Cullercoats

Like most of the older stations on the metro line, Cullercoats was originally park of the Blyth and Tyne Railway and the station was located much further inland than where it now stands.  It was moved to its current location in 1882 where most of the original features still remain to this day and has been part of the metro network since the very first day of service on 11 August 1980.

If you leave the metro station main doors and follow signs towards the sea front you will come to Beverley Terrace which runs right along coast. If you turn left at that roundabout and walk for a couple of minute you will come to one of many pubs in Cullercoats; The Queens Head.

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As you enter through the main doors (weaving through the outside benches which is a huge draw to sea front pubs) you can either turn right to go to the bar area or left to the restaurant /lounge. We weren’t eating on this occasion so left into the bar it was. Despite being tea time on a Saturday afternoon it was reasonably quiet. The décor is definitely shabby rather than chiq, and doesn’t really look like it’s seen a lick on paint since the early 70’s.

We ordered two glasses of the usual (medium sauvignon blanc) and perched at a table with a small window which gave lovely views of the coastline. There was however, nothing in the way of real ale (apart from John Smiths) and the lager options seemed to be Carling or Fosters.

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One thing that will always start a conversation (with varying degrees of success) in a semi empty bar are when you start taking pictures. Some people love it and some people get quite uncomfortable. Thankfully on this visit it was the former as the group of session drinkers in the corner were well up for getting in front of the camera! This makes my job a million times easier and always makes for some good pub banter.

If I were basing this review solely on the bar, I would say there are probably much better pubs in the area that are worth the walk however if you’ve just endured a long coastal walk and need some hearty grub I hear their steak night and Fish & Chips are somewhat legendary and may just be their saving grace. On a nice sunny day there could be worse places to spend a few hours than in their beer garden.

Contact:

6 Front Street, Cullercoats NE30 4QB, England
Tel: 0191 253 7052
Web: http://www.queensheadnorthshields.co.uk/

Find out where else we’ve been on our Wine & Beer Metro Tour here

Charge! At the Discovery Museum

‘A museum should not just be a place for fancy paintings but should be a place where we can communicate our lives through our everyday objects’ – Orhan Pamuk

If you’d have asked me what my ideal way of spending a Saturday afternoon I’d be talking for a very long time before the word ‘museum’ ever passed my lips. However that’s exactly where I found myself last Saturday as I went along to the first day of the Discovery Museum’s newest permanent exhibition ‘Charge!’*

Of course it’s not probably something I would have ordinarily gone to had it not been the fact that dad works there and had a hand it putting the whole thing together. As such we were treated to a personal tour from the man himself, and whilst I may scoff at how middleclass I’ve sudden become, and I definitely did stress too much over what one wears to a museum on a Saturday afternoon, I ended up having a brilliant time (and I’m not just saying that because my dad will be reading this – I promise!)

I grew up in an Army family, living in Holland and Belgium for the majority of my childhood so I have always been a fan of anything Army related. Charge! Is the Story of England’s Northern Cavalry bringing together collections of The Light Dragoons and the Northumberland Hussars since becoming the Command & Support squadron of the Queen’s Own Yeomanry. Both regiments, which are formally affiliated to each other, are the only cavalry divisions today which exclusively recruit from the North of England.

Rather than following a traditional chronological format the exhibition is laid out in categories instead, which I find much easier to follow as you can see side by side the contrast between traditional and modern incarnations of the regiments. Despite the exhibition room being relatively small, there’s loads to see and read about. I also love how interactive it is (so definitely somewhere you can keep the kids interested for an hour or two). A real highlight for me where genuine copies of letters that had been sent home to family members from World War II (which were also available to listen to audibly).

There’s replicas of some of the regiments uniform to dress up in which displays perfectly the evolution of military fashion (if fashion is the right word!) and examples of different ration packs and that are taken into the field – something which brings back memories for Dave who took many a ration pack with him on his bike trip round the word in 2009 courtesy of the British Army – the fruit biscuits are amazing apparently!

The balance between interest for young and old is just perfect in my opinion, there are games for the children to play throughout, explaining about different animals who were kicking about during that time – the story of Peter the cat is my particular favourite. And ever wondered what a soldier smells like after 2 months in the field? Wonder no more as there are smelling pods which have recreated different scents of battle. Believe me when I say it’s not for the faint hearted – and I’ve smelt the inside of a cricketers dirty kit bag!

If you’re not particularly pushed for time, half an hour in the cinema room would be time well spent which has multiple short films on display featuring real soldiers and their families talking about their experiences – good and bad. Some of the films are difficult to watch but extremely well put together and really brings home what soldiers go through.

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Much as my dad’s my biggest fan, likewise, I’m his and it’s lovely to see him able to work on something he’s so passionate about (he himself was a member of The Queen Own Yeomary before he retired a few years ago) and the team at the Discovery Museum have put on an excellent display.

* Don’t worry, we went to the pub afterwards!

The Split Chimp opens new Rum Bar!

‘Wine is crying juice. Rum is worse’ – Retta

When you think back to about 5 years ago and all the empty units that seemed to be dotted around Newcastle City Centre it would be safe to say that there’s been somewhat of a rebirth pubwise recently. For my personal taste there has been a few too many Harry’s type places springing up but one place I have always rated and has gone from strength to strength over the last 18 months has been the Split Chimp on Westgate Road (next door to the Herb Garden).

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The Chimp micro pub started out life round the other side of the railway arches opposite The Telegraph. They moved round to the lighter side in 2016 to a larger unit all the while keeping their micropub feel and I don’t think there has been a time I’ve walked passed where there hasn’t been a good handful of people inside.

Despite other micropubs starting to pop up, The Split Chimp still remains my favourite with it’s perfect mix of real ale (including their own Clever Chimp – a great session ale) and £15 bottles of prosecco – which is what drew me there in the first place. So the question really is – how do you improve in perfection?

 

You install a rum bar, that’s how! Owner Mark Hall, a former paramedic, decided that there was a market in a city awash with swanky gin bars that he would offer something different for the pirates among us so opened up the Top Chimp. Renovating the upstairs area with a rum bar open on Fridays and Saturdays and adding some comfy sofas and softer lighting for a more cosy atmosphere. Not only do they have a vast selection of rums with names I can’t even pronounce, Mark has painstakingly produced his own Rum Cocktails (rum mixed with flavoured ciders and ales) which are pretty amazing! Needless to say if it’s just Bacardi you’re after you might want to try somewhere else..

It’s so lovely being able to see your favourite pub go from strength to strength without having to adopt any fancy marketing plans or corporate brewery chain input creating an oasis in a city jam packed with pretentious ginnery’s (is that a word – it is now!). I love the big leather arms chairs that have replaced the skittle alley and wooden benches, especially with the darker nights drawing in, even more reason to snuggle in for an evening with friends. If only I can now convince Mark to open on Sundays…

Contact:

Address: Arch 7, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1SA
Website: http://www.splitchimp.pub
Twitter: @SplitChimp
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/splitchimp
Instagram: @thesplitchimp

West Monkseaton

West Monkseaton station has been around since 1933 where it was part of the London and North Eastern Railway but was taken over as a metro station in 1980. It has retained a lot of the original fixtures and fittings from the LNER, most notably the platform canopy which also survived the 1999 refurbishment.

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If you leave the stations main entrance, cross over to the other side of the road the turn right, if you walk for about 2-3 minutes you’ll see The Beacon Hotel.

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The Beacon is owned by Ember Inns and has all the markings of your bog standard, run of the mill family pub in the middle of a housing estate. It’s plushly done out inside with loads of large tables for family dining, sport on the TV to encourage groups of friends, pop music on the juke box and real ale. It’s certainly a pub that can be all things to all people depending of what you want.

My best mate Ang was my drinking partner when we visited a few weeks ago and were greeted with a really warm welcome buy the guy behind the bar as we deliberated over what kind of wine we wanted and (perhaps more importantly) what flavour crisps to have.

We weren’t eating on this occasion by the food menu was all the pub classics you’d expect from a chain pub at good prices and what we did see coming out the kitchen looked delicious. They have lots of offers on if you become and Ember Member, possibly most noteworthy a free bottle of prosecco on your birthday, something i’d most definitely take advantage of if it were my local.

I’m normally put off by big chain pubs that are quite family centric, and a hidden gem this wasn’t. However, perhaps it was the warm welcome, the real fireplace or maybe I was just full of salt n vinegar crisps, but Ang and I had a splendid time when we visited and I would have no reservations going back to sample their prosecco, whether it’s my birthday or not!

Contact:

Earsdon Road, Whitley Bay NE25 9PT, England
0191 253 6911
https://www.emberinns.co.uk/nationalsearch/northwest/the-beacon-hotel-whitley-bay

Find out where else we’ve been on our metro adventure here

What I Wore – Summer 2017

‘People get excited about summer wardrobes and what they will wear on holiday, and people have an opportunity to wear things that they don’t normally wear when they’re in the city’ – Jade Jagger

There’s a lot to be said for entering your mid thirties and suddenly realising that all the petty superficial stuff that used to bother you in your twenties you actually don’t give a shit about any more. I certainly don’t mess with my hair as much as I used to have have even been embracing my natral waves more recently.

When I was 25 I joined weight watchers and lost a bit of weight which, other than half a stone here or there I’ve managed to keep off. One of the side effects of losing so much weight was that it made me borderline obsessed with clothes and shopping – because shopping had become enjoyable again. However I’ve always played it pretty safe in the past and have always been a bootcut jeans and a t-shirt kind of girl.

Problem is that I love a bargain almost as much as I love jeans and t-shirts and i have a wardrobe full of clothes I’ve picked up from charity shops or in sales or on eBay that were brave for me, but I’ve never gotten round to wearing. This summer I decided to throw caution to the wind and wear all of the lovely clothes I’d bought, and be damned what anyone else thought because I liked them.

Here’s a catalogue of my summer of bravery:

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I’ve worn more dresses this summer than I think I’ve worn in my entire life!

I’ve also been trying to embrace the playsuit/jumpsuit/dungarees, especially when travelling, its one complete outfit but only one item of clothing. Plus you can be as smart or as casual as you like..

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Outfit details:

  1. Floral maxi dress – Kimerley Walsh for Very
  2. Red lace dress – h&m
  3. Denim dress – Levi
  4. Black & white prom dress – Coast
  5. Dungaree dress – F&F @ Tesco
  6. Black & white playsuit – F&F @ Tesco
  7. Black jumpsuit – Primark
  8. Black skinny dungarees – Primark 
  9. Khaki playsuit – Dorothy Perkins
  10. Black asymmetric playsuit – Kookai

Comment or link below and tell me what your favourite outfits of the summer have been!

JustSO release debut album

‘All music is escapism for me, but I like the way that, on a good night, that sense of escapism can be shared’ – Jamie xx

One of the best parts of my job is being able to talk passionately about things I love and discovering new music has always been a great love of mine. Writing this blog has given me many amazing opportunities, and none more amazing than being offered the opportunity to work as press officer for local North East rock band The Longsands after they read a review I wrote of one of their gigs. It helped that I was mates with them at school of course; having an already established relationship made the job so much easier and it was a dream come true for me.

Guitarist from The Longsands Stan had always had a side project in JustSO, a more laid back acoustic offering with vocalist Olivia Morley which he managed concurrently with The Longsands but when the boys decided to call it a day in 2017, Stan moved forward with JustSO and started recording their own material rather than just relying on a popular wedding band repertoire.

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They’ve now just released their first self titled album full of original material and although it couldn’t be more different from The Longsands back catalogue, on just first listen it sounds like a perfect laid back pop album.

The change in direction (for Stan at least) is a refreshing change of pace and his distinctive voice shines through as he shares 50% of the vocals. As soon I heard his guitar kick in I instantly thought ‘there’s Stan’. His voice melts like butter with Olivia’s who although may vocally lack the power of Beyonce or Adele, she certainly more than makes up for it in soul and reminds me of some of my favourite female singers from the 90s like Paula Cole and Jewel.

The album is track after track of polished classy radio friendly hits with a distinct modern americana vibe. Stand out track from me is Stay, which could have been pulled straight off the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack and believe me when I say I hold the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack in very high esteem!

History hasn’t been too kind to male/female bands however I think JustSO manage to pull off the musical credibility of Fleetwood Mac (without being too mumsy) and the energy of The Beautiful South (without being a bit rubbish). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you heard them on radio 2 in the very near future!

Download the album from amazon and find out more about the band on their Facebook page.

Sunderland

Metro extended down to Sunderland in 2002, which is relatively recent considering it feels like it’s part of the line that’s always been there. What makes Sunderland station unique is that the main line and local line services all share the same tracks, which when there’s up to 5 trains an hour serviced by the metro alone, means it’s one of the busiest stations on the line.

City centre stations are always a joy to review because there’s an abundance of pubs and restaurants to choose from. For the purposes of this guide we chose the Tipsy Cow on Bridge Street.  If you leave the station onto Waterloo Place which merges into Union Street, then turn right onto High Street then left onto Bridge Street and the Tipsy Cow will be on the left.

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I absolutely love the decor of pubs like this which are both cosy and trendy; they remind me of (what I imagine) Canadian ski lodges look like with the plaid upholstery and dark wooden furnishings. We had a Groupon voucher luckily when we visited so had some gourmet burgers and sides, all were cooked perfectly, portions were plentiful and prices (even without the voucher) were really reasonable.

Sometimes city centre pubs can go one of two ways; over priced because of a captive audience, or reasonable because of the competition. The Tipsy Cow thankfully is the latter with a good selection of real ales on tap and lots good drinks offers (like bottles of wine for £7 on a Sunday). The staff were also good and food came quickly.

There’s plenty of choice in Sunderland City Centre and it would be easy to fall into old faithfuls like a Wetherspoons (of which there are 3 within walking distance of the metro station) but I think The Tipsy Cow offers something a little different and would be the perfect edition to a Sunderland session.

Contact:

Address: 33 Bridge St, Sunderland SR1 1TA
Phone: 0191 567 1616

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