll be lots of delicious oriental food and drink to sample! For full details of the days events click HERE
As well as the action packed party that’s planned for Sunday, there is also a wider programme events taking place right up until Valentine’s day, the NewcastleGateshead website has all the details – Enjoy!
by Rachel Kershaw
Working in the city centre of Newcastle means there’s no shortage of bars and restaurants to choose from for a mid-week treat! I recently paid a visit to Browns Bar & Brasserie on Grey Street after ditching the new year diet and invited my friend Zoe along to join me, she did not take much persuasion, especially once I had shown her the tempting a la carte menu! I’m so pleased Zoe said yes because as well as being great company, she also writes articles (for NE1 magazine no less!) so I knew she would understand when I insisted upon photographing our food before we tucked in, it’s the price you pay for being friends with a blogger!
Zoe and I were both impressed with the palatial surroundings of Browns, I’d visited the one in Leeds before which is rather grand and was glad to see that the Geordie addition to the chain’s portfolio measured up!
After ordering a couple of glasses of wine from the extensive wine list and deciding on starters from a choice of about eight different dishes, we had a good nosey around the restaurant. It was much busier than I expected it to be on a Wednesday night in January and I couldn’t help but stare at some of the fancy looking meals making their way from the kitchen to the tables around us. I got a sense of reassurance when I saw diners happily nodding with satisfaction as they took their first mouthfuls. Always a good sign! Rather than put them off their dinner by snapping away with my camera like some crazed papparazi I requested these interior shots from the restaurants PR agency so that I could share with you what Browns looks like inside…
After devouring our beautifully presented starters of roasted goat’s cheese (me) and asparagus with prosciutto (Zoe) we eagerly anticipated the arrival of our main courses and I definitely came out on top when they arrived. Don’t get me wrong, Zoe seemed very happy with her choice of fish pie and assured me that it was satisfyingly filled with flavoursome fish and big juicy prawns. It was also served with green beans which were thankfully non-squeeky!
However, you just can’t beat a juicy steak can you? Well, unless you’re a vegetarian I suppose which I certainly am not! I ordered the rib eye medium rare and it was cooked perfectly! The meat was so tender it simply melted in my mouth , this pic really doesn’t do it justice if I’m honest…
I honestly don’t know how I made room for dessert but after asking our lovely waiter for a recommendation it seemed rude to turn down his suggestion of Eton Mess. The Browns version was made with cherries and white chocolate and it was a delicious twist on the Great British classic. I would definitely order it again, perhaps leaving out the starter to make room, I always have had a sweet tooth!
Zoe went for one of the Browns Brownies, they seem to be a bit of speciality as there’s a whole section of the dessert menu devoted to them! The rich chocolatey indulgence certainly brought a smile to my friend’s face!
I think it’s safe to say we both felt very satisfied as we left, showering the waiter with compliments and promising to return soon!
If you fancy trying Browns Bar and Brasserie yourself then you’ve never had a better excuse because it’s currently taking part in NE1 Restaurant Week, offering two courses for the bargain price of just £10. NE1 Restaurant Week has been extended with many venues making their special offers available till the 9th Feb so get booking!by Rachel Kershaw
One of my favourite ways to while away the hours on a Sunday morning is to head for the Quayside Market on the Newcastle side of the River Tyne. Locals tell me it’s been a popular market for over two hundred years and although the goods on offer might not be exactly the same as when it first started, some things never change… like the witty banter from the cheerful traders and the bitterly cold North East winters!
I wrapped up in my winter woolies and popped down last weekend for a bit of a wander. While the city’s party goers slept off their hangovers in the nearby hotels, I was rummaging through stall after stall of local crafts, handmade jewellery and beautiful paintings. The stalls run all the way from the Millennium Bridge to the Tyne Bridge with plenty of hot food and coffee stops along the way (which I took full advantage of)!
One of the things I love most about the Quayside Market (as well as the iconic setting and panoramic views of course) is the fact that you can genuinely grab a bargain. I mean you can’t grumble at three scarves for £5 can you?
For me, no trip to the Quayside Market is complete without a visit to the stall of David Nash… you’ll find him at the Millenium Bridge end of the market and are guaranteed to be entertained by his unique display cards, cleverly describing each of his handmade leather goods.
You’ll know when you’ve reached David’s stall because you’ll start to over hear people chatting and chuckling as they read the quirky descriptions. The quality of his products is just as pleasing as his sense of humour too!
After a morning of bargain hunting al fresco, you will no doubt be ready for a well deserved Sunday lunch so while you’re down the Quayside I can highly recommend The Broad Chare for a satisfying roast. Priding itself on being a ‘proper pub with proper beer and proper food’ you won’t go far wrong booking a table here. You’ll find the Broad Chare on a side street beside the Law Courts, just a stone’s throw from the Quayside Market.
The Quayside Market takes place every Sunday from 9.30am till 4pm
The Broad Chare serves Sunday Lunch from 12noon till 5.30pm
by Rachel Kershaw
How fast have the last twelve months gone? It would seem time really does fly when you’re having fun, so I thought I best get planning for the year ahead and make sure all the unmissable events across NewcastleGateshead are firmly in my diary. This may be my most epic blog post EVER but here are my top tips for 2014, believe me, you’ll be kicking yourself if you miss out on any of these…
Newcastle Restaurant Week: 27th January – 2nd February
Many of us feel the pinch in January but Newcastle Restaurant Week is a great way to banish the blues and experience some of the city’s finest eateries without breaking the bank! In previous years I’ve sampled top notch food at Fat Buddha, Blackfriars, Café 21 and As You Like It, all of which are taking part again this year, along with many more great restaurants offering two courses for just £10 or £15.
Chinese New Year: Sunday 9th February
As the Year of the Horse is welcomed in to the Chinese calendar we can expect the city centre streets around Gallowgate to entice us in with colourful displays, beating rhythms and best of all, sensational smells and flavours! For me, the food alone is a big enough reason to join the celebrations but there are usually lots of quirky and cultural events to take part in too!
AV Festival: 1st – 31st March
This leading International festival of contemporary art, film and music makes its biannual return to NewcastleGateshead for a full month. The festival programme includes 11 exhibitions, 36 film screenings, 10 concerts and 11 new commissions by international and nationally renowned artists.
Miranda Hart @ Metro Radio Arena: 19th – 20th March
Miranda is a bit of a Marmite comedian, but I’ve had my tickets booked to see her for months so I guess that tells you which side of the fence I’m on! The Metro Radio Arena is the biggest concert venue in the North East of England so any show here is always an exciting experience. If Miranda doesn’t float your boat then check out the listings to see what else is coming up in 2014.
Gateshead International Jazz Festival: 4th – 6th April
The Sage Gateshead is one of Geordieland’s most iconic buildings and it will be hosting the 10th anniversary of the UK’s biggest jazz festival under one roof outside London in April. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a jazz aficionado but last year I booked to see Ruby Turner and The Brand New Heavies during the festival and it was probably my favourite gig of 2013!
The Late Shows: 16th – 17th May
The Late Shows is a free culture crawl around Newcastle and Gateshead with many popular museums and galleries that are normally closed in the evening opening their doors after hours on a Friday and Saturday night. Many of the venues you’re invited to explore are in Ouseburn, a creative corner of Newcastle that is also home to some of the cities best pubs so why not combine it with a beer crawl too! To learn a little more about Late Shows, check out my blog post from 2013 HERE
Body Worlds @ Life Science Centre: 17th May – 2nd November
Over 38 million people have experienced Gunter von Hagens’ Body Worlds in over 90 cities across the world, including Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City. It arrives in Geordieland in May for a 6 month stint at the Life Science Centre. The ground-breaking exhibition is not for the faint hearted but I for one am intrigued to see what it has in store.
Dirty Dancing @ Theatre Royal: 6th – 31st May
This is a bit of girly addition to the list I’ll admit, but come on, Dirty Dancing is a classic and the setting of Newcastle’s most prestigious theatre makes it a must see! This show would be perfect for a hen night, a date or just a get together with mates, there’s every chance I may see it more than once!
VAMOS: 6th – 22nd June
VAMOS! Festival is a celebration of Spanish and Portuguese speaking cultures with an exciting and diverse calendar of events across NewcastleGateshead; from art and dance to food and drink, there’s something for everyone to enjoy! Last year I found myself joining in a spontaneous daytime disco on High Bridge while friends of mine enjoyed the Mexican Wrestling at the Boiler Shop, it’s diverse to say the least.
Great North 10k/Newcastle Triathalon/Skyride Newcastle: Various dates in July
A summer of sport is on the cards for NewcastleGateshead so if you’re feeling energetic this is definitely the place to be! I’m more of a spectator myself, I’m particularly looking forward to watching brave people swim in the River Tyne as they take part in the brand new Newcastle Triathlon. The Great North 10k and Skyride also take place this month, both of which are open to all abilities, so why not get involved?
EAT! NewcastleGateshead: 8th – 17th August (and also Feb/March 2015!)
As a food-lover, this is one of my highlights of the year, it’s so much more than your average food festival. EAT! has always pushed the boundaries to offer an adventure through food but for 2014 there’s been a big change to the plans… EAT! is no longer just one Festival, it’s TWO! August will feature all outdoor events and in Feb/March 2015, you guessed it…all indoor events! Keep an eye on the festival website for a full list of events but make sure Cake City is top of your list, it’s not to be missed!
Bupa Great North Run: 7th September
It’s known as the world’s greatest half marathon, maybe that’s because it takes place in one of the greatest places on the planet! There were over 122,000 people who applied to take part in 2013, will you be one of them this year?
Juice Festival: October (exact dates TBC)
Juice is regarded as one of the best festivals for children in the UK and it takes place right here in NewcastleGateshead during October half term. No need to listen to cries of ‘I’m booooooored’ from the kids, there’ll be loads of exciting family events lined up I’m sure!
Ouseburn Open Studios: 29th – 30th November
On the last weekend of November, the creative folk of Ouseburn open their workspaces to the public, offering a unique glimpse behind the scenes in places like The Biscuit Factory, Mushroom Works, Northern Print and many more. There’s also a huge variety of affordable and original work to buy, making it the perfect time to start your Christmas shopping.
The NewcastleGateshead Winter Festival: Throughout December
There’s nowhere I’d rather be in winter than NewcastleGateshead, as a season of special events make the whole place feel magical! From quirky Christmas markets to unique events like Enchanted Parks, it’s easy to feel in the festive spirit, as long as you wrap up warm! The highlight of the festival has to be the New Year’s Eve Winter Carnival, which I was lucky enough to be a part of in 2013. It was the perfect end to a wonderful year in my beloved Geordieland!
Well, I warned you this would be a long post so if you’ve read it all, thank you! Hopefully you’re now full of inspiration for things to do in 2014! I’ve only scratched the surface though so be sure to keep checking back for loads more ideas throughout the year and feel free to add your own suggestions below.by Rachel Kershaw
For the last three or four years my boyfriend James and I have wrapped up in our winter woollies and taken to the streets of Newcastle city centre on the last day of the year for the amazing carnival organised by NewcastleGateshead Initiative.
The first time we experienced this awe-inspiring event we were blown away by the outrageous costumes, the lively music and the spectacular firework display that lit up the skies above Newcastle Civic centre.
Since then, friends and family from all across the country have joined us at the event and allowed us to proudly show off our city in style.
This year’s New Years Eve Winter Carnival promises to be as exciting and creative as ever with a Nordic theme and host of mythical creatures! Once again James and I will be heading in to town for the festivities but this year will be very different for us… We won’t be vying for the best view on Northumberland Street and I won’t be messing around with my camera settings in an attempt to get a great pic of the fireworks… because this year we are actually going to be IN the carnival!
As soon as I saw the advert on NGI’s Twitter account, I jumped at the chance to be involved and signed us up to be part of a team of 100 torchbearers who will join the procession! We’ll start off near Grey’s Monument at about 5pm and will follow the funky drummers and fire breathing ship along the route to the Civic Centre will the fireworks will start about 6pm.
That’s one of the things I love most about this event, it’s a New Year’s Eve celebration that you don’t have to wait up till midnight for! However, if you are more of nightowl than me then there will still be the traditional fireworks as the clock strikes 12 down on the Quayside.
You can get full details of all the Winter Festival events HERE and if you are planning on going along to the carnival then be sure to keep an eye out for me and give me a wave!
Photos used in this post were kindly supplied by NewcastleGateshead Initiativeby Rachel Kershaw
If someone had told me a few months ago that I would be performing in a Christmas concert at The Sage Gateshead I would have burst out laughing. To be honest, that’s not far from the truth… Back in the summer Anna Foster, a good friend of mine and host of the breakfast show on local radio station Magic, had an idea to form a choir and raise money for North East charity, Cash for Kids.
When Anna first asked me to be involved I politely declined as I’ve never been a good singer, despite years of practice in the shower! However, several of my friends signed up and I guess the fear of missing out got the better of me so I joined too!
Anna’s vision was to create a concert filled with festive favourites and hits from the Magic playlist and her wingman was Mark Deeks, Musical Director from Music Newcastle. Together they guided me and around seventy other willing volunteers through eight Thursday evening rehearsals (yes, only eight)!
Gradually our confidence and our overall sound improved and although I’m sure a few more rehearsals wouldn’t have gone a miss, we went ahead and performed two sold out concerts on Wednesday 18th December in the Northern Rock Room at Sage Gateshead!
My friends and I were so nervous backstage, I had a belly full of butterflies! There was a wonderful atmosphere though and despite everyone having different ages and backgrounds we all came together for a common goal, to sing our hearts out and raise a shed load of cash for underprivileged kids!
We gave it our all and I’d like to think we were perfectly imperfect, however, we were out shone in the early performance by the adorable children from Hadrian Primary School in South Shields – and in the second performance by the super talented local band North Road, who even composed their own Christmas song for Cash for Kids!
I can honestly say that taking part in the Magic Choir was one of the best things I’ve ever done! I’m sure I read somewhere that singing makes us happier and healthier and I’m inclined to agree. Even when I was feeling tired and grumpy, warbling with the other Magic listeners cheered me up no end and I’m really going to miss those Thursday night rehearsals!
Now I’m sure you’ll be very disappointed that you’ve missed your chance to see me unleash my inner diva so to hear some audio recorded at the concert click HERE and to find out what else is on at The Sage over the festive period just visit www.sagegateshead.comby Rachel Kershaw
Wow…. I’ve just got home from Saltwell Park but I feel like I’ve returned from a fairy tale! I was at Gateshead’s famous Victorian Park for a very special event called ‘Enchanted Parks’. But what exactly is Enchanted Parks? Well I can only describe it is a magical, inspirational, fantastical winter walk!
There were mythical creatures called ‘Familiars’ guiding the way through singing trees, a clockwork forest, fields of fireflies and even a mechanical aviary!
Enchanted Parks is part of NewcastleGateshead’s Winter Festival and has been on the calendar of events since 2006, it has grown with each year and around 20,000 people are expected to visit between 11 – 15 December 2013.
If you are one of them, I’ll try not and reveal too many of the surprises that Saltwell Park has in store for you but I will let you know that this year, the after dark adventure is also a search for a new generation of ‘Secret Keepers’! You see, the current Keeper of Saltwell’s Secret is due to retire and it is time for him to pass on the keys to people who he can trust to ensure the People’s Park remains an enchanted place. Will he choose you?
I’m afraid my photos don’t do the event justice as it really is very dark, so if you’re lucky enough to have been please leave your comments below and help me spread the word about Enchanted Parks. If you haven’t booked yet then click here to check availability.by Rachel Kershaw