Where in England? London? This is the usual question I am asked when I announce my nationality. For many Canadians the words are interchangeable. Just try asking a Montrealer where exactly in Toronto they are from and this should give them something to think about.
Newcastle, I answer, It's in the NORTH. Blank looks. Where the beer comes from. Slight recognition. It' s actually beautiful countryside. (Canadian looks pityingly at me.)
(Starting to sound desperate now) There are sandy beaches and castles, lots of castles overlooking the sea. At this point the Canadian tries to politely change the subject and I feel I have yet again failed to convey how beautiful my homeland really is. (apart from the anti-social behaviour that is).
So in this post instead of writing about my expat life in Canada I thought I'd do a quick guide to my favourite haunts back home. For you Canadians. How to DO North-East England.
1.Dunstanburgh Castle, Craster, Northumberland (see above with sheep)
In order to visit the remains of this structure which dates back to the 14th century you must do two things. Do some sort of a walk and eat crab sandwiches at the Jolly Fisherman pub. It is the law of England and no matter what the weather you must do both. (Try the crab and cream soup too and remember to buy some kippers or smoked mackerel pate over the road)
2. Barter Books
|Barter Books in Alnwick.|
|Walking at Warkworth|
Any fool can go to a beach in the summer but the test of a true believer is to do a winter beach walk. It's cold, it's blustery but you get great exfoliation from the sand whipping into your face. There are a whole string of beaches up the North-East coastline (Bamburgh is another great one). Do them all but wrap up warm.
4. Simonside Hills
5. Marshall's Fish and Chip shop in Tynemouth
|The business at Marshall's|
6. Jesmond Dene
|Jesmond Dene - the Central Park of Newcastle|
7. Mr Drayton's Record Player
An essential quirky experience worth doing on any visit to Newcastle in which you sit in semi-darkness and listen to an album on vinyl - just like you used to do when you were young. Hosted by charismatic funny man Steve Drayton. Yes there is a bar but latecomers are not admitted so as not to spoil it for the record-listening public. No talking allowed. This is hardcore.
8. Bamburgh beach
Just go there and you will be amazed. One of the best beaches anywhere. Did I mention it has a castle?
Cows in a city? How mad is that? Farmers bring the critters in from the countryside to hang out on the town moor - a huge stretch of green land - just for their summer holidays. For joggers, walkers and cyclists they form a pastoral backdrop as you make your way to the pub. Watch where you step.
No not London, Newcastle. Where the beer comes from.
More on North East England here