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Near-death experiences and Teaparties in Newcastle Upon Tyne

overcast 19 °C


Next day the train ride to Newcastle was short and our hotel just across the street from the station. My room weren’t ready though, so when Josephine and Colin asked if I wanted to join them to Jesmond, I of course agreed to go. Even if I didn’t have a clue what or where Jesmond is.


Enjoying our time in Jesmond with Colin and Josephine

Jesmond turned out to be one of Newcastle’s suburbs and besides it’s many restaurants and pubs there is Jesmond Dene. It’s a public park in Ouseburn- river valley. There is petting zoo, walking paths in the woods, Old Mill and waterfall. This now serene park where people spend leisurely time, were home of various mills in 19th century and were basically industrial site. Even the waterfall is manmade, not that you would notice things like that, you feel more like a character from Jane Austen novel walking on the paths surrounded by forest.


In Jesmond dene


In Jesmond dene


Jesmond dene waterfall


Jesmond dene waterfall


Me at the Jesmond dene waterfall

When we got back, my hotel room where ready.

At the evening there were Welcome Dinner at the Bridge Hotel, which I sadly didn’t take any pictures of. The building from outside is quite picturesque. Sarah’s husband taught us a bit of Geordie dialect. People living in Newcastle area are called Geordies and their English is VERY hard to understand. Or to me it was anyway! It is fun to listen though.

After the dinner, back at the hotel I was too tired to try my bathtub and went straight to bed.


Next day was a trip to Tynemouth, town nearby. Karl had asked me previous night if I were interested in renting a bike again, since he was going to go there by bike when others were taking metro. Kristi was going to come with us and we had made a date to meet this morning and find the bike renting place together. And it did need some finding, basically we only find it by accident. Kristi went to ask one man if he would know where the place is, and it actually happened to be his bike renting shop! He said that we should have called or e-mailed him beforehand and that it was lucky he were there at that time since he mostly works upstairs.
The place was “beneath” a bridge on the lowest floor of that building with teenytiny sign outside. He only got 3 bikes and no locks, since he didn’t like to encourage people to leave their bikes unattended. Lucky for us, Karl had two locks and one was “long” enough that we could chain all our bikes together. Does people really rent bikes only to bike? Don’t they want to explore castles, priories or even take a rest and have a cup of coffee at any point? Isn’t the experiences as important as the exercise (and fresh) air is!

Our biking path went along Hadrians Cycleway which for the most parts follows Hadrians Wall. Our goal was to bike from Newcastle Upon Tyne to Tynemouth and back, but the actual Wall starts from Carlisle. Romans started building their wall 122 AD and it was 73 miles long crossing the island almost from coast to coast.


There's Kristi!

Our ride was around 10 miles long to one way (another 10 miles back). The purpose of that wall was to separate Romans from the northern barbarians and it was in use for 300 hundred years and gained World Heritage Site status in 1987. Most of the cycling path went away from the bigger roads so it made a pleasant ride.

Except for the part I nearly get hit by a car while crossing a road (I did have a green light!). I don’t know which one of us the incident scared the most, me, the driver or my biking partners who witnessed it. I know my heartbeat took a while to slow back down to normal! But, all’s well that ends well, we did reach Tynemouth without any more near-death experiences and even when the day was grey the only rain we got went by when we were nicely inside of the pub called Salty Sea Dog, Karl’s choice. He liked the name, and who can blame him?


Me, Kristi and Karl keeping rain at Salty Sea Dog

We got in Tynemouth a bit earlier than rest of our posse, and after nice teabreak we were able to find others walking around sites of the town. We opted to see the Tynemouth Priory and Castle which were the most noticeable thing in sight. We had our bikes with us and since it was prohibited to chain them in the fence nearby, we got private entrance when they opened the castle gates for us so we would be able to get the bikes inside. That was cool, you could almost imagine how it would have been like 13th-14th century when the fortification was build.


Tynemouth Village


Tynemouth Priory


Tynemouth Priory


Tynemouth Priory


Tynemouth Priory


Tynemouth Priory

After we got back to Newcastle and our bikes returned, I still had some time before tonight’s dinner so I did something I had never done before. I make it sound fun and exciting, don’t I? It was one of those small pleasures in life. Diana had bought Dutch Stroopwafels from home and let everyone to have a taste. I had asked her to write down the name of the treat so that I could look up from google that would it be possible to make those at home, and she gave me a pack! So now I was going to do something I have never done…I would make some coffee in a hotel room! Whole new experience, exciting, right? Hah. My big windows were towards train station so I had lovely coffee&stroopwafel moment watching people come and go.



Dinner was yet another rowdy affair, the place had beautiful glass windows which unfortunately didn’t fare well in photos. We had some program during our dinner too, one member of our group is a magician and he did some tricks to us. I am not that big fan of magic shows but I liked Jon’s because he had good humor in it!


Our merry group inside at the dinner

After dinner I was having a date with my bathtub! One of my new friends Krista, brought me a bathbomb when she learned I had never tried one.
Like our show in dinner, my bathtub was magical too, just not in a good way. It powers consisted solely on ability of making the water to disappear.. I manage to make the plug keep only when I pressed the bathbomb bag against it with my foot, and after a short while the position became uncomfortable so I gave up. Talk about perfectly good bath going in to a waste, and the bathbomb. I got over my non-succesful bath by consoling myself with chocolate! And wine.


Now I know what bathbomb is...


...and how pretty it can make your bath!


While others were having a walking tour, I was dedicating my morning to aimless wandering. First, I stopped in Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society, sadly they didn’t have any events going on but I am bit of a book geek so I enjoyed my peek inside the library. The walls were full of books in two floors. Talk about heaven.


Lit and Phil Society...


..and all those books!

Next, I headed to Newcastle Castle, old Medieval fortification. First castle on the place was motte-and-bailey type of structure. I haven’t heard this term before but these had apparently been typical in Europe. Motte-and-bailey is situated in higher ground (=motte) and it has a walled courtyard (=bailey) or courtyards. The castle had been built on top of several mounds (higher ground) and each of them had been a made of wood.


Details inside of the Newcastle Castle


Details inside of the Newcastle Castle


Details inside of the Newcastle Castle

The castle that remains are made of stone and it consists of Castle Keep and Black Gate. Castle Keep being basically a stone tower and Black Gate the gatehouse. On its location it has been used for defense the city from 1172. Castle Keep was built in 1644 and it was where the last troops surrendered to Scots during the English Civil War.
Since that it has been used among other things, for example as prison and a pub. City slowly built around it and sadly after the railway, only these two buildings (one tower and the gatehouse) remains of the old structure.

As I was roaming around, I bumped in to the walking tourers, their tour had led them to the Castle too! But since I haven’t paid for it, it didn’t feel right to tag a long and listen to their guides stories. But I do have one of my own! As I was in the Castle Keep looking around in one of the rooms, there were lots of old tales about the area. One of them being about small boys who were made to work as a chimney sweepers. Doesn’t sound so bad if you don’t think about it too hard, young boys in a need for money and work to do to earn it, right? But many of them got stuck inside of the chimney and slowly suffocated to death. As I was reading this story I heard this sound, like a clatter. I was only person in the room and got spooked before my brains kicked in and I noticed the open window which was rattling in the wind. Spooky timing for the wind right when someone is reading a horror story, and true one at that. Coinsident?


Protector of Newcastle up on the Castle


Protector of Newcastle up on the Castle

From top of the Black Gate there is beautiful view over Newcastle, the city, river and its bridges. I spend quite a while there taking photos (couple of those above) and after that I didn’t have much time to visit any other attractions like Victoria tunnels, so I crossed Swing Bridge to take a little walk in the other side of the river. And like any normal girl, went to a graveyard to look some old graves, the oldest I could find was dated 1841. In Tynemouth Priory oldest was from 1781. In both places there probably were even older ones but the time had made some of the markings impossible to read.



Back to “my side” of the river, crossing Tyne Bridge this time. When it was constructed in 1928, it was world’s longest single span bridge. There were beautiful three-headed lanterns on the side of it. Some of the poles had hooks and I was wondering if they were used as a lantern holders.



I had just enough time to get my train ticket back to Manchester before Traditional English Afternoon Tea. Back home I had tried to get the tickets from internet, didn’t work. I always got message that “we will send you a confirmation e-mail” which I never got and the App didn’t work outside UK, I even asked customer service. I wasn’t in the mood to try a lousy app now if it just might work this time, so I walked straight to Train Station to use the ticket machines.
Or almost straight, after I got down from Tyne Bridge, I started to follow the signs towards Train Station and at one point I was sure that the sign was pointing in the wrong direction. I have a horrible sense of direction but the feeling was so strong that I had to believe it and started to walk slightly off from what the sign was telling me. Since I was on schedule, I wanted to make sure that I was going on the right direction so I asked one lady, and guess what, I was!

Henna 1, Signposts 0! Mom wouldn’t believe this (I inherited my sense of direction from her)!

Back to the mysteries of English train tickets..The machine didn’t work either! I clicked where I wanted to go and when, then it gave me timetable, I clicked the train I wanted and got notification basically telling me I can’t get this train. So, I picked another one, and another one and even tried the first train again, same result. So, huffing and puffing I walked in to the ticked office, got the train ticket, told that the machine nor the internet doesn’t work and walked out.
Outside of the ticket office there were women making a survey about train tickets, where did you buy it, why there, that sort of thing. So full of righteous indignation, I told this women too that the machines sucks and I would have very much liked to buy the ticket easier way but just couldn’t. Talk about timing, I usually say that I don’t have time for things like that (in my experience usually when someone comes to ask you bunch of questions, they are trying to sell you something).
This time I had something to say so I answered her. (I have to clarify, if someone got the impression that I was being rude or a jerk to either the lady working at the ticket office or the one making the survey, I know that my difficulties weren’t their fault so know that I was polite giving my opinions. Hope that it helps tourists that comes after me!)

Quick pitchstop in the hotel and I was on my way to Vermont Hotel, where we were going to have our tea. Amelie was already waiting for us outside. When we started chatting, I realized that even when she was there on time, she had the time wrong. I felt instantly bad because I had arranged this and forgot to update the new time to Facebook. I had made a group chat, but didn’t think to double check that everyone got all the messages since I had to change the original time doe to the hotels timetable. All well that ends well, luckily and we were seated to our table, everyone on time and in good spirits. Albeit me still feeling bit guilty!

Anna, Dutches of Bedford is said to be the one who started the tradition in 19th century. She was constantly hungry during the afternoons, between lunch and dinner so she ordered her servants to make her sandwiches and tea at 4 PM. After Queen Victoria heard about this, Dutches’s small ritual became a grand thing and 1880 it was a nation-wide affair. In recent years the tradition gone global and in most countries people have heard about it, yours truly, included. It is said that Traditional Afternoon Tea is a light food enjoyed with tea but as for me it was a banquet. Sarah was only one from England in our teaparty and when asked which tea she wanted she opted for Earl Grey so I went with the same (can’t go wrong following Englishwomans lead while in England!) when Nancy, Krista and Amelie had fruit tea instead.
The “light” food was very good! We had 3 different kind of sandwiches, 3 different kind of scones and 3 different kind of pastries. After that none of us were hungry, me not even during dinner! We also learned from Sarah the proper way to add jam and cream to your scones (jam first). All this glory was intitiated with a glass of prosecco!


Our Teaparty


At the Teaparty


All those goodies were for me and Amelie!

Tonights dinner was at our hotel so I had a short walk downstairs! This room also had beautiful colorful windows which were impossible to get a decent photo of! But the dinner was nice, I got to try famous Yorkshire pudding, it was okay. And we got the big reveal of the next year meeting place. It’s in Tromssa, Norway. I have visited Norway before but not that high up, so I am hoping that I am able to get time off from work to go!


We headed to Northurmberland. First stop was in Bamburgh Castle. Castle has been home for Armstrong family from 1894 but it has been the guard to the Northumberland coast for thousands of years. Some even say that it is the site for Sir Lancelot’s castle from the Legends of King Arthur. Walking around the site you most definitely could feel that is part of the history, how could you not, standing beside a structure that has stayed mostly intact for several centuries?


Bamburgh village


Our Group in front of Bamburgh Castle

Other, fictional story (besides King Arthurs) including the castle is a story about Lady Margaret, whoms father married an evil witch. And just like any other story, the witch is jealous to the fair maiden for her beauty. Her brother, her only protector (Who knows where the father was?) leaves to travel across the sea so the witch turns this beautiful princess in to a dragon, where comes her nickname Laidly Worm of Bamburgh. Her brother comes back to slay the dragon that threatens his future kingdom, but instead of slaying the beast, he ends up kissing her (You just got to love the logic in fairytales!) causing the spell to break and Margaret turning back into her human form. This point the king must be dead, because the prince turns his evil stepmother in to a toad and becomes a king himself.

Fairytales aside the castles first written (non-fiction) reference is from 547 AD, when castles were still made from wood, when Ida of Bernicia captured it. From that day onward the fortification has taken part in many conflicts, Vikings raiders had roamed nearby, rival kingdoms attacked it..During the War of Roses (1464) it was the first castle in England destroyed by canonfire, its stone-structure only been made in 1095. By 17th century the castle was in ruins, up keeping of the place being so expensive. Being shifted from the crown to private owning it took hundreds of years before the castle had been remodeled in to its former glory.
After last heir of Foster family, Dorothy inherited the place, got married and died, her husband set up a charity to restore the castle in her memory and support the people on the village in early 18th century. It’s been a school, hospital and coastguard station among other things before Lord Armstrong bought it in late 19th century and was the one who set up in motion for the castles last renovations before he died in 1900 and never got to see it when all the repairs were complete.

Now the castle is open for public and has been used as a filming location for various movies and series, Harry Potter and Downton Abbey included. And if you have the wish and the money you can even rent the Clock Tower to stay in like Rowan Atkinson is known to do, or at least that’s what our guide said. Sadly, you weren’t allowed to go explore the accommodations though. That would have been very interesting!


Bamburgh Castle

From the Castle it was short bus ride to Lindisfarne, known also as Holy Island. It is a piece of land which becomes an island every time when the high tide comes. Apparently, several cars need to be rescued from the causeway despite warnings in a year. We were with an expert guide, Robert, so we wouldn’t need to be worried about that. And during the low tide it is even possible to walk to the island by using the Pilgrim’s Way. Pilgrims and monks use to visit the islands using this way long before modern roads were invented. That definitely would be something I would be interested doing if having the time!

Being on the island felt a bit like my visit in lighthouse-island of Tankar, near home. That peacefulness you can nowadays find only when you are “stranded” somewhere. In here the tides ensures that you can’t leave, in Tankar, Ms. Jenny is sailing only once a day. Unlike Tankar, this particular island has been raided by Vikings, being, first place they landed on England. Besides the Priory the Vikings raided, there is Castle, Church and Winery among other things.


At Holy Island


At Holy Island

It had started to drizzle and the wind was somewhat chilly so after listening Roberts stories outside the churchyard I felt that it was time to be somewhere warm for a while, and lucky for me, I wasn’t only one feeling that way. Despite of our guides excellent knowledge of the island after visiting St. Marys Church, I tagged along with Karl to visit one of the pubs, where Fergy already was. Josephine and Colin also stopped by for an while and after beers, me and Karl took quick photo walk towards the Castle which almost caused us miss the Mead tasting. There wouldn’t be harm if we would have missed it though. Turned out that I don’t like mead, too sweet for me. If I understood right, mead has been made in here by monks from 7th Century and it is famous worldwide. Kind of sad (my disliking) if you think about it, there must be something about the mead if it’s been worth making for generations and generations!

This evening we had one last dinner before most of the group either go home or continue their travels, some were even staying on Newcastle for a little while longer. I were one of those unfortunate ones who had to head back home. Jon were one of those who were going to keep on travelling for a little while longer and was heading to York so I got company on my train ride.


I had one last breakfast with Josephine and Colin before they sent me on my way with promises to keep in touch.
Train ride went quickly to York, we played some cards and Jon kept me company on York where I had little while before my next train to Manchester.


At the York Train Station

I arrived Manchester airport with plenty of time and good that I did. The lack of waiters, waitresses and hospitality workers in general were prominent. I had to wait 30 minutes outside of restaurant even to get in, they were so understaffed. The service was still friendly and even when they were plainly busy, my waitress remembered to ask about my allergies many times (I don’t have any, but if I would, I would be pleased that they are well noted) and kept addressing me “beautiful” (Good day beautiful, Are everything okay here beautiful, etc. ). We don’t have that custom in Finland, in here you might not be greeted at all, or with very grumpy nod or “Hello” but in England it is one of the things I liked about the most, even the clerks in the shops would say “Hello love” or “Good day dear”!

Posted by hennaonthetrek 11:26 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged #nature #castle #england #sighseeing #biketour #medieaval #meet #meetings #bamburghcastle #northumberland #holyisland #lindisfarne #jesmond #jesmonddene #tynemouth #tynemouthpriory

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Hi Henna, Fergy here.

Loved this piece about what was a superb Euromeet, I think everyone really enjoyed themselves, I know I certainly did even if I could not do too much. It was great to meet you and I do hope we can meet again sometime somewhere.

As it happens, I am currently sitting in a pub in Broadstairs in Kent (Southeast coast of England) writing up my report about the weekend and the rest of my trip up North.

Speak soon.

by planxty

It's been great to read about your time in Newcastle and the things that made an impression on you. I was so glad you were able to join us for the meet and I hope it will be the first of many for you :)

by ToonSarah

Hi Fergy!
Glad you liked my blog, thanks for visiting and commenting!

You do have a lot of nice pubs there!

It was good to meet you too, hopefully we will meet again somewhere! :)

by hennaonthetrek

Thank you so much Sarah for inviting me! I will definitely try to join upcoming Meets! :)

by hennaonthetrek

You certainly saw a lot of the UK, Henna. I'm from there and I think you have been to more places than me. Glad you had a great time.

by irenevt

Hi Irene! I sure did see a lot in such a short amount of time. And lots left to see in the future, I would happily been whole week in York and still found something new to see everyday! :) So many places and so little time....:)

by hennaonthetrek

Henna , I have really enjoyed reading your blog and Mr H and I enjoyed your company very much . And we will always be in touch 😊
It was a wonderful meet and I saw things I had not before .
Look forward to reading more blogs

by Josephine

Thank you Josephine! Glad you enjoyed it! I really liked spending time with you too! :)
This has been good year, I have lot to write about! :)

by hennaonthetrek

Henna, I enjoyed reading about your stay during the wonderful VT Meet! ~ Happy trails in the future!~

by Vic_IV

Thank you Victor!

by hennaonthetrek

Hi9 Henna.I enjoyed your good write up about your VT meet up experience.. So much fun they are I surely would have loved to attended that meet ..great memories for me of York and Newcastle..That is where we got our bridge from !!...smile. Im also on Travellers point ! take care Denny

by DennyP

Hi Denny and thanks for visiting and commenting! :) It sure was a fun Meet and England great country to visit! :)

by hennaonthetrek

Loved your report. I was told the the English didn't strike up conversations with strangers, but I haven't found that to be so. I would have loved to come to the meet but I could never have kept up your pace. I saw Hadrian's wall in 1950 (before it was listed) but we just went and stood on it for our photos. Probably couldn't do that now.

by greatgrandmaR

Thank you Rosalie!

I didn't notice that either, everyone I met were superfriendly!

It really was a nice Meet and it would have been nice to meet you!

by hennaonthetrek

What an adventure! It was such a nice read and I must say, now that I don't have that many days off from work anymore, it seems like a nice destination to go to just for a short break! Loved the read and the pictures of the afternoon tea looked stunning, really got me hungry now! :)

by Ils1976

Hi Ils! Thanks for reading and commenting, always nice to get positive feedback! :)
Afternoon tea really was anything but light finger foods! It was so good, so ofcourse you had to try everything, and that lead naturally for you being very full afterwards! :)

by hennaonthetrek

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