The Joiners Arms – Newton by the Sea

‘When you get into a hotel room, you lock the door, and you know there is a secrecy, there is a luxury, there is fantasy. There is comfort. There is reassurance’ – Diane von Furstenberg

Since we got married in 2013, and despite our anniversary being at the end of March, we always try and go away or do something special. For the last couple of years we’ve just been out for dinner  but this year we decided to treat ourselves to a night away at one of our favourite pub hotels, The Joiners Arms in Newton by the Sea.

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One of the only things I dislike about the Joiners is that it’s not actually where we got married, however everything else ticks all my boxes. From the outside it looks like your standard country pub. White and black with a generous beer garden at the front. The bar/restaurant is also your standard cosy country fayre, big windows that let in lots of natural sunlight, good food and a fully stocked bar with local real ales and an impressive wine cellar.

More about the restaurant later but the absolute show stopper, the hidden gem of this place is undoubtedly the absolutely beautiful guest rooms. This was out third visit and we always try and stay in a different room each time. This time round we were staying in Silver Beach which is one of the more expensive rooms that looks out towards the gorgeous Northumberland coast.

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The room comes with a beautiful four poster kingsize bed, a Juliet balcony, dark mahogany desk and wardrobe, and large bathroom with walk in power shower and gorgeous natural local toiletries. Honestly I could have stood under that shower for hours, it was probably one of the nicest showers I’ve ever had!

Because we were celebrating, and had visited before so knew how beautiful the rooms were, he hung out there for a while before going down to the restaurant for dinner. On check in I was a little disappointed when they didn’t offer us a complimentary drink like they have done on previous visits however they have replaced this by putting ingredients in your room to make your own french martinis, which actually is a really nice touch – you can have a large glass of white wine any time, anywhere (like in my kitchen for example).  We’d been kindly given a bottle of moet from my brother and sister-in-law for our anniversary so we enjoyed that (and the french martinis) as our pre dinner drinks in the room.

We were having such a lovely time that we almost forgot to go down for dinner, however once in the restaurant our rumbling tummies took over as we perused the menu over (even more) drinks from the bar.

It’s a traditional gastro pub with a traditional menu and it’s coastal location means that fish dishes feature heavily on the specials board. When we visited the special was tuna steak however all our celebratory drinks meant we were after something a little more substantial so we started by sharing the camambert.

For mains we both decided to keep it simple, as in our minds, you simply can’t beat good hearty food done well. Dave paid homage to the fact it was a Friday night and went for fish and chips and I had the burger. Both hit the spot perfectly, the fish was meaty and not too greasy and the burger was just the right amount of pink to be able to really taste the quality of the meat.

After all of that there simply wan’t room left for pudding so we sat and finished our drinks then retired to our room. The hotel offers a complimentary turn down service so we we got back to the room the duvet was pulled back, the lights dimly lit and smooth radio on. I’m not sure what kind of behavior they were encouraging with that kind of decadence but it was straight to sleep for these full, drunken cats!

One of my favourite things about staying in food hotel in undoubtedly the breakfast and the meal the night before must have stretched my stomach because I was well up for my devilled eggs on toast the next morning. Now I’m sad to say despite being my favourite meal of the day this time the Joiners Arms let us down where it previously excelled. On our last two visits breakfast has has been served in your room and you were presented with a list of items on arrive and could just tick what you wanted. They even sourced me some marmite on my toast on one occasion even though it wasn’t listed. However this time breakfast was served down in the restaurant and you ordered off a menu.

That said breakfast was pretty lovely and there wasn’t much that wasn’t available. I’m just disappointed I couldn’t eat my breakfast in my pjs.

So whilst there were a few little perks that the Joiners seem to have done away with which is what made us so taken with it in the first place, it still stands up as a really high end b&b and we’re still on a quest to sleep in every room!

Contact:

Address: B1340, High Newton-by-the-Sea, Alnwick NE66 3EA
Phone: 01665 576112
Website: www.joiners-arms.com

Heworth

Heworth station was one of the first on the original metro line to open in 1981. In 1984, the line extended eastwards to South Shields. It also serves as an overland rail station with services to Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Hartlepool.

When we were visiting we were on our way back from Sunderland, as you come out the main doors of the interchange you will see the nearest pub directly in front of you (a sure point scorer according to WBM rules). Which in this case is The Swan.

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This reminded me both outside and inside of The Railway in Walkergate. An old style dark building with your traditional bar on one side, lounge on the other with the bar running between both.

There seemed to be a big bike rally happening when we visited early evening on a Saturday which provided a good lively atmosphere. The offerings at the bar were pretty much what you’d expect from a put of this style, no real ale however some good offers on bottles where we got two bottles of Becks for a fiver. From someone who’s local is the Twin Farms in Bank Foot, I know there’s not much you can get for a fiver in most pubs these days! I mean let’s be honest, its a northern pub which shows the football and has bandits so it’s not exactly falling into hidden gem category but as far as a what you see is what you get pub, it’s certainly not the worse we’ve been to.

One thing that struck me (maybe all the bikers that were in at the time) was that it felt like a really local pub but a lot more relaxed, friendly and welcoming than some of the others I’ve described as local in the past. In most pubs we visit for the tour we have one drink then head on the net however I would have happily stayed for another more at The Swan!

Contact:

Address: Sunderland Road, Gateshead NE10 0NT
See where else we’ve been on our metro adventure here

Battle of the Backstreet Boys singles

‘Any vehicle that conveys great songs and the ability to perform them, whether it’s ‘N Sync or the Backstreet Boys or One Direction, is all good – Tommy Mottola

It’s been a good few months since I indulged in my favourite pastime (if you don’t include drinking wine) and this is a post I’ve been meaning to write up since Meagan and I had the initial discussion in Vegas back in March.

We were sitting in our hotel room dissecting the amazing Backstreet Boys live show we’d just seen and discussing the setlist, every song we talked about would be followed by a comment by me along the lines of ‘hmm yeah that wasn’t the strongest on that album’ or ‘I never was overly keen on that one’ which sparked Meagan to say in exasperation ‘so which of their songs do you actually like?’

She had a good point. It’s not that I don’t like their singles, of course I do, I am just of the belief that they never release the best songs. Perhaps it’s just that their biggest hits have been so overplayed that I’m a little bit over them, or perhaps it’s that they always seemed to take the safe choice and release the most marketable tunes. Whatever it is, I stand by my opinion that, single wise, they’ve very often sold themselves short.

So let’s have a look back on what they actually released compared to what they could have released instead, and see how different it all could have been:

Album: Backstreet Boys

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Single: We’ve Got it Goin’ On:
Could have been: I Wanna Be With You
Hit or miss: Hit – as far as a debut single goes, it couldn’t have been anything other than this, it was after all, the song that started the long dark round back into the boyband ether I fell into in 1995 (and still haven’t really clawed my way out yet!) so I have to give them this one. I do love I Wanna Be With You though…

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Single: I’ll Never Break Your Heart
Could have been: Anything else as far as I’m concerned
Hit or Miss: Massive miss for me. I’ve never EVER liked this song mainly because too much cheese gives me migraines and it’s been my toilet break song at every live song since. A better ballad from that album would have been Darlin’ at a push. But if I never hear this song again for the rest of my life I wouldn’t share any tears (I did love all the knitwear in the original video though however – cosy!)

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Single: Get Down
Could have been: Let’s Have a Party
Hit or Miss: Hit – I’m on the fence with this one and it’s only just scraping through as a hit to be honest. It was similar enough to We’ve Got it Goin On to keep the uptempo fans (like me) happy and Let’s Have a Party was equally as cheesy to be fair so would have been a close call. Quite a forgettable single in the grand scheme of things, in fact I’m sure it scored 0 on Pointless once, which says a lot.

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Single: Quit Playing Games
Could have been: I Wanna Be With You
Hit or Miss: Hit – Seems I really wanted them to release I Wanna Be With You but understand why it never really made the cut. QPG definitely falls into the overplayed category for me however when I first got their debut album it was the one song that I could hum along to the soonest, so an obviously choice as a single. Plus every 14 years fan was thankful for the music video.

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Single: Anywhere for You
Could have been: Just to Be Close To You
Hit or Miss: Miss – they never even bothered to release it in US which speaks volumes. It always felt like a pity release because they didn’t have anything new so I was surprised to see it brought back for their Vegas residency. Even Nick and Brian looked embarrassed singing it. Just to Be Close To You was a way classier song and all their acapella awesomeness would have been brought to the masses.

Album: Backstreet’s Back

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Single: Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
Could have been: That’s The Way I Like It
Hit or Miss: Hit – While That’s The Way I Like It is one of, if not my ALL TIME FAVOURITE BSB SONG EVER I can’t deny them their signature song can I? On a recent night out they played Everybody twice (in different bars) it’s what the people want and a world without drunk people trying to do the dance routine isn’t one I want to live in.

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Single: As Long As You Love Me
Could have been: That’s The Way I Like It
Hit or Miss – Miss – after releasing Everybody I thought releasing ALAYLM was a safe choice and yes the chair routine was impressive, and I can’t confirm nor deny whether I sprained my ankle trying to recreate it in my living room when I was 15. I think releasing That’s The Way I Like it would have surprised people, and kept the uptempo momentum of Everybody going.

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Single: All I Have to Give
Could have been: Set Adrift on Memory Bliss
Hit or Miss – Miss – All I Have To Give isn’t a bad song, it’s a just a bit meh, and as well as being a grammatical nightmare (‘does his gifts come from the heart?’ – well does they?!) it’s too similar to ALAYLM and two mid tempo singles in a row is just lazy. Set Adrift… is in no way a fan favourite, and I understand they didn’t want to release a cover version however apart from the name and the hook it’s almost a totally different song to the original. Set Adrift is just super summery and relaxed – and I love it. But no one ever listens to me…

Album: Millennium

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Single: I Want It That Way
Could have been: Don’t Wanna Lose You Now
Hit or Miss: Hit – I actually think Don’t Wanna Lose You Now is a better song however (even my dad agreees – it’s his favourite BSB song ever) IWITW is probably joint signature song along with Everybody so I can’t take that out of the running. It was the final song played at my wedding and all our friends and family danced and sang along before we all collapsed in a heap so it holds a special place in my heart. However that said it does also fall into the ‘over it’ category sometimes and I love Don’t Wanna Lose You Now so much I would hate to ever be over that too.

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Single: Larger than Life
Could have been: It’s Gotta Be You
Hit or Miss: Hit – Larger than Life has also been one of the strongest singles of their for me, even my metal loving mate Janine loves the guitar solo bit in it. A very strong pop song which no one can deny. I do Love It’s Gotta be You as well, but don’t think it would have worked as well as a single.

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Single: Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely
Could have been: Back To Your Heart
Hit or Miss: Miss – much like All I Have To Give, it’s not a bad song, it’s just a bit ‘boyband by numbers’ and a bit meh, plus the lyrics make little to no sense whatsoever. Back To Your Heart is a much MUCH better ballad form Millennium – the lyrics are constructed in coherent sentences and everything!

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Single: The One
Could have been: Don’t Want You Back
Hit or Miss: Miss – another lazy single for the sake of being a single that they threw out because they were too busy on tour. Don’t Want You Back is an amazing song and would have been bloody brilliant and a single. But maybe this is why I don’t work in A&R

Album: Black and Blue

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Single: Shape of My Heart
Could have been: The Answer to Our Life
Hit or miss: Miss – Meagan will kill me for this as Shape of My Heart is her all time fave however it’s just predictable to me and smacks of I Want it That Way version 2. I surprised The Answer to Our Life was never a single regardless of else was released, to me it’s their signature but just way more upbeat and catchy and would have produced a fun music video.

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Single: The Call
Could have been: Shining Star
Hit or Miss: Hit – finally! They start releasing something a little more edgy! I love The Call, and particularly love the Neptunes remix which was also released along with the single. Shining Star would have served the same purpose; provided a much needed urban/r’n’b element to their back catalogue but in my humble opinion it’s not a very good song at all and would have been panned by the critics as them trying too hard (and they’d have been right).

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Single: More Than That
Could have been: Yes I Will
Hit or Miss: Neutral – I’m completely torn with this one as if depends on what the rules are. If we’re swapping out like for like and More Than That needs to be replaced with another ballad then it’s absolutely the right choice as Black & Blue is too cheesy ballad heavy for my liking. However if it can be swapped out for anything then Get Another Boyfriend, Everyone or Not for Me are all brilliant songs which would have made brilliant singles.

Album: Never Gone

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Single: Incomplete
Could have been: Safest Place to Hide
Hit or Miss: Hit – I’ve always been a lover of the uptempo songs over the ballads however Incomplete is the exception that proves the rule because it’s probably my second favourite all time BSB song. Never Gone is an underrated album in my opinion actually, it’s moved away from the cheese of Black & Blue and although there are lots of ballads, they have a more acoustic, classy feel. AJ’s voice sounds particularly brilliant on this too.

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Single: Just Want You To Know
Could have been: My Beautiful Woman
Hit or Miss: Miss – don’t get me wrong it’s a strong song and the music video is hilarious however while they were making a small change in musical direction with this album, releasing Just Want You To Know felt like a step backwords. My Beautiful Woman is a brilliant song and would have made a brilliant uptempo single to follow Incomplete.

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Single: I Still…
Could have been: Climbing The Walls
Hit or Miss: Miss – this was never released in the UK so it kind of passed me by as a single but there’s a music video for it so it makes the cut! It’s a good song and a strong one off the album but I heavily prefer Climbing the Walls over this and always wished they would release it when I first heard the album. It was really cool to hear them singing with real instruments for a change and whilst I would miss their dance routine laden videos, it was a reminder how strong their voices really are.

Album: Unbreakable

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Single: Inconsolable
Could have been: Something That I Already Know
Hit or Miss: Miss – I was surprised they were so comfortable releasing a song called Inconsolable, only 3 songs after releasing a song called Incomplete and I’d be lying If I said that’s where the similarities ended as well. It’s not a bad song by any means but again feels like boyband by numbers and Something That I Already Know has an edgier pop-rock feel and is brilliant for wailing along to in the car. So I hear.

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Single: Helpless When She Smiles
Could have been: Trouble Is
Hit or Miss: Miss – CHEESY LYRIC ALERT *She opens up just like a rose to me when she’s close to me*  please! There are so many good uptempo songs on this album; Everything But Mine, Panic or Treat Me Right would have all made strong singles rather than releasing yet another ballad. Even Trouble Is – also a ballad – had a country twist to it which would feel like a break from the old routine.

Album: This is Us

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Single: Straight Through My Heart
Could have been: Bye Bye Love
Hit or Miss: Hit – clearly on the Redone band wagon that was all around in 2009 (not that that’s a bad thing) this Gaga induced song is strong and and underrated favourite of mine. I LOVE Brian’s voice at during the first verse and although it loses it a bit in chorus where it all goes a bit teenpop, it’s no weaker than another One Direction or JLS were releasing at the same time. Dare I say they seemed to be having more fun without Kevin….?

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Single: Bigger
Could have been: This is Us
Hit or Miss: Hit – massive MASSIVE hit! I adore this song so much and it should have done way better commercially than it did. As mentioned above I think they suffered a bit from the influx of younger, more current bands and they lost their place in the charts a little bit however had this song (and in fact whole album) been released by someone else, it would have been huge which is a huge shame. I would have loved to have seen more singles released off this album; Undone, Shattered and If I Knew Then are all great songs.

Album: In A World Like This

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Single: In A World Like This
Could have been: Feels Like Home
Hit or Miss: Miss – I get the sentiment, it’s crazy times we live in these days and sometimes all we need to know is that we’ll always have our favourite 5 boys (now Kevin’s returned) singing to us on top of a mountain about how it’s all going to be ok. I just think it’s a medicore song. I really like Feels Like Home, it’s a little on the cheesy side, but that’s never stopped these lads before. And they probably could have been more adventurous with the video too.

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Single: Show ‘Em What You’re Made of
Could have been: Try
Hit or Miss: Hit – feels like classic BSB when they were at the top of their game. It ties in with the movie documentary that was released at the same time and was a slow burner of a a song for me but I absolutely love it now and always find myself listening to it for a little pick me up when I feel I need a lyrical kick up the bum. Plus the music video is um, very tastefully and artistically done (absolutely not full of gratuitous shirtless shots).

So actually when I sit down and think about it, it’s a pretty even split with out of 24 songs 11 are a hit, 12 are a miss and one I’m on the fence about however I think when a band are releasing singles they should release their best stuff all the time, there should only be one or two misses tops. That’s just my opinion though and you can’t please all the people all the time.

I mean, I’m sure there are fans out there who will swear I’ll Never Break Your Heart is the best song ever written and recorded. I mean they’d be wrong, but I’m sure they’re out there!

Palmersville

I always get the P’s on the metro mixed up; Percy Main, Pelaw and Palmersville may as well all be on the moon as far as I’m concerned. None of them are anywhere near anywhere I frequent. Which is why the Wine & Beer Metro Tour has been so great, It’s taken me to places I’ve never been before.

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It was never one of the original Metro stations; this Johnny come lately opened 1986, nearly six years after the rest of the Metro line however it was the first station to feature new ticket machines and smartcard validators in 2011. Why? Who knows?

It’s a real shame that The Wheatsheaf Pub, which is visual distance from the metro (a 3 minute walk at most) has shut as that would have been everything we look for in a WABM pub, location wise. However the only other option is to turn left instead of right out the station on Great Lime Road and walk the best part of a mile to find The New Coach Inn.

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My first impression when we first walked in (at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon) was ‘wow, that’s green’ they seem to have these green neon lights above the bar which reminds me of Liquid Nightclub in the Bigg Market, which is particularly bizarre in a quiet suburb or North Tyneside.

Don’t get me wrong, the green lights aside it’s nicely decorated; nice light wood tables and lots of natural day light and open space. It does declare it’s self as  a ‘bar and restaurant’ and like most places who lay this claim, it’s more restaurant than bar.

There was no ale on offer at all, so the male contingent of our party settled for two pints of Coors Light, myself ‘the usual’ (a medium glass of white wine) and my mum and lime and soda which came to about £12.

Like you can always judge a man by his shoes, you can always judge a pub by it’s toilet and these ones were particularly uncared for. For a pub that size why on earth would you think that only 2 cubicles would suffice (and one of them was blocked when we went). I would say the only saving grace this place has is the rather swanky looking beer garden out the back – for the one day a year that it’s warm enough to sit outside

The problem with this place is it’s built it’s self to service the local housing estates and to be exactly what the people in the area want. Somewhere they can go for a few drinks on a Friday or Saturday night, or a meal with their family. It’s not the kind of place you can stumble across (mainly because it’s so bloody bar from the metro station) and consider it a hidden gem that you must go and rave to all your friends about.

Contact:

Address: Killingworth Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne NE12 7BR
Phone: 0191 216 9999

See where else we’ve been on out metro pub adventure here

Hotel Du Vin’s new Bistro

‘Seafood was always my favorite food. I mean, lobster? Come on!’ – Adrian Peterson

If being a July birthday has taught me anything (and it hasn’t) it’s that dare to utter the word ‘barbeque’ and it’s guaranteed to rain. I swear every time I try and arrange a birthday cookout we end up popping bubbly in the conservatory and grilling all the meat in the oven.

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So imagine my delight when the day of Hotel Du Vin’s summer barbeque and launch of their new bistro, the weather gods were obviously looking favourably upon me for a change and the sun made a very welcome appearance!

Hotel Du Vin has always been one of those places that have been on my radar to visit for a lifetime but for one reason or another have never quite made it. The Ouseburn area has always been a favourite of mine; close enough to be walking distance from the Quayside but remote enough that it has a quirky laid back vibe of its own. So suffice to say I was honoured to be able to attend their Bistro launch with some of my favourite blogging girlies for a little mate date.  Katie and I arrived a little early so had and had a drink in bar, which is a fab mixture of classy and cosy with lots of stylish dark wood and comfy arm chairs to recline in whilst enjoying a chilled glass of wine.

Once out on the terrace we were treated to some summer cocktails (the strawberry margarita was a particular favourite of mine) and some live music whilst they fired up the BBQ.  As is a full bbq all with locally sourced Northumbrian meat there was a seafood market cart jam backed with dressed crab, crab claws and lobster as well as a fresh Lindisfarne Oyster boat. I mean, with Brexit just around the corner it’s reassuring to know that with these delicacies on our doorstep, we’ll probably be ok with locally sourced food!

Oysters is definite the marmite of the seafood world; you either love them or hate them however it’s well documented that I’m a huge lover of marmite so am equally a lover of oysters too!  Smothered in tabasco sauce I could have eaten me about a million and a half of those bad boys! I didn’t though – they’re not all that well known for their stomach lining properties after all!

 

Thanks to Katie from www.ladyfromatramp.co.uk so use of her pictures

I could go on and on about the juiciness of the prawns or the succulence of the meat but to be honest, it’s probably just best you head along and try out their new bistro menu for yourself. The currently do a particularly good value al fresco summer set menu for £17.95 for two courses or £20.95 for three. If you’re particularly lucky, and happen to pick the day that summer falls on this year, you may even be able to treat yourself to a seat outside!

Contact:

Allan House, City Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2BE
Tel: 0191 389 8628

Pick of the Year: 2003

2003

 

  1. Black Eyed Peas – Shut Up
  2. Lemar – Dance With U
  3. Robbie Williams – Come Undone
  4. Zoe Birkett – Treat Me Like a Lady
  5. Matchbox 20 – Unwell
  6. Justin Timberlake – Rock your Body
  7. Melanie C – Here It Comes Again
  8. Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love?
  9. Appleton – Don’t Worry
  10. 50  Cent – In Da Club
  11. Lumidee – Never Leave You
  12. Britney Spears – Me Against The Music
  13. Matchbox 20 – Bright Lights
  14. Gary Jules – Mad World
  15. Christina Aguilera – Fighter
  16. Will Young – Leave Right Now
  17. DMX – X Gon Give it To Ya
  18. Outkast – Hey Ya!
  19. Mis-teeq – Scandalous
  20. Jamelia – Superstar
  21. Beyonce – Crazy in Love
  22. Fatman Scoop – Be Faithful
  23. R Kelly – Ignition (remix)
  24. The Darkness – I Believe in a Thing Called Love
  25. Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots pt 1
  26. Tatu – All The Things She Said
  27. Big Brovaz – OK
  28. O-Town – These Are The Days
  29. Eminem – Sing for the Moment
  30. Missy Elliott – Gossip Folks
  31. Eve – Satisfaction
  32. David Gray – Be Mine
  33. Jay-Z – Excuse Me Miss
  34. Triple Eight – Knockout
  35. Girls Aloud – No Good Advice
  36. Bon Jovi – All About Lovin You
  37. B2K – Girlfriend
  38. Michelle Branch – Are You Happy Now
  39. Eminem – Business
  40. All American Rejects – Swing Swing

Pallion

Pallion in Sunderland is another station that was added to the network when the Sunderland extension was built in 2002 and mostly services Pallion high street, sorry Pallion Shopping Terrace, and the Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Sadly, pub wise, it’s thin on the ground. We walked passed 3 social clubs and a dilapidated old Pub before we finally found somewhere suitable, and by suitable, i mean open, on Hylton Road, a good 20 minutes from the Metro station.

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From the station walk up towards Pallion high street, sorry, Shopping Terrace, and follow signs to the Hospital. Once in sight turn left down Hylton Road, keeping the hospital on your right and you’ll eventually find the Willow Pond.

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This oasis in the desert that is Hylton Road was actually a really nice surprise. It was nicely busy for a Saturday afternoon with regulars chatting and watching sport but there was a quieter lounge area where we hung out. The staff and locals were all great, especially as we had the youngest member of the WBM crew joining us today and got loads of help with navigating his buggy around the bar stools.

 

 

The drink options weren’t amazing, it was still pretty much real ale free however three pints of lager and a bottle of Desperados came to around a tenner which didn’t feel like bad value at all. I feel i use the phrase ‘local pub for local people’ a little too often in this guide however i think it’s appropriate in this case and I don’t mean it in a negative way either.

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One of the loveliest things has been meeting loads of local people in areas that you wouldn’t normally find yourself and it’s heartwarming to see the North East’s reputation of being friendly a welcoming alive and well, even for a couple of Geordies drinking in deepest darkest Sunderland.

Contact:

Address: 173 Hylton Road, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear SR4 7YF
Tel: 0191 567 6742
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Willow-Pond/