Thursday, March 29, 2012

Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Chocolate and Books

By the time I reached the Copthorne Hotel in Newcastle on Sunday night, it was after 11, and I'd been awake for 36 hours. I'd enjoyed my time in Amsterdam and was still a bit keyed up, due to excitement and lots of coffee. So I didn't fall asleep til after midnight.

And then I slept hard.

I didn't wake up until 2:15 Monday afternoon. (When Himself heard this, he replied in disgust, "What a waste of a day!" I had to remind him of my 36-hour "day" that had immediately preceded my Sleeping Beauty snooze.) After a quick shower, I grabbed a map of Newcastle and hit the streets. My hotel was along the Quayside of the River Tyne, so I had to walk uphill to reach the city center. It was a gasping walk.

The first place I stopped was St. Nicholas Cathedral. I love old cathedrals: the stained glass, the memorials, the old burial spots, the carvings, the dust motes, the smell... everything. I picked up some materials on display; it looked like St. Nicholas is a lively parish, which I was glad to see. I especially enjoyed Christopher Dalliston's (the Dean) message for Lent in the Cathedral Notes; I've linked to it here so you can read it, too. Look here for some more photos of the cathedral.

I also snapped a few photos of the Castle Keep and Black Gate, the two remaining buildings of the "new" castle. The keep was built between 1172 and 1177 by Henry II, and the gate was built between 1247 and 1250 by Henry III. "New" is a relative term.

The Black Gate

This monument to Queen Victoria sits outside St. Nicholas Cathedral.

Queen Victoria, looking dour.

I stopped in Blakes for a coffee and bakewell tart. The server asked me where I was from. When I told her, she excitedly said, "Oh, I love it there! It's one of my favorite places!" Turns out she's visited more states than I have. She's hoping to attend school in Toronto and travel in North America some more. I gave her my email address when I left, in case she'd like some advice planning her trip(s).

After that, I popped into Ma Provence for a croissant to take away. Later, I drooled over the chocolate offerings at Hotel Chocolat, a must-stop-shop if you're ever in Newcastle. I bought some, too! Let me recommend the dark chocolate-dipped ginger strips.

Another must-see: Grainger Market. I visited the market on my first trip to Newcastle four years ago, and I made tracks for there this trip, too. Here are some marvelous photos of the market, which opened in 1835. It's a marvelous place to browse. At one stall, I bought lots of candy to take home for the girls. At a book stall, I perused old books and wished I had enough suitcase space to take some home. I smiled at a butcher as I passed by his stall, and he winked back. There was a lot more to see, but I also wanted to stop by Waterstones bookstore, so off I went.

My favorite thing to do in Waterstones is visit the children's section. Why? Because they offer titles and authors we don't see in America. Deciding to cram my suitcase after all, I bought several books for the girls. The clerk who rang up my purchases, a young girl with maroon hair and completely tattooed arms, held up a Michael Morpurgo book. "Oh, I have this one, and I'm afraid to read it!"

"Afraid?" said I. "Why?"

"I know it will be sad, and I don't know if I can take it!"

We both laughed. "Oops," I said, "I'm buying it for my daughters, and one in particular is tenderhearted. Maybe I'll read it through first."

She thought this was a good idea. As I left, she called out, "I hope your daughter loves the book!"

I looked at my watch. Time to head back to the hotel to meet Tanya and her colleague, Allan. We were going out for Indian food. (It was wonderful, and if I could recall the name of the restaurant, I'd tell you. But I can't.)

A little adventure began. I headed in a direction and ended up in an area I'd never seen before. But I felt okay: I was headed downhill, so I must be going in the right general direction. Then I caught sight of the Millennium Bridge in the distance. It's along the Quayside. I made my way toward that bridge. Following signs to the Quayside, I got back to the hotel with a few minutes to spare.

By 11 p.m., I was back in bed. It had been a packed eight-hour and forty-five minute-day!


  1. Ellen, lovely as Waterstones is, it might be cheaper to just shop on Amazon . co . uk instead of . com and pay the shipping lol Jx

  2. I really enjoyed reading this earlier this week, but didn't have time to comment. It brought back happy memories of a trip we took to Newcastle just over a year ago. One of the places we really enjoyed I think you would love - Seven Stories. It's a museum dedicated to children's literature!

  3. Jackie, yes, the cost of the plane ticket DOES add a bit to the cost of the books. :-)

    Christine, I've never heard mention of Seven Stories! I'm sure I'd like it though. I'll look it up next time.


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