A trip to Geordie shore
Fenwick department store on Northumberland Street
Newcastle Milennium Bridge
There's plenty of postcard-pretty views and bridges, but shopping, nightlife and Cheryl Cole are really at the heart of any Newcastle experience, reckons
ROSEMARY MAC CABE
When I tell people I am off to Newcastle for the weekend, there are two things that immediately come up: Geordie Shore, the MTV reality show that depicted Newcastle as a city of lads ‘n’ lasses boozing and bonking (and very little else), and Cheryl Cole, member of Girls Aloud, talent show judge and much-loved Geordie lass.
Though our itinerary suggests there will be very little carousing and only a smidgen of Cole (in the form of a Girls Aloud concert in Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena), the flight over is worrying. I have never been on a plane with such a high ratio of men to women. In fact, excluding our group of seven women (and token man), there are four women on the 45-minute flight, two of whom are cabin crew. And the din created by a plane full of men is a rare and unforgettable sound; whoever said women are the talkative sex hasn’t fallen asleep to the bass murmur of a plane load of stags.
It doesn’t bode well; if there are that many stag parties on board, are we bound to encounter a man in a gimp mask around every corner? Will women in angel wings disturb our dinner? Will we queue for the bar next to crowds in customised T-shirts?
But the confounding of stereotypes is always bittersweet; until we board the homeward bound flight we will remain undisturbed by soon-to-be-married partygoers. Not great for the war stories but good for the blood pressure.
Our first port of call is check-in at Malmaison, a boutique hotel on Newcastle’s Quayside, which overlooks the Gateshead millennium bridge, an impressive structure that is vaguely reminiscent of Dublin’s James Joyce bridge.
Malmaison is a thoroughly modern madame – the colour scheme is royal purple and shades of beige. Rooms feel larger than they are, with high beds, higher ceilings and heavy black-out curtains. It’s tapas for lunch at La Tasca next door, before we take a walking tour with Blue Badge Walking Tours’ Jan, a human encyclopaedia of names, dates and Geordie history.
We start with the bridges – they’re hard to ignore, after all, and make up a decent swathe of Newcastle’s postcard views. There are seven in total, in a half-mile stretch. The oldest, the high-level bridge, dates to 1848 and was the world’s first to combine train and car travel. Queen Victoria came to officially open it, and rumour has it that, due to inclement weather conditions, she stuck her head out her carriage window and announced “consider your bridge open” before high-tailing it back to London.