Day one and I met him at the train station and we got the Metro to ‘The Coast’ as it is named on the Nexus maps (Nexus being the operator of the Metro system). This caused a little bit of humour on the visitor’s behalf, the idea that there is only one coast that earned the definitive article title.
We dumped the bags and walked the dog through a local park and along the sea front. The weather wasn’t the best, but it was shorts and hoodie weather for me. The Southern guest was cold and complained that it was colder that it was on Christmas Day in the South. Bless him. His complaints were, I think, offset a little by the warmth of the fellow dog walkers that we chatted to and exchanged pleasantries with that warmed his heart a little, if not his hands. He was certainly warmed by his first ever sighting of a previously unknown dog breed to him, the Bedlington terrier.
The dog walked, we set off with my kids for dinner or ‘tea’ as we call it! We headed to Turknaz for a kebab. Before all of the Northerners panic and think I’m mad and the Southerners tut and think I’m scummy, this wasn’t a 2am-post-ten-pints kebab, this was a posh kebab. So posh in fact that they won the best regional kebab award 2018.
We had a lovely meal and he got to know my kids who he was meeting for the first time. We left full of kebab, hummus and falafel as well as the sickly sweet Baklava and ice cream.
Day two and we headed to the Northumberland coast. We followed the coastal route from Blyth up to Bamburgh which, ordinarily, would give us amazing views. However, on this day, the one where I wanted to show off my patch more than any other day, my luck ran out. There was a fret that sat on the sea all day and capped visibility to no more than 500 metres. However, it turns out that fret is a Northern term that meant nothing to him so let me translate, it is a sea mist that is very localised to about 1 km inland at most.
We stopped at Amble for a break and wandered around the little gift shops that line the walk down to the harbour.
We dropped into Spurreli’s Boutique Ice Cream shop and it was rather lovely. It was confirmed that the prices were more on the Southern end of the scale than North but, as I found out since, it was voted one of the best ice cream parlours in the country so I guess that explains it.
We jumped back in the car and headed back North up the coast. The mist was so intense that we really didn’t see too much but the castles that suddenly jumped out of the mist were, as always very impressive. We ploughed on all the way up to Bamburgh then headed inland to Alnwick to see if we could avoid the sea mist. We had fish and chips that were lovely in the town centre and, once again, had terrific chats with the staff. What the North East let me down with in terms of weather, the people were certainly making up for it.
As full as a gun we headed to Barter Books www.barterbooks.co.uk. It is a second hand book shop in the old train station and is a Mecca for book readers that swarm from miles around. Personally I find it expensive and over fussy, but the people who love it absolutely love it as the bun fight in the car park seemed to back up. With the sun peeping through the clouds, it looked as if the fog might be lifting slightly and so we confidently set off again to the coast. As we headed back down south on the A1068 Coastal Route the sun was shining on the delightful coloured houses at Alnmouth.
We turned and headed for the sun and had a quick wander along the beach amongst the dunes and golden sands where the sun made a brief but most welcome appearance. Feeling the cold again, we had to have an emergency warming coffee for the Southerner and were made to feel most welcome at The Village tearooms.
It was getting later in the day and we were worn out but it was a lovely village that I had never really explored before, I have marked this down as one to head back to at some point soon, as there seemed to be some lovely independent shops and full of foodie heaven shops.
As we headed back home, I though it might be nice to show off a part of the North East that I love, North Shields fish quay. We parked up in the harbour car park and took in the sights of the highlights and low lights, walked through the old walls and then watched a fishing boat dock in the fish quay as the huge car transporter, filled with Nissans, passed us on the way out to sea. The fishermen on the boat, there were two of them, unloaded their catch without once touching the cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. Their constant endeavour looked like back breaking work, add to that the dangers that these guys faced at sea and it really did look like a hard way to make a living.
We talked to some people that worked for a charity that rescued seagulls and took them into their care. They were there to collect the scraps of fish from the fisherman to use as food. They told us that the mist we had suffered from all day was in fact a Haar. This is a very localised term, used on the east coast of Britain, to describe a mist that forms between April and September when warm moist air moves over the North Sea and condenses as it cools and is blown back inland.
We decided to have a quick drink down on the quayside, an area that I had never been to for drinks, only fish and chip takeaways. We stopped at the Salty Sea Dog pub, it was very trendy and hipster. The focus was on gins (isn’t it everywhere right now?) and real ales and had a Shoreditch hipster feel. I half expected a penny farthing parking bay outside to be honest. They did tapas snacks such as Chorizo and scotch eggs and the clientele was mainly smart young females. It was the last thing I was expecting for the building opposite the fish landing site. I was very pleasantly surprised.
It had been a long day, full of travel and fresh air and I slept like a log.
On the Thursday, myself and my visitor both had other appointments and so we went our own ways and didn’t catch up until the afternoon. We took a trip along the coast and enjoyed a coffee in Cullercoats at Beaches and Cream.
I have always had nothing but good service and food there and so when I looked to get the above link I was surprised to see more than a handful of quite negative reviews. We were served happily and, yet again, ended up having long conversations with two members of staff and the couple at the table next to us. It would have been perfect, sitting outside watching the traffic and people pass by, if only there had been blue skies and the sea view. The Haar, which was still persisting into day three, spoiled the sea view.
I explained that there was a cafe called ‘The View‘ overlooking King Edwards bay that would have been lovely any other day. The fact that there would be no view and that the service and food don’t have the best reputation meant we stuck with Beaches and Cream.
My man from the south was very impressed at the aspirational name of The View as we hadn’t seen more than 200 meters out to sea all week! In fact, he was asking in the local shops if we could get postcards of local landmarks that were a bit more honest and showed the Haar and mist rather than the clear blue skies.
Unperturbed, we walked along to the headland between Tynemouth and Cullercoats and, low and behold, the sun burnt through for a half hour and we could just about make out The Grand Hotel and The Priory at Tynemouth and enough sea to appreciate its power and rolling splendour. It is such a shame that the weather gods didn’t smile on us, but we got a feel for what we could have won at least. We watched a young man of around 25 years of age leave his partner and baby and decide to walk on the perilously narrow ledge onto the craggy rocks out at sea. We were both blown away by his stupidity, he was half a slip away from being a dead man at the foot of the rocks some 30 feet below him with waves crashing over his body. As he made it back, we felt a little cheated and disappointed that we had not seen natural selection in process so we headed home for showers and a change of clothes.
As a thank you for being his tour guide and driver for the last few days, my friend wanted to take me to 21 for dinner.
This was way smarter than my usual restaurant and I had never been but I was well aware of its reputation of its head chef, the Michelin starred Terry Laybourne. We were warmly welcomed for drinks at the bar and we were so well looked after, it was like walking into the restaurant on the TV show First Dates. We were shown to our table and were very politely and professionally served Crab Lasagne with Chive Butter Sauce and for meGran Reserva Iberico Ham and Toasted Tomato Bread for starters.
Mine was exactly what it said on the tin, two slices of toasted bread topped with tomatoes and a plate of ham. I am not totally sure that it came out of a tin, but it was fantastically tasty.
For mains, I had Braised Shoulder of Beef with Two Celeries and my guest had Roasted Northumbrian Venison, Salt Baked Beetroot and Fresh Asparagus – Goats Cheese Croquettes. It was every bit as pretentious and delicious as it sounds. The beef fell apart and the gravy/jus was simply perfect. The service was second to none, the staff were on hand but never interfering or in the way. Perfectly mannered and perfectly drilled on how to look after the customers.
It had cleared into a warm and pleasant evening and so we walked along the Newcastle quayside and over the Millennium bridge. It was such a pleasant evening and it was so nice to see so many people walking along the quay. I heard all sorts of languages and saw all ages, sizes and shapes enjoying the warm, calm evening surrounded by the contrasting but beautiful buildings. Newcastle really is a nice city to call home.
My guest was on the train back to the deep South on the Friday morning and so we just had time for a coffee with mid morning cakes! We headed into Whitley Bay to try Kith and Kin.