Monday morning and I am wishing I had somehow managed to fit in a full day of sleep before the return to work (maybe a three-day weekend is the way to go?). This weekend, I met Newcastle and experienced my first hen party. Needless to say, I am exhausted!
I headed up pretty much straight from work on Friday night, and really rather enjoyed my three hours on the train! As I'm sure is apparent, I love to travel, but I'm always saying to people that I have a slight feeling of guilt that ultimately there is an awful lot of my own country that I haven't seen! Such a long train journey, however, took me through some new parts of the country and although I didn't stop, it was still very exciting! I can now say I have seen Durham Cathedral (if only from the window of a train)...
I always forget how very flat most of London and all of Norfolk is, so to be met with a Travel Lodge sitting on such a steep hill that the 'ground floor' we were staying on was from the outside of the building actually 3 stories up was quite the shock to the system! Something I was expecting, but could never have expected to be quite so true, was how friendly Northerners are... but they really are! Once off the train I actually felt more lost than I usually do in foreign countries, but in no time I was greeted by a taxi attendant who soon got me headed in the right direction. Once out of the taxi, I popped into the Tesco I had spotted nearby to equip myself with champagne, and was allowed to go in front of several men in the queue for the checkout for no apparent reason (I wasn't looking good, this was me after a full day at work followed by 3 hours on a train)!
The thing I was most nervous about was meeting a group of people I'd not met before (my skills in the art of socialising tend to be a little lapse), but I received a warm welcome from all even as the late-comer (very poor form from the bridesmaid) and we were all soon acting as though we'd known each other for years! As soon as I was made-up and had some Apple Sourz down me (classy), we braved the night.
We decided on a bar call Florita's, which was a circus bar with 'entertainment' (this consisted of a woman failing to walk on stilts and another who alternated between fire-eating and wielding a grinder around), the constant thudding of house music and for some reason, a 'live' saxophonist (which reminds me I forgot to mention the live violinist in Barcelona... bizarre)? The atmosphere was good, and we did get free bottles of champagne, but I think the tone was set when we were told on our arrival that they would not allow us entry in our 'fancy dress'... we were just wearing sashes over our normal clothes. I wonder whether hen parties send people into a bit of a frenzy?
After a surprisingly sound night's sleep in a Travel Lodge, we managed to rise at a pretty reasonable time in order to venture out into Newcastle for the day. Having missed breakfast in the hotel, we were suddenly struck with a craving for McDonalds, so made a beeline for the town centre in the hope that we would find one there. It didn't stand out to us as they usually do, but we did eventually locate one (with the help of an elderly lady who clearly sensed that we were lost so took pity on us, but seemed a little disappointed when we were told her we were looking for McDonalds and not a point of cultural reference) and satisfied the cravings!
Having awoken feeling sprightly, food slowed us down, so it took us a while to summon the strength to get up and out again! Nevertheless, we managed it eventually, and went to see what shopping Newcastle had to offer! Having made a few worthy purchases, it was time to pay a visit to the travelling fair that happened to be there when we were; perfection!
My most frequent encounters with a funfair have been in Kings Lynn at The Mart, which opens on Valentines Day every year (highly romantic). Although I absoltely love fairs and would happily go every year, there came a point where it was less socially acceptable to be seen there/concern grew over who or what one might bump into there, so I stopped. It was therefore quite magical to be able to wander around one, concerning myself only with the excitement, and not with the potential for unfortunate encounters.
I really am a big kid, hypnotised by flashing lights on spinning, swaying, bouncing, whirling, twirling rides, the smell of sweet things in the air and the sound of throw-back music and that 'fairground voice' that calls out to you, tempting you to 'buy your tokens at the cash box for the next ride'... magical. Although my only experience of a funfair of such magnitude was Goose Fair in Nottingham at night when I was much younger, this one still brought back memories of all kinds! Rides seem to have this crazy effect where you can't stop laughing the whole time you're being vigorously jostled about, I mean, who can be unhappy in such circumstances? Highlight of the weekend for me!
Call us crazy, but Pizza Hut followed (probably better after than before), where we all went to town on the salad bar and stuffed ourselves with pizza. All of us defeated, we then trooped back to the hotel armed with pizza boxes, which seemed to cause quite a stir through the streets; 'give us some o' your pizza love?!', 'you gonna share that with me'?... no.
VIP at Tiger Tiger was booked for 9, so we made a pretty early start (although having said that, there were people dolled up to the nines when we were eating our pizza, so perhaps it's the done thing when in Newcastle) to the club. At this point, the only other people in the room we were in were another Hen Party and a Stag Do... need I go on? Unfortunately, for some reason, my stamina was appalling over the weekend, so I made an early retreat to bed, and as a result missed some pretty dramatic happenings which I was filled in with the next morning.
A leisurely check-out time and not so late to bed meant Sunday breakfast was possible, so we filled ourselves up before making our way to the train station for home. The Travel Lodge was in a really lovely location, right by the river. I did manage a sneaky view or two (one when we invaded the Tesco next door to stock up on food for lunch on the train) of bridges and water, but a walk along is definitely something I need to return for!
I was really pleasantly surprised by Newcastle, with it's unusual mix of architecture and overly friendly residents. It was a real treat to be a tourist in my own country for a change and I can definitely feel some more weekend trips coming on!