St James

St James is at the very end of the Coast line on the metro and primarily serves St James Park football ground however is also handy for Chinatown and Newcastle Business School on a wet day (although you’d have to change at Monument if you’re coming in on the Airport line).

Come out of the main station doors and look over your left shoulder and you’ll see Geordie institution (and, incidentally,  first stop on my Newcastle upon Tyne Walking Tour) The Strawberry up the hill. Being so close to the football ground, as you can expect it’s full of Newcastle United memorabilia which gets added to periodically so it’s not like there’s a running theme, if they like an article or get a signed shirt, they’ll put it on the wall.

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It’s standing room only on a match day (when we visited) and despite being worried that I stuck out like a sore thumb in my bright pink t-shirt and even brighter pink lippy in a sea of blokes dressed in black (and white) it has a really welcoming feel and the chivalrous gents of the North East were quick to offer Ang and I what few seats were dotted around.

Food and drinks are extremely reasonably priced and didn’t take massively long to get served at the bar considering how busy it was. They offer a wide range of lager and ales and also drinks in two pint steins to save you having to go back and forth to the bar too often. We got a bottle of wine wine and a two pint stein for around £20 so averaging at about £3.50 a drink. If you do manage to go when it’s  bit quieter the food they offer is pretty good too. Nothing fancy but good quality beer soaking pub grub at really good prices!

In 2015 they opened a roof terrace to offer more space and something a little different from the bar everyone knows and loves downstairs. In typical north east fashion it was raining like a pissing cow when we visited so were firmly kept indoors but can’t wait to go back in the summer to try the terrace out.

Yes there are TVs and bandit machines dotted around, which usually deducts points in my eyes but bearing in mind it’s location and the purposes it serves within the footballing community they’d be daft not to have sport on the telly – so I’m letting that slide in this case.

It’s worth noting that there’s also Bar Nine and the Shark Bar at the Sandman hotel a stones throw away from the metro station however either of them have the charm or character of the Strawberry and you won’t get the same geordie welcome, that’s for sure!

Contact:

Strawberry Place, beside St. James Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Tel: 0191 232 6865
Twitter: @theberrypub
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Strawberry-159410710736957/?fref=ts

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

 

Pavel Srnicek 10.03.1968 – 29.12.2015

‘A truly beautiful soul has left this world far too early. Thank you so much for everything you did for me, Pav’ – Steve Harper

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I posted here a fortnight ago about how my mum and dad had gone along to a book signing and met Newcastle goalie Pavel Srnicek. Sadly, less than 10 days later back in the Czech Republic, Pav suffered a heart attack whilst out jogging. He was placed in a medically induced coma while is injuries were monitored however yesterday the decision was made to turn off his life support machine due to irreversible brain damage and Pavel passed away.

He was extremely well thought of on Tyneside, when Newcastle got promoted to the premier league in 1993 Pav walked out on the pitch where a t-shirt saying ‘Pavel is a Geordie’. Those t-shirts were quickly commissioned to be reproduced and sold out completely in the first weekend of sale. Sales of goalkeepers tops also hit a record high (and bearing in mind how garish those strips were in the 90’s it proves even more what a popular character in the club he was!)

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I would never claim to have known Pavel on  a personal basis, but when I was about 11 or 12 my dad took my brother and I down to the trainn ground in Durham one boxing to meet the players. Whilst some members of the team were surly and complained that we should be at home playing with our Christmas presents, Pav, along with Peter Beardsley, took the time to sign autographs, pose for pictures, and ask us all what we’d gotten for Christmas and who our favourite players on the team were.

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Similarly when my parents were lucky enough to meet him earlier in December he was chatty, and friendly and beamed with happiness and pride in all the pictures he took with everyone.

When I posted my last post about what a great guy he is, he tweeted me back commenting on the 20 year old picture of him, me and Gary. It always means a lot when ‘celebs’ control their own social media accounts, it wasn’t his agent or his publicist. He knew how well thought of he was among Newcastle fans, and seemed to love interacting directly with them.

I would also like to think that if I were to pass away prematurely, the one thing I would like people to tell my friends and family of me was that I was a kind person. I think Pavel’s children Maxim and Venty should be incredibly proud of the kind hearted, genuine man their father was. He should be used as the benchmark for all these new young players on professionalism and modesty. His death is a devastating shame and he’ll be hugely missed.

Pavel is a Geordie: When Pav met the Weatherstones

Football is a fertility festival. Eleven sperm trying to get into the egg. I feel sorry for the goalkeeper’ – Bjork

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I have a bit of a funny relationship with football. Whilst I would never declare myself a football fan, I like the fact it serves as a good excuse to go to the pub and hang out with my friends. I don’t mind watching Newcastle United (preferably if we win – which doesn’t happen that often these days) and as a child we had 2 season tickets between the 4 of us which we would rotate between the two adults and two kids. I have very vivid memories of being at the historic home match against Manchester United in 1996 with my mum and as Les Ferdinand booted the 3rd goal past Peter Schmeichel in the 62nd minute. The man next to me scooped me up in his arms and ecstatically presented me to the crowd like Simba from the Lion King (not sure anyone would be able to do that to a young girl these days without operation yewtree getting involved). for the 3 or 4 seasons I used to go, I never saw Newcastle lose at home, which gives you some indication of how well we were playing at the time.

It was also a time when the players and the club were way more accessible and on boxing day of that year my dad took me and my brother down to the training ground in Durham. Pavel Srnicek, goalkeeping extraordinaire was always a fan favourite and not least with me and my brother (loyal members of the Junior Magpies) and although he hailed all the way from the Czech Republic it was’t long before chrouses of ‘Pavel is a Geordie’ would ring out through St James’ Park at every match.

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Pav with me and my brother way back in 1993

I also have a memory of another match I attended with my mum, don’t ask me against who. Our seats were always front row behind the left hand goal as you would look at the pitch from the duggout so you had to watch the game through little squares. It didn’t always give you the best vantage point for what was going on the other end of the pitch but I remember the crowd were all of a sudden on their feet and going mental with enthusiasm. We couldn’t quite tell what was going on until I heard mum shout ‘It’s Pav, It’s Pav!’ turned our he’d come out of his goal and ran the full length of the pitch to try and score. I don’t think he did, but I seem to remember it gave everyone a laugh. The little tinker.

Now just over 15 years since he left Newcastle Pavel Srnicek has released his autobiography, appropriately titled ‘Pavel is a Geordie’ just  in time for Christmas. It chronicles his early life, his prolific role as part of  ‘The Entertainers’ Newcastle side of the mid-90s and life post professional football. The book, which is released officially on Thursday December 17th 2015 has been available to pre order for the last month or so with anyone buy a copy being invited to get it signed. Which of course Mum and Dad took full advantage of so now Pav has the honour of saying he’s met this full branch of the Weatherstone tree, the lucky duck….

Geordies are a passionate bunch, not least about football and when someone plays for their club with the heart, grace and humour that Pav did they will be fiercely loyal.Whereas he never reached the dizzy heights of David Beckham type fame, it comes as no surprise to me that he’s decided to write a book. And even less of a surprise that it will no doubt sell extremely well on Tyneside.

‘Pavel is a Geordie’ by Pavel Srnicek and Will Scott is available from the following links:

www.pavelsrnicek.com
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pavel-Geordie-Srnicek/dp/0993442420 

Follow Pav on Twitter: @PavelSrnicekUK

 

 

Newcastle upon Tyne Walking Tour

‘If you look at Newcastle or Gateshead, even over twenty years, even with the previous administration, it has moved quite remarkably in transforming itself’ – John Prescott

They say the best ideas are born out of necessity so when my husband and I wanted to do a walking tour of Newcastle upon Tyne but couldn’t find a free one online, we decided to make our own!

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Start off with lunch at The Strawberry Pub – right opposite Newcastle United’s home ground, St James’ Park. This pub is a Geordie institution and packed with NUFC memorabilia. It’s standing room only on match days but any other day you’ll be greeted by warm and welcoming staff and the food menu is as reasonable as it is plentiful.

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After Lunch head southwest on Strawberry Place toward Strawberry Lane

Turn left onto Strawberry Lane then right onto Gallowgate and you’ll see the entrance to Chinatown marked by the distinctive Chinese Arch

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Cross the road keeping the Chinese Arch on your left and you’ll instantly see the City Walls which were built during the 13th and 14th centuries, and helped protect the town from attack and occupation during times of conflict. This part of the old Walls is the longest continuous stretch still standing.

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Walk the length of the walls, keeping them on your left then when you get to the end walk through the last arch which will make you turn back on yourself onto Stowell Street, the main street of Chinatown

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Walk halfway down Stowell street and turn right through a little stone arch (Dispensary Lane) where you will see Blackfriars on your right. Only the buildings of the cloisters remain in this 13th century friary. The buildings now house a range of craft workshops and a restaurant.

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Continue straight along Dispensary Lane and turn left when you hit Low Friar Street. Keep following the road and you will soon come to The Gate Entertainment Complex on your left. Opened in 2002 The Gate consists of a 16 screen cinema, casino and over 15 Bars and Restaurants (mostly chains like Nandos and TGI Fridays). Stag and hen do central at a weekend!

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When you reach the end of Low Friar Street you’ll find yourself on Newgate Street. You’re not  pretty much in the heart of the city. Ahead of you will be Debenhams which will lead you in to Eldon Square shopping centre.

Take the zebra crossing across the street towards Debenhams then turn right down Newgate Street. Continue to the corner of Newgate Street and Grainger Street.

Look left and you will see Grey’s Monument a Grade I listed monument to Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey built in 1838.There is a spiral staircase leading to the top which is occasionally open to the public to take in breathtaking views of the city.

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Keep on walking in the same direction and you’ll find yourself in the famous Bigg Market which was once the home of Newcastle’s Nightlife (since the development of The Gate and more pubs and clubs on the Diamond Strip and Quayside the Bigg Market isn’t quite as popular as it used to be but still home to a few restaurants and pubs. Most Famously Balmbras,(which is sadly a tacky Motown themed bar now) named in the song The Blaydon Races; which is still the starting position of the race to this day.

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The Bigg Market forks into two in the middle, take the street on the left (Cloth Market) to find Balmbras and ahead of you you’ll see St Nicholas’ Cathedral (also called Newcastle Cathedral) which was build in 1350 (and restored in 1777).

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From the bottom of the Cloth Market turn briefly right onto Mosely Street then turn left onto St Nicholas’ Street. From here you’ll be able to see the Cathedral from all angles. Continue on St Nicholas’ Street and you’ll come across The Castle, of which Newcastle is named after. The most prominent remaining structures on the site are the Castle Keep, the castle’s main fortified stone tower, and the Black Gate, its fortified gatehouse.

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This is all thirsty work right? Next to The Castle is The Bridge Hotel which is a great Real Ale Pub with great views of the Tyne Bridge on a clear day. Perfect for re hydrating and resting your weary legs!

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Now that’s you’ve been suitably watered, leave the Bridge Hotel walking slightly to the right, round the back of The Castle (The Vermont Hotel will be on your left) in front of you you’ll see a narrow set of steep stone stairs. These are The Dog Leap Stairs made famous by the Dire Straits song ‘Down to the Waterline’ The name refers to ‘a narrow slip of ground between houses’. According to folklore in 1772 Baron Eldon, later Lord Chancellor of England, eloped with Bessie Surtees making their escape, on horseback up Dog Leap Stairs (must have been some horse!).

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Turn right at the bottom of the stairs and you’re now pretty much on the Quayside. Follow the pavement round to the left and you’ll come across Bessie Surtees House. The house is best known as the scene of the elopement of Bessie Surtees and John Scott, who later became Lord Chancellor and was restored in 1930. An exhibition detailing the history of the buildings can be found on the first floor.

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Cross the street now and directly opposite you’ll find the Guildhall and Merchants Court which is another Grade I listed Building.

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Now follow the pavement round to the left and you’ll see the famous Tyne Bridge and Newcastle Quayside. Follow the footpath right along the River Tyne and see The Sage Concert hall and Baltic Flour Mill Art Gallery on the Gateshead Side and the Millennium Bridge in front of you.

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Take a stroll along the river towards the Millennium Bridge and you’ll eventually get to the Pitcher and Piano Pub. Here’s where your tour ends (you’re probably ready for another drink now yeah?) If it’s a nice day try and get a table outside. The P&P is great for people watching as well as taking in the lovely view of the bridges!

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Heading back up to the start? My advice would be take the Quaylink bus, it’s only about £1.50 and will take you to either central station of Haymarket Bus Station.

All pictures are my own unless otherwise stated so please ask before taking them!

Picture Credits:

1. The Strawberry Pub Exterior (Google Images)
2. The Pitcher & Piano Aerial View (Google Images)