Park Lane

Not only is Park Lane one of Sunderland’s two city centre metro stations but it’s also (officially) the busiest bus station in the UK outside of London. It opened in 2002 as part of the Sunderland metro expansion however was a little after the rest of the Sunderland due to a delay in some wall panels being delivered. And you can’t have a metro station without any walls.

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If you walk out of the metro station and turn right through the bus station you will come to Park Lane and the first port of call you come to will be 2 minutes down the road on the right called; Port of Call.

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It was Saturday lunchtime when we arrived and just nicely busy, although it quickly filled up as the afternoon wore on. It has a really American bar-cum-restaurant vibe with high ceilings, high wooden tables and route 66 style memorabilia adorning the walls. There are two levels for if the downstairs (where all the cosy booths are) is full and there’s a large beer garden with heated Tipi out the back. They have a good range of craft ale and glasses of wine come in at a very reasonable £4..10 for a large glass. That said £6 for a pint of ale and a pint of lime & soda left us feeling a little salty – it would have been more economical for me to drink wine I think!

While the good selection of drinks was great, the real draw of this place is undoubtedly the food. It’s a hipster paradise with everything coming in a brioche bun with a side of ‘slaw – so very trendy. The choice and the portions are both plentiful however, Dave’s chicken skewer was a sight to behold for sure and at £18 for two mains it didn’t feel over priced for the amount you got. Must just be the lime and soda that costs the earth!

Port of Call is great city centre pub which can be all things to all people – someone for a bite to eat and a few drinks on a Saturday afternoon in between shopping trips, a session pub to watch the football or a cocktail bar to meet your friends in on a Friday or Saturday night. It certainly was a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon in Sunderland

Contact:

1 Park Lane, Sunderland SR1 3NX
0191 514 5408
http://portofcall.co/

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

Holy Crepe! Crepeaffaire is now open in Newcastle!

‘It’s hard to imagine a scenario where someone would say no to pancakes’ – David Levithan

I’m sure there are people in the world who’s only experience of the humble pancake is what they have once a year on shrove Tuesday, or possibly those thick American monstrosities you get in hipster diners, however during my meagre 35 years on this earth I’ve experienced quite a love affair with the Crepe. I grew up in Belgium, meaning Crepes and Pain au Chocolate weren’t just something you had once a year or when you visited Patisserie Valerie. They were something you had every Saturday morning when you went to the local market. So make no mistake, I’ve had some of the best crepes around so when Crepeaffaire invited me and Davy along to their new shop in the swanky Greys Quarter in Eldon Square, you can bet the Mons Monkey I was down to try!

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Crepeaffaire have recently launched their Indulgence menu which means not only can you get the classics like Banana, Nutella and Lemon & Sugar, they’ve upped the ante and added combinations like Banana, Rum & Raisin, Fererro Rocher and Salted Caramel. If all that gooey deliciousness doesn’t float your boat they also do a wide range of savoury crepes which are much more lunchtime appropriate, if I weren’t there purely for the sugar hit I’d be all over the pesto and mozzarella.

Last time we were in Florida we visited Waffle House for breakfast where I had pancakes with chocolate and peanut butter – a perfectly normal choice I thought. However the family at the next table whose waistline and IQ stats where are polar opposite ends of the spectrum loudly expressed their disgust as they tucked into their artery clogging quadruple bacon and maple syrup 15 pancake stack. As such it took the shine off and I didn’t really enjoy my last pancake experience. So with their contempt in mind, and ever the rebel, I confidently ordered the Belgian Chocolate – because revenge is best served 3 years later on a different continent.

Dave, being the healthier and more sensible of the two of us ordered a salmon and cream cheese crepe, which let’s be honest is pretty standard and hard to get horribly wrong. His crepe had the a right balance of both ingredients and a hearty sprinkling of Dill in top for good measure. My Belgian chocolate was exquisite and made with real Belgian chocolate not sugary, watery sauce you get in some places.

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We also had two fruit smoothies each, which were pretty yummy, if a little heavy on juice rather than actual pureed fruit. There were plenty of drink options to choose from though; all hot drinks come with free refills all day every day and you can even get a beer or a glass of prosecco if you fancy (which in itself id pretty fancy!)

We were both pleasantly full after our lunch which isn’t something that can always be said with crepes. I like how they have savoury options which are more healthy than the sweet ones if you don’t want to fill yourself with carb and sugar or want to have a lunch top in between shopping.

Prices start from a fiver and as it’s Crepeaffaire Newcastle’s 1st Birthday week the store will be randomly handing out 10 free crepe vouchers a day to purchasing customers. On 23rd November 2017, all customers purchasing a crepe after 5pm will receive a glass of Prosecco on the house!

Find out more at www.crepeaffaire.com

*we received complimentary food and drink in return for an honest review

Stadium of Light

It’s strange isn’t it that geographically  St Peter’s is actually closer to the Stadium of Light Football ground than the Stadium of Light station? Perhaps it’s just one of those anomalies that should never be questioned like crop circles or vegans. Anyway, another fun fact about the Stadium of Light station is that is used to be accessed by the yellow line as well as the green meaning football fans had a direct route from St James Park in Newcastle to the SoL in Sunderland (albeit a convoluted route via the coast). This was scrapped in 2005 however and can now only get there via the green line.

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If you come out of the train station and follow signs towards the football ground (it’s well sign posted but also visible from the station so you’d be hard pushed to walk in the wrong direction. The first pub you will come to is the Colliery Tavern, which is right next to the front gates of SoL.

Much like the Strawberry in Newcastle this is a perfect match day pub and I imagine is absolutely shoulder to shoulder when the Black Cats are playing at home. We visited on a quiet Saturday afternoon and there were just a few regularly propping up the bar.

What pubs like these lack in variety or flair they make up for in pricing structure as a round of halves came in at under a fiver – can’t argue with that! The décor is everything you’d expect from an old, established north eastern boozer and is a little worn around the edges. Naturally its proximity to the stadium means SAF memorabilia adorns the walls and the weekly meat raffle is heavily advertised.  I suppose the problem with the mixture of cheap beer and football fans is the inevitability of the first Google review commenting on ‘middle aged people fighting’ which does raise eyebrows however we didn’t see any of that when we visited – thankfully!

Contact:

Address: 12 Southwick Rd, Sunderland SR5 1EQ
Phone: 0191 548 7157

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

Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm

Cornwall is famous for 3 things; pastys, cream teas and cider. My waistline was already full to bursting with the first two so on the last day of our recent Cornish staycastion we found ourselves with a free day so headed to Healeys Cornish Cyder Farm to see if we could get wasted on fermented apples.

I became most aware of the Healeys and and their apple crushing ways when I was given some Rattler on a hen do back in June, which sounds like some underground slang for something illegal however, is merely just cloudy cider, and isn’t too bad at all!

The cider farm itself has varying tour options depending on how much you want to spend or how much you want to see. You can get a fall guided tour around the orchard and the production room on a tractor for about £15, you do a self guided tour for £4 or you can just have a wander round yourself for free (without seeing the orchard or production room). An educated guess lead us to believe cider production was probably nothing more than apples go in, press, press, press, cider comes out, we decided to just walk around ourselves.

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There’s certainly enough to keep you occupied for an hour or so too; there’s a non working example of a cider press to see (turns out our educated guess was pretty accurate by the look of the machinery), a cafe serving traditional Cornish cream teas, a restaurant if you wanted something more fancy to eat and a jam making room – they were making sweet chilli and Rattler jam when we were there and it smelt amazing!

There’s also a little farmyard to keep the kids (old and young) occupied with a couple of Shire Horses, pigs, rabbits, ferrets and some super SUPER cute pygmy goats.

The best part of the visit however has to be the gift shop and tasting area, which is completely free (Well, the gift shop isn’t free, you can’t just help yourself to anything in there) but the tasting is and we’ve done enough alcohol tours and tastings in the past to know this is one of the letter ones. It’s very rare that organisations will give away much for free so it’s refreshing to see initiatives being employed to create positive reviews and good word of mouth at very little cost to the company. In short, you very rarely get something for nothing.

The staff dishing out the tastings were all knowledgeable and great fun as they talked you through all the different types of cider they make and how long each one is brewed? Distilled? Matured? (Perhaps I should have gone on that tour afterall) for. You only get a little sample of each but there are quite a few to sample so must have had the equivalent of half a pint by the end.

I’m not entirely sure I would spend £15 for a full ticket, especially if you’re taking the family however the self guided tour at £4.50 wouldn’t break the bank and would certainly keeping the little ones entertained for another hour or so, it’s just a shame they wouldn’t be able to drive you home afterwards!

Contact:

Address: Penhallow – Truro – Cornwall – TR4 9LW – United Kingdom
Website: https://healeyscyder.co.uk/ 
Email: info@healeyscyder.co.uk
Phone: 01872 573356

East Boldon

East Boldon Station is one of the busiest suburban stations on the network with almost 40K passengers annually commuting to Newcastle and Sunderland. It was opened in 2002 with the rest of the Sunderland expansion and Northern trains still travel through the station (although don’t stop).

If you’re coming from Newcastle finding the nearest pub couldn’t be easier (actually if you’re coming from Sunderland it’s pretty easy as well) as Beggars Bridge is right there in the car park. And I love it when that happens. Beggars Bridge has a fairly recent incarnation as it was previously known as Sleepers before it’s refurbishment in  2016 which seems to have been long overdue and very welcome by the locals (although I’m not sure I agree with that demolition of the adjoining Chicken Shop that used to be there.

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As with most pubs that have recently seen a facelift there’s an air of class and sophistication about the place. Now I never visited when it was Sleepers but I hear on the grapevine that class and sophistication are two words ever used to describe it. It’s the right side of trendy with light wood, cosy booths and tartan upholstery and old pictures of the local area on the walls.

There’s no distinct bar/lounge area you find in most pubs so if you’re eating, you’re sharing a space with people just out for drinks and vice versa, which isn’t a problem at all however would recommend nabbing a table first if ordering food. Drinks wise it’s what you’d come to expect however as there’s very little local competition I found them on the steep side, which means you could easily run up a hefty bar tab if you’re planning on a session.  The one thing that ruined it for me was that when we visited (at about 5pm on a Saturday afternoon) what that there was a large group of teenagers/young adults in who used the C word as every other verb in their vernacular and without sounding like an old fuddy duddy, just isn’t pleasant when you’re trying to enjoy a glass of warm overpriced wine!

Contact:
Address: Station Approach, East Boldon NE36 0AB
Phone: 0191 537 3969

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

Improve your reality or lower your expectations…

‘Habits like blogging often and regularly, writing down the way you think, being clear about what you think are effective tactics, ignoring the burbling crowd and not eating bacon. All of these are useful habits’ – Seth Godin

I’m not normally a fan of reflective summary posts. Actually, I’ll rephrase that, I love reading other people’s (Chloe from New Girl in Toon does a regular round up of her adventures which I eagerly await every month). That’s mostly because other people have way more exciting lives than I do and your average monthly round up for me would be; pub, pub, running, x-factor, pub, running, pub, which would get very tedious very quickly.

Recently however has been a little different in the crazy world of Newman and I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the life changing events that have cropped up over the last couple of months. And before I go on I want to make clear that this isn’t a ‘look at how amazing and successful my life is kind of post’ most of the things that have happened have been a product of a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and literal tears. This is more of a reminder that it’s really easy to get bogged down in the negative and the mundane but actually, cool things do happen from time to time if you keep your head down and keep plugging away. And they should be celebrated; even by an eternal pessimist like me.

New Job

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In the back end of August I was interviewed and offered my dream job. Still within the NHS bur moving away from PA work, which I’ve done since  I left school at 18, and into a more engagement role which will also involve lots of report writing and content creation.  As someone who has found their passion in writing and creating this blog only a few years ago, being offered this opportunity to get paid for what I love to do is an absolute dream come true. It’s a total career change and it will be a challenge stepping out from the support staff role I’ve grown so used to (expect a post on my imposter syndrome coming very soon) but it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down and I’m so excited about a brand new challenge.

Great North Run

You can read a more detailed review of my GNR experience here, but needless to say this is something I never thought I’d be able to achieve. Running does not come naturally to me and the constant training, particularly towards the end, really started to get me down.  I was really pleased with the time I completed it in and all the support I got on the day and through sponsorship was absolutely overwhelming. Now that it’s over though I have a massive sense of achievement and I’m even considering doing it again next year with my bestie Angela.

Fitness

If the post so far hasn’t ventured unto the self-indulgent then strap in because it’s about to! One of the happy side effects of training for the Great North Run is that I’ve managed to lose quite a nice amount of weight and toned up where I’ve never been toned before; namely, my legs.  Thankfully running 25 miles a week has gotten them into a shape and for the first time in my life I’ve been able to wear skinny jeans and jeggings without looking like an overstuffed sausage. And that’s a massive victory for me. On a slightly more serious note it also means I’ve managed to build up a level of fitness I never had before and I’m determined not to lose that now GNR is over.

Meeting my hero

To top off my 6 weeks of life changing events, in the middle of September me and my friend Emma won a competition on Instagram to meet Jaret Reddick the lead songer of one of my favourite bands; Bowling for Soup. Despite some slight ‘rock n roll admin’ issues which meant we almost missed him for the meet & greet, we were able to get some pictures, get some stuff signed and have a quick 5 minute chat with him and he was a really lovely guy. He probably the most famous (in fact the only famous) person i’ve ever met and it was really great that he was so normal! I never win anything either so the whole thing was so surreal, especially with all the other mad stuff that seems to have been happening recently!

So suffice to say 2017 has turned out to be a year when loads of stuff has changed, can’t wait to see what happens next!

Monkseaton

One of the things I like about the metro (aside from its proximity to lots of amazing pubs) is that where possible they have kept most of the original structures from when they were first built. Monkseaton station opened in 1915 and other than the actual platforms, which were completely replaced for it’s use as a metro station in 1980, everything else remains largely untouched.

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Stations like Monkseaton are the easy ones to review because as far as the WBMT is concerned it pretty much ticks every box. The pub (the quaint Left Luggage Room) could only be closer if the metro doors opened directly into the pub (location, location, location!) and although the outside seating areas is pretty much on the platform, when you’re sitting in it you don’t feel like you’re on a station platform. Plus with the North East Weather being as tumultuous as it is, you can ‘sit outside’ without actually having to sit outside!

The pub inside is a miss match of chince and train related memorabilia (it reminds me a lot of The Cumberland Arms in Ouseburn in that respect – with is one of my favourite pubs ever!). It also has loads of different ales and craft beers on that are on heavy rotation which is great as you get to sample loads of different types however careful if you find something you love, it may well not been available the next time you visit!

The inside is all benches and wooden tables and benches which allows for a really sociable atmosphere and despite it treading dangerously close to hipster territory I think it manages to pull off cosy and quirky without being too pretentious or intimidating. It’s not very big so doesn’t take many people to make it full so I would get there early on if you’re picky about having somewhere to sit. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s dog friendly, there’s free parking at the station, and has a large selection of wines and gins as well as all the ale!

Once our metro guide is finished we’re going to create a WBMT Awards list and I think LLR may well be on track for ‘best bar on the network’ – watch this space!

Contact:

Norham Road | Unit 6 Monkseaton Train Station, Whitley Bay NE26 3NR, England
Web:  leftluggageroom.co.uk

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