It was absolutely one of my favorite places that we’ve been this entire year. Newcastle is in the north of England, near the sea, so we got to see a good portion of rocky coastlines, lighthouses, and even a seaside castle. I also really took a liking to the people – really hardy and friendly, yet armed with a quick wit.
We flew into London and then took a train from King’s Cross to Newcastle. Maaike introduced us to Marks and Spencer where we loaded up on the best, most fun train snacks. Including canned gin & tonics!
As soon as we got to Maaike’s, she gave us a tour of her beautiful home. Her dad maintains a lovely garden and I really liked the “conservatory” – or maybe what we Floridians would call a “sun room”. She also had a collection of clogs that we all traipsed around in while sipping English tea. It couldn’t have been a better introduction.
We didn’t waste much time before going out to meet her friends. The night started at a divey Italian place and ended somewhere along the boulevard where cast members of the Geordie Shore go wild.
Maaike had many goals for her #yanksontour, and most importantly was to get fish & chips – heavy on the salt and vinegar. She took us to a shop on Whitley Bay owned by a family she used to nanny for and they gave us three orders on the house! It was so kind. We ate them next to the St. Mary’s Lighthouse as waves crashed on the rocks below and a seagull pooped on Maaike’s head. Invigorating!
We then went into downtown Newcastle to sightsee and meet more friends. I especially liked all the different bridges crossing the Tyne. Maaike pointed out Grey Street, the aforementioned favorite of Britain where there’s a statue honoring Earl Grey, the Earl Grey.
We walked along the Tyne towards a pub called the Free Trade Inn whose vantage point over the river is spectacular. I think we stayed here for about 5 hours and kept the beer flowing.
All those drinks needed to be soaked up, so Maaike took us to a Lebanese restaurant up the hill called The Bake and we stuffed ourselves with naan, tabbouleh, and so much meat. It’s b.y.o.b, so we came prepared with wine and to top it off, I was lucky enough to find a leftover hen party treat bag in the chair next to mine.
For our last day, we headed on a castle hunt and to Maaike’s friend’s cottage. The first stop, Alnwick Castle, was used in scenes from Harry Potter’s flying lesson. Isn’t England magical??
We hopped in the car again and drove closer to the coast where Bamburgh Castle lies. On the adjacent field, a cricket game was in progress.
This castle towers over the dunes below and has quite a few ghost stories under its belt.
We had a dinner date to keep and drove through fields of sheep and flowers to reach her friend’s seaside cottage. Maaike had been promising us a “proper Sunday lunch” the whole trip and we had no idea what that entailed until we laid eyes on the kitchen. Her lovely friend was roasting a lamb, chopping veggies, and whisking batter for yorkshire puddings. It felt like Thanksgiving! While the food cooked, we had wine in the backyard and enjoyed the last bits of unusual sunshine that had followed us our entire trip.
Then, the main event happened. It was one of the best meals in recent memory, but home-cooked ones usually are.
Newcastle was fab from beginning to end and mostly in part to Maaike’s planning and overall fun-loving spirit. We would never have thought to visit here on our own and I feel so lucky that we did!