Sunday, 23 April 2017

What we did on our holidays

Just for the record, I'm referencing the classic Fairport Convention album rather than the recent film in this week's title! I finished last week's post worried that the weather might interfere with our plans for our week in Newcastle, and to be honest it was a bit chilly but for the most part turned out dry and sunny, so yay! Of course that does mean I've got loads to write about this week, and I'm spoiled for choice with photos too, so I'll try not to ramble on too much.....
Bank Holiday Monday was the only day my cycling brother, Jonathan, was free so we planned a ride that we could start together then split up, allowing the boys to go and play in the hills whilst I cycled the 'easy' way home. For any Strava nerds, this was my route so you can have a look at the profile from my half way point and decide how easy it looks 😉
Where the road divides

Nice day for a ride

Next up was a short drive up to Hedley on the Hill for the beer and food festival at The Feathers. We arrived just in time to watch the annual Barrel Race, where teams of 3 run up a hill to the pub, carrying an empty 9 gallon beer keg, with the winners of the race earning themselves a full 9 gallon keg of ale. I like my beer, but I'd definitely rather just pay for my pint thanks! I believe fancy dress is optional, and didn't appear to help much....

Last week I said I couldn't do single handed burger photos, but I like a challenge and just look at this beauty...

On Tuesday we finally cycled a route I've been promising David for a while - up to Rowlands Gill, then down the Derwent Walk to Swalwell for lunch at Pedalling Squares cycle cafe.  I was a bit nervous about the first half of the ride as I remembered it being a fair old climb, and it is a drag, but actually no worse than the previous week's rides.  We were rewarded by the sight of a Red Kite flying overhead on our descent through Highfield which made all the climbing worthwhile! These magnificent birds were reintroduced to the Derwent Valley just over 10 years ago, and there's lots of useful information here if you're interesting in seeing them.
This is David enjoying the view from the Derwent Walk, and some of the sights along the cycle path home. This is one of the things I love about cycling - all this stuff is in a pretty built up area, so countless thousands of people must drive maybe 100 yards from them in some cases, never knowing what they're missing!

On Wednesday we met up with the inlaws for a trip to Beamish.  I'm sure anyone who went to school in the North East over the past 30ish years will have (fond?) memories of school trips here - mine involves losing a tooth, which earned me an ice cream so I'd say I have mixed feelings about that one 😏 It must be over 10 years since we were last there and it's expanded significantly in that time - so much so that we only saw about half of it.  New parts we managed to see included the Masonic Lodge, bakers, and this fish and chip shop where we had lunch.

One of the older exhibits
If you've never been to Beamish, I'd recommend it, but be sure to wear comfy shoes and give yourself a full day as you'll definitely need it.
On Thursday we cycled along the banks of the Tyne to Corbridge - the longest ride of the week, and a bit breezy but not too many hill climbs so can't complain. Lunch at Activ Cycles once we got there helped.  I had a tasty home roast chicken bagel followed with a slice of Earl Grey and lemon cake.  I heartily approve of cafes that put a bit of effort into the side salad, and this was exceptional.

The route is a nice mix of countryside and pretty towns and villages:

Friday took some careful planning - how best to make use of the last day of our trip without ending up knackered for the Lux Lisbon gig we'd both been looking forward to since the tour was announced. For reasons too complicated to go into here (but it's a story I tell often so if you know me you've heard it before anyway, and possibly more than once!) we had to start the day at Long Play Cafe, on the Quayside. We had the heart attack inducing Lumberjack pancakes, because what a stack of pancakes with maple syrup and bacon really needs is the addition of sausage and scrambled egg.....
it was a good job the girl serving us took 3 attempts to bring our coffees over as I doubt I'd have been able to move straight after finishing that lot! Newcastle has a few treasures that, like most locals, I'd never got around to visiting, and we started pretty much next door to the cafe at Bessy Surtees House. This is one, or techincally two, of the oldest buildings in Newcastle and is partly Historic England offices, but the rooms on the lower floors are free to visit. The building itself is pretty interesting if you're an architecture buff, but if you like a good story, Bessie Surtees' is the main draw here.
The blue pane of glass marks the spot where in 1772 Bessie is said to have eloped with a coal merchant's son, who went on to become Lord Eldon, Lord Chancellor of England - so I'd say she was right to follow her heart! 
Next was a walk up the fabulously named Dog Leap Stairs. Apparently Bessie and the future Lord Eldon escaped up these steps on horseback, which seems fairly unlikely to be honest - I struggled on foot! If you've never been to the Lit and Phil (and I confess I hadn't) and you like a good library, you really should pay this place a visit. It's the largest independent library in the UK outside of London and is a stunning building. This picture doesn't really do it justice - you have to go there to feel what it's like being surrounded by over 160,000 books!

Next up was a quick stop for 'refreshments' at the Centurion pub in Central Station. We included this in our 'culture trail' because, well, look at it.....
Let's just say the Victorians knew a thing or two about designing waiting rooms, and loved a bit of tiling!
After a couple of hours pottering around the Hancock museum, or Great North Museum:Hancock to give it it's official title, it was almost time to meet fellow Lux Lisbon fan (and aforementioned cycling brother) Jonathan and his mates for a pre gig refuel - not before a sly half in the excellent Split Chimp micropub mind you! As the gig was in Think Tank? next to the Centre for Life we chose The Bottle Shop for tea, 5 minutes walk from the venue and with a great beer list. I don't really have time for beer reviews this week (you'll be glad to hear) but the NxSE raspberry sour I had in here deserves a mention. Like a boozy pink lemonade in both taste and colour - awesome!

And so to the highlight of the week, and although we're only up to April, a contender for highlight of the year! It's almost exactly a year since we first saw Lux Lisbon at Stereo in Glasgow - it was a great show and thinking about it was probably the point I went from liking their songs to being a 'proper' fan. In the intervening year I've 'chatted' with Stu via his Monday emails (this kind of thing) and as mentioned before I've been following Tom's Song a Week project here. I'd recommend both if you're interested in song writing at all. Oh, and subscribing on bandcamp means I've been able to hear some of their new songs early doors too, so all in all I'd have to say I guess I'm more invested in the band this time around. Last year we were lucky to catch Charlie opening the show with her solo acoustic set, so we made sure we were at the venue earlyish this time around. It might be my imagination, but it felt like a more confident performance this time, and she certainly had the audience in the palm of her hand! 

Next up was local duo Prince and Pearl who play a mix of original material and covers. Let's just say, from their on stage chemistry I'm guessing this isn't just a professional partnership, but regardless of back story their voices do blend really well. 

By the time Lux Lisbon came on stage the venue had filled up, so I should probably apologize to anyone standing behind me for subjecting them to the kind of dancing that should really be reserved for Catherine's Kitchen Disco tm. Also to the band for nearly blinding them in an attempt to get some decent photos - sorry lads, but at least this one came out pretty well:

Great songs, phenomenal musicianship, and a band thoroughly enjoying themselves- that's the recipe for a great gig right there. In fact during new song Change (to stay the same) Charlie and Tom looked like they were having such a blast I was kind of willing Stu to turn around! I'm not sure if it was intentional. but the lighting created a brilliant silhouette effect  for much of the night:

Stu's acoustic number before the rest of the band came back on stage for an encore was a nice change of mood:

This is a band that deserves to be playing a much larger venue than Think Tank?, but selfishly, it did mean I got to catch up with Stu, and meet Charlie and Tom, so I can confirm that not only are they a great band, they're a lovely, friendly bunch of humans too! 
If you've made it this far, you'll be glad to know I'm back at work tomorrow and planning a quiet week. In fact, I'm hoping to have so little to report next week that I can write about what happens when you're not sure whether you should hit send on an email but you do it anyway......

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