37. Shop around in Grainger Market

Situated in a Grade 1 building in the centre of Newcastle, Grainger Market first opened in October 1835 as the biggest market in all of Europe. Back then it was divided into a flesh market (butchers) and a vegetable market. Shoppers can still get their meat and veg there today, but can also enjoy a vast range of other stores and eateries – over 100 in total. Notable amongst the stores are the world’s smallest Marks and Spencer store – the  ‘Marks and Spencer Original Penny Bazaar’ – and thehistorical  Weigh House. The Weigh House was  originally used back in the 19th century for stall holders and customers to weigh their products. Today, however, it has changed its purpose just slightly and is used instead for customers to weigh themselves! 

I have been to Grainger Market a fair few times –  I went to their Christmas event last December and have popped in for lunch a couple of times too. What I very rarely do, however, is actually go there to do my shopping. Although I like to think of myself as the sort of person who shops at markets and independent stores the reality is that the vast majority of the time I, like so many others, fail to resist the convenience of a large supermarket. For this week, however, I decided to change that and, along with my friend Bridie, headed there with £30 and my weekly shopping list to see what I could get.

Today, as on the other rare occasions I have completed my food shop outside of a supermarket, I was reminded of just how satisfying it is to food shop in a proper traditional market. People actually chat to you for a start and you get that feel-good glow about the fact that you are shopping locally from independent retailers rather than giving your money to enormous corporations.

We made brief stops at a butchers and fishmongers and a lengthier one at a greengrocers where I bought everything seen below for just £7.00 and had a lovely chat with the owner of the stall who, in true Geordie style, called me “love” or “pet” at every opportunity. God I love Newcastle.

We also had a wander to a cheese store where I pretty much wanted to buy everything in the shop (I have a serious thing for cheese) but, sensily albeit reluctantly, left only with some Parmesan. The final item on my list was chorizo which I picked up in a very pretty Spanish delicatesen pictured below.

Bridie and I had planned to buy our lunch in the market too and were seriously tempted by pretty much every café/eaterie we wandered past. Crepes, pizza and Sloppy Joes were all strong contenders, but we eventually settled on some  mixed dumplings and a cup of Jasmine tea each.

I’d been to Grainger Market more recently than Bridie and it was great to go with someone who was seeing it through fresh eyes. She confessed to me that not having been since she was a child she always kind of thought of it as a “butchers and big knickers kind of place” and, returning as an adult, was now incredible impressed with all it had to offer. We were both eager to return and try out some more of the food on offer and whilst I can’t pretend that I am likely to begin to complete my food shop at Grainger Market on a weekly basis, I am going to make a significant effort to do it a lot more often than I have previously.


36. Climb to the top of Grey’s Monument!

Anyone who has read my blog in its entirety (I think that’s essentially my mum, Neil and Molly – thanks guys!) may recall that a while ago (blog post 22) I wrote about eating lunch on the steps of Grey’s Monument. I did this because I really wanted to include the Monument in my blog and I had missed my chance last summer to buy tickets to climb it. These tickets are honestly like gold dust – they only cost £4, but it’s only open around 8 weekends a year with a small number of tickets available each weekend. 

I’ve tried every year since moving here to get the tickets and failed every time until this summer when I put an alarm on my phone for the day they went on sale. Even then we still almost missed our chance when there was an admin error at the other side – thankfully they not only sorted this out, but actually gave us our tickets for free – cheers guys! Anyone else looking to do this (and you really should) the tickets go on sale on this website: 


Obviously they are all sold out for this year, but it’s well worth keeping an eye out for when they’ll be on sale for next year!

We made our way to Monument at midday today, scrambled through a tiny little door in its side and clambered our way up a 164 step spiral staircase before reaching the top. I am normally okay with heights, but I felt seriously dizzy when we first got up there and had to kind of casually cling to the side whilst pretending I was absolutely fine.

Luckily my little spell of fear calmed down pretty soon and I was able to enjoy the incredible views of our beautiful city. I chatted a lot about the history of the Monument and about Earl Grey in my other Monument blog so in this one I’m just going to let you all enjoy the views too!

Tiny doorway…
So many stairs!

35. A stadium tour of St James’ Park

When Neil and I got engaged back in December we received some pretty fantastic messages, cards and gifts from our lovely friends and family. Amongst these, to my delight, was a stadium tour of the glorious St James’ Park bought for us by our friends Aimee and James. Despite having been a Newcastle fan for my entire life I had never done this tour and was pretty excited to have the chance to tick this one off my Newcastle list!

We headed there today in the beautiful sunshine and were introduced to our tour guide – the funny, friendly and informative Carol. Over forty of us were on the tour and it was lovely to see many of Newcastle’s international fans there – we had people from France, Germany, the Netherlands and even Canada in our group!

Carol took us first to see the executive boxes at the stadium. Prices for these at Newcastle range from £28,000 to £65,000 for the season. I thought this was pretty ridiculous until I was told that the most expensive box at Chelsea is £1000,000 and at Arsenal is £1,400,000. What is actually wrong with London!?

That price, at least in St James’, doesn’t include alcohol and, what I hadn’t known until today, is that it’s actually illegal to drink alcohol when facing a football pitch. If those in a box want to enjoy a drink when watching the game they have to draw the blinds of their box and watch it on a television screen instead. Madness.

After discovering how the other half live we headed to the highest level to enjoy some fantastic views of the stadium and of Newcastle itself. We discovered at this point that due to it being such an old stadium Newcastle have loads of problems with their pitch and it’s currently being completely dug up, meaning it didn’t look quite its usual lovely self…

We were then able to head to the area of the stadium where the media sit and where there are seats dedicated to special people associated with the club. I took great delight in sitting in the seat of the late, great Bobby Robson and made Neil take an obligatory photo of me with the Newcastle crest.

Having admired the stadium from its best viewing point, we were next taken to the home and away changing rooms where Carol filled us in on all of the psychological tricks played on opponents. I literally had no idea, although I can see it makes sense, that away changing rooms are designed to just completely ruin the opposition. Apparently St James’ Park offers one of the better away changing rooms simply because it used to be the home one, but awkwardly shaped rooms painted in hideous colours, uncomfortable room temperatures and freezing showers are pretty much a given. The away changing room at Everton has toilets with no doors, Arsenal’s has a high table in the middle of the room to prevent the manager from making eye contact with their players and Southampton have a mirror that means that when away players go to the toilet they see themselves wearing a Southampton shirt. The exception to this rule was, apparently, Mourhino at Stamford Bridge; he preferred to use reverse psychology by giving away teams comfortable dressing rooms so that they let their guard down and could then be hammered on the pitch.

Our final stop on the tour was a trip down the tunnel and into the dugout. Carol blasted Local Hero for us as we walked down and we got to see the spot where the team sit during the games and learn about a couple more psychological tricks; the home dugout has 19 heated seats while the away dugout has an unlucky 13 seats which are, of course, unheated!

It wouldn’t be a proper blog activity without a pint and so after the tour we popped to one of Newcastle’s most famous pubs – the Strawberry – and enjoyed a quick drink whilst surrounded by memorabilia of this wonderful club!

34. Take a tour of Tyne Bank Brewery

A couple of months back now, our quiz team – the Heaton Hinnies – won tickets for a tour of the Tyne Bank Brewery. We initially felt pretty smug about our prize but then Les (our quiz master and basically my favourite person in the world) kind of ruined this by literally giving away as many tours as he could every week. Ah well.

Nonetheless we were still eager to give the tour a go and so headed down to the brewery yesterday daytime and enjoyed a couple of pre-tour pints!

Tyne Bank Brewery has recently moved to a new, much bigger building after a successful crowdfunding campaign. I don’t think you could visit the last brewery so I am not sure what it used to be like, but it is just LOVELY now. It’s a huge open space with a bar (obviously), books, board games, a dart board, football table and table tennis. 

The tour itself was pretty intimate and incredibly laid back. Our group included only ourselves and two other men and we were able to wander around with a pint in hand. Our tour guide was a lovely chap called Joe and he was more than happy to answer all of our questions (mainly from Bridie) let us take random photographs (again I’m looking at you, Bridie) and tolerate the stealing of stickers (anddd that’s Bridie again).

I was a bit foolish yesterday, I went out for breakfast but then skipped lunch and so I already felt a bit tipsy by the time the tour began. This could have left this blog post entirely devoid of any facts, but fortunately I had Newcastle’s greatest quiz team on hand to help me out. Between them they’ve managed to remember that:

One of the two brewers at Tyne Bank Brewery is genuinely called Adam Brewer. As in A.Brewer. Mind blown.

Japanese hops taste soapy, New Zealand hops taste like gooseberries and American hops are tropical.

A cask holds 30 litres and costs from £64 to £90.

The brewery experiment with all sorts of flavours to make new ales. They currently have a rhubarb and custard one on the go, had a Creme Egg one at Easter time and, most excitingly of all, are in the process of developing a Harry Potter ale! Apparently it’s going to involve butterscotch and be served warm. Wow.

Joe isn’t allowed to name the beers, but totally should be allowed to name beers because for a pint of gueuze he came up with the name Frankie Gueuze to Hollywood. You have our complete support, Joe!

Bridie and Molly also both had the number 72 written down, but none of us can remember why. If anyone does a tour please feel free to let us know its significance!

We hadn’t realised that alcohol was included as part of the tour, but once it was done we were given four tasters each! 

I am not going to lie – I’ve completely forgotten which ales we tried, I just know I enjoyed the light ones and struggled with the dark ones. What a sophisticated description of beer tasting.

I do thoroughly recommend the tour for anyone who has an interest in beer brewing or just enjoys a pint. And if my words haven’t convinced you then maybe this face of absolute joy will… 

33. Jumpin Jumpin at Extreme Newcastle!

All credit to Sarah for this one! It was her birthday this week and so obviously she wanted to celebrate turning 28 with a trip to Extreme Newcastle – a trampoline park that’s recently popped up on West Road.

We headed there this afternoon for our 2pm slot, purchased the compulsory  socks, watched a slightly bizarre H&S video and then headed on in.

During the video we realised that (perhaps unsurprisingly) we were almost definitely the oldest child-free people there. We were therefore initially slightly concerned about potentially crushing some small children, but actually the park is really well organised and there were no issues at all!

It was also really fun. Like REALLY fun. We began our time on a tightrope, which Molly was great at and the rest of us were, frankly, crap. 

We followed this up with some bouncing which, FYI, is seriouslyyy tiring. Like I was knackered after five minutes. I am so unfit. We attempted to get a photo of all of us doing a star jump, but this was about as close as we got… 

The scariest bit was a high jump into a foam pit. I mean loads of small children were doing it and Molly, Sarah and Barnesy tackled it straight away, but Astrid and I were too scared.

We decided to be brave though and give it a go. I waited anxiously in the queue, made it to the top and then got TOO SCARED and had to sit down to jump. Seriously. LIKE HOW OLD AM I!?

Astrid then smashed it and, so determined not to be the only non jumper, I rather sheepishly climbed back to the top andddd this time I made it! Hurrayyyy! I had conquered my Everest!

Ermmmm how GLORIOUS does Astrid look when lounging in a foam pit!?

Other activities included Sarah destroying Barnesy and Molly at some sort of Gladiator thing… 

And a basketball game which I’ve no photos of and which I was seriously bad at. I even got the ball stuck somewhere and had to ask staff to get it down 🙈

All in all it was an absolutely smashing afternoon and one I’d recommend to anyone keen to feel like a child again. It really was knackering though and so between bouncing and playing we needed the occasional rest. 

Well, when I say “we” I mean me, Astrid, Molly and Sarah. Not Barnesy. Barnesy spent the time planking. Obviously. 

32. Take a walk in Rising Sun Country Park

I had such a WHOLESOME Sunday morning last weekend. I got up early and went climbing with my friend Emily at Climb Newcastle in Byker and then returned home to do some of my jigsaw. Absolutely living the dream.

Anyway, the sky was blue for what felt like the first time in forever and so Neil suggested we headed out on a walk. My friend, Rachel, had mentioned Rising Sun to me a while ago because she occasionally does a Park Run there and so we decided to try it out.

Rising Sun Country Park is located just off Whitley Road in Benton and is a huge green space (162 hectares to be precise) which boasts, amongst other things, a nature reserve, a lake, a farm, vast grassy and woodland areas, and a countryside centre with a park, shop and café. 

The café provides training and employment for adults with learning difficulties and the farm, which is organic, also provides a day service for people with learning difficulties. Maybe it was my awareness of this great work or maybe it was the blue sky and green scenery, but somehow all of Rising Sun Park just seemed to give off really lovely vibes.

There are various trails around the park, none of which seemed to be particularly long – though no doubt you could extend them – Neil and I took the red trail, which was around a forty minute walk and took us up a hill… 

Through some woods… 

And eventually back to the café where we had a slice of cake and enjoyed these views… 

Sadly, through no fault of the Rising Sun Park, our wholesome Sunday ended there. We headed home and prepared some vegetables to make a cottage pie for tea. At this point, however, Neil suggested we went to the pub “just for one” to watch the end of the Manchester United, Blackburn match. 

Just the one drink turned, predictably, into several. Having lost all inclination to cook, we ordered a pizza and, rather sheepishly, popped our beautifully prepared vegetables into the fridge. We then settled down with our Dominos in front of (at my request) a YouTube compilation of Shola Ameobi’s Newcastle goals. What a guy. What a Sunday!

31. Feed the ducks in Leazes Park

New Years Resolution/Target… Complete this blog! My apologies for the horrendous delay since my last post. PGCE placement, a hefty assignment and classic Christmas chaos have meant that more or less everything else has been sorely neglected. I’ve a couple of weeks of relative calm, however, before my next placement begins and so am eager to catch up on writing about the few activities that I have done since I last posted.

Leazes Park, with an opening date of 1873, was the first public park in Newcastle. It was designed by John Laing and was created to give the people of Newcastle a place for exercise and recreation. In the past the park was home to such delights as a croquet lawn, avaries and herds of deer. Sadly, none of those remain today but the park is still home to a large fishing lake, tennis courts, a bowling green, children’s play areas and various pleasant green areas that a person can enjoy wandering through.

I hadn’t really spent any time in Leazes Park until I began my PGCE when, on more than one occasion, we have been taken there to explore ways of teaching Science outdoors. On these trips I noticed how pretty the park is  and, given its close proximity to the university, thought it might be nice to head there one lunch time. A quick Google of Leazes Park suggested that one of the key activities there is feeding the ducks and so having first persuaded my friend and fellow PGCE student, Laura, that this was a GREAT way to spend our lunchtime, we headed there with our bread at the ready.

Now, most things I write about on this blog I strongly encourage everybody to go and do. I’m not sure I can do that with this one. Feeding those ducks was right up there with the scariest (albeit most hilarious) experiences of my life.

When we arrived at the park it was a sunny day and the lake looked beautiful and all in all I was feeling pretty smug about this great lunch time idea. As soon as we got close to the water, however, and before we had even got out our bread, the ducks emerged from the water and began to surround us. Only there weren’t just ducks… there were also some Canadian geese and, of course, some bloody seagulls darting around ruining everyone’s fun.

I was feeling slightly nervous when along came this man, who just so happened to be an absolute expert at feeding ducks.

“Ahh, you want to feed the ducks do you? Right, well what you do is you tear up the bread into little pieces and then hold your hand out flat and they take it from you. They won’t bite you!”

I mean, I am not going to lie to anybody… I had no intention of hand feeding the ducks. I was just going to throw some bread around. Determined not to look a fool in front of Mr Duck Feeding Expert though, I did as he suggested and, of course, was almost instantly bitten by a goose. By this point we were completely surrounded by (what felt like) hundreds of ducks, geese and seagulls and were essentially just throwing bread as far away from us as possible, whilst giggling slightly hysterically.We still just about held it together though until two swan emerged from the water and started heading threateningly towards us, at which point it all became too much and we both just absolutely legged it in opposite directions, much to the amusement of a nearby couple, who almost definitely filmed the entire thing.

Spot Laura…
Stalked by swans!

Once we had recovered from our near death (ahem) experience, we went for a little walk around the rest of the park. CLEARLY, this is all we should have done to begin with as the rest of Leazes Park is actually pretty beautiful – how could it not be, with St James Park standing so gloriously in its background!?