Savoring the North of England

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Upon check-in at the Copthorne Hotel, situated quayside on the Tyne River with beautiful views of the river from the room, we head off down the riverside promenade passing a number of bridges connecting the city to Gateshead across the river. We make a stop at the Pitcher & Piano—one of several restaurants situated along the quay—for a traditional lunch of bangers and mash, washed down with a generous amount of Newcastle brown ale, introduced to Newcastle in 1927 and now a favorite around the world.

Newcastle, too, has an interesting history, beginning with a wooden Norman Castle in 1080 that was rebuilt in stone nearly 200 years later. It was dubbed New Castle and when a town grew around it, it took the name Newcastle. The town continued to grow over the centuries and by the 17th century, it was being compared favorably to London itself. In the latter part of the 18th century, the old city walls and city gate were torn down and by the mid-19th century, the city-center was rebuilt, eradicating much of its early historical buildings, unlike York which had preserved theirs.

But no matter, Newcastle has taken a fresh approach and it’s a very lively city today with a wealth of museums and galleries including the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art by the river that was once a huge flour mill. It’s been renovated into one of Europe’s biggest contemporary art centers. There’s also the Great North Museum: Hancock, which highlights a large-scale interactive model of the nearby Hadrian’s Wall, among other exhibits, as well as the Discovery Museum on Blandford Square—a favorite with kids and features a number of interactive displays where kids can learn about science and technology.

There’s also a host of trendy restaurants and bars around town, including a few unique traditional pubs. Tell clients, though, to try Cafe 21, a hugely popular restaurant that’s comfortably stylish and offering great food, run by renowned chef Terry Laybourne.

Still another must-see is the Live Theater, recently renovated from one of the few remaining medieval buildings into a beautiful modern theater that explores ideas in new writing, offers playwriting classes, and sponsors at-risk kids with acting/playwriting courses, in addition to hosting a venue of plays and musical performances.

Tell gay clients that Newcastle also has the biggest gay scene in the region and is known as the “Gay Capital” of the Northeast, with dozens of gay and lesbian venues throughout the city.

manchester Finally, it’s off to Manchester for our final visit in the North of England. Famous for its Manchester United Football Club—one of the most successful in Europe—Manchester is erroneously thought of as a drab industrial town—that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is rather, a beautiful city with a wonderful mix of the old and the new.

It’s hard not to be impressed with the Hilton Manchester Deansgate Hotel, where we checked in upon arrival in the city. It’s situated within the lower 23 floors of the massive 50-story Beetham Tower with some of the priciest condos in the region. The views from the club room on the 23rd floor are positively breathtaking and the rooms themselves are spacious and decorated in light colors. And you can’t check-out without having a drink at the hotel’s Cloud 23, if for no other reason than to take in the nighttime view from the 23rd floor.

To really get a feel for the city, it’s best to take a walking tour. There are numerous walking tours available form the city-center, where your clients will also find a wealth of shopping opportunities and probably stroll by a section that was once a warehouse area and today is all converted to shops, restaurants and condominiums set amongst a winding series of canals that at one time hauled the warehouse goods to and from there on boats. Today, it’s a lively entertainment and residential area.

You can’t go to Manchester, however, without visiting Old Trafford Manchester United, the famous football stadium that’s been home to the famous football club since 1848. It’s as much a museum as it is a football stadium filled with exhibits from the club’s past, complete with a restaurant—the Red Cafe—and trophy room. The tour takes you throughout the stadium including the dressing rooms and the players’ lounge where they relax with friends and family after a match. On this particular tour, there were about 80 people in our group from all parts of Europe. The guide said that more than 100,000 people take the Old Trafford tour over the course of a year.