Wednesday 30 September 2015

Why you should relocate to Newcastle

I'm not exactly shy when it comes to shouting about my love for Newcastle and how relocating here a few years ago was the best decision I ever made.

Being from the South I know only too well that people think Newcastle is cold, dark and wet but it's just not true.  Newcastle is a gem that's yet to be discovered by so many and as soon as I relocated to the North East I made it my mission, through this blog, to let everyone in on the secret.

If you're stuck in a rut, bored of your life and fancy starting afresh with a brand new adventure you should definitely think about relocating to Newcastle.

Local Estate Agents Walton Robinson have plenty of fantastic flats and houses to buy or let.  So why not take a little look!  

Here's just a few reasons why you should relocate to Newcastle:

* The weather is gorgeous!  I know you don't believe me, but it really doesn't rain any more than it does in London.  Being on the east side of the country we actually get a lot of sunshine (and the most beautiful sunrises)

 * We have the best of all worlds - a bustling city, miles of countryside and a picture perfect coastline

* Geordies are the friendliest people in the country - fact!  Pop out to the shops to get some milk and expect to be gone a while, everyone loves a chat.

* Greggs!  Yes I know you'll find Greggs all over the country, but do your Greggs sell stotties?  Nope, thought not!  Once you've tried your first stottie you'll never look back.

* House and rental prices are so cheap compared to other parts of the country.  You can find fantastic rooms to rent that are really affordable.

* Newcastle is in a perfect position!   We are only 2 hours 50 minutes by train to London and we are very lucky to be able to call some stunning parts of the country our neighbours.   York, Edinburgh, The  Lakes, North Yorkshire and Scotland are just a few of the beautiful places we  can get to easily.

* There's a lot going on!  There is always something to see and do in Newcastle - whether it be a new bar or restaurant opening, a food festival, a market or a travelling funfair, there's never a dull moment

* Newcastle is the party capital of the UK! If you love nightlife then you really can't beat a night on the Toon!  Rub shoulders with the Geordie Shore lot in some of Newcastle's trendiest bars or, if you prefer a slower pace of life, spend an evening with a well made cocktail in one of the  hotel bars.

* If you love sport Newcastle is the place to be.  A passionate football city, the Toon Army are out in force on a Saturday and if running's your thing sign up to the Great North Run, one of the country's most famous events. 

* For the shopaholic, the Metro Centre is Europe's largest shopping and leisure centre and has everything you could possibly want for a full day of retail therapy.

So, hands up, who's moving to Newcastle?

Monday 28 September 2015

Paolo Martini: Live Music at Gusto

Last week my brain really started to hurt.  Simon and I have been busy looking at wedding venues and having narrowed it down to two that we love, every waking moment I found myself trying to decide between them to the point where it was making me feel a little stressed!

It was pretty clear that a change of scenery was desperately needed so on Thursday I headed off to Gusto for a girl's night out with Sam and Katie  I was keen to get their opinion on the wedding venue dilemma and thought that it may be easier to reach a decision over delicious food and fine wine.

I'm sure you all know by now that I'm no stranger to Gusto - popping along to the beautiful restaurant on the Quayside and ordering myself a Peking Pizza is becoming a bit of a regular occurrence, but this visit was a little different. 

Gusto are rather brilliant at organising special events, and this night they were playing host to tribute act "Paolo Martini".   Tickets  were a very reasonable £35.00 per person (including a 3 course meal) or £10.00 for a seat at the bar (including a glass of wine) and the restaurant was buzzing with enthusiastic diners ready for a night of tunes on the river.

First things first we headed to the bar to have a browse through the cocktail menu.  Whenever I'm eating at Gusto I always arrive a little early so I can sit at the bar and enjoy a drink.  The cocktail menu is one of Newcastle's greatest and I love sitting myself down on a bar stool for a spot of people watching with something fruity in my hand.  This time I decided to try the Cherry and  Coconut Sour and it was just what I needed after my hectic week. 

The evening's entertainment began at 7:00 pm so we made our way to our table to order our food.  I was determined to start exploring the menu more and so, for the first time, ignored the Peking Pizza and went for something different.

For starter I chose the Sweet Pepper Compote and Goats Cheese Bruschetta.  I'm not usually that fussed by starters but the Bruschetta was so delicious I'll definitely be revisiting that part of the menu again.   It had the right amount of crunch and the toppings were generous.

Managing to avoid the lure of the pizza I decided to turn my attention to the pasta menu and ordered Smoked Salmon and Dill Rigatoni which was tossed with cream, peas and spinach . The salmon was soft and flaky and so delicious, I think the Peking Pizza may have a fight on its hands!

Bombolini served with chocolate dipping sauce and whipped cream was the perfect end to my meal.  Deliciously sweet and indulgent, I think I made a bit of a mess dunking my homemade mini donuts into the sauce but that just added to the fun.

Paolo Martini began his set as we were tucking into our food with some nice chilled out tunes that people could enjoy whilst eating but by the time the last plate had been cleared we were all ready for a dance.  The lights were dimmed, the beats kicked in and before we knew it we were dancing away.

The restaurant was full with every seat taken and the atmosphere was fantastic as everyone came together for a boogie

With the drinks flowing it was time to make a confession.  I actually had no idea who Paolo Nutini was despite him having hit albums in the charts for the last 9 years!  Determined not to let anyone know that my days of knowing who is in the charts is long past, I did some quick research on Wikipedia before heading to Gusto, although I did become a little unstuck when I didn't know the words to any of the songs - argh!

The performance was so great and I had such a great time, the first thing I did when I got home was download the Paolo Nutini back catalogue. 

We had a fantastic time and I will definitely be first to book a seat at Gusto's next event.   Make sure you sign up to the Mailing List to keep up to date with the next event.

Friday 25 September 2015

Me and Mrs Jones

Life can be a funny thing.  You spread your wings and fly the nest to roam the world, not realising that your true love was someone that you grew up with in a small country village.

Last weekend my little sister Lydia married Matt, a boy who lived at the top end of our little village in Norfolk.  They went to the same school and worked together in the local shop and although briefly got together in their late teens didn't become a proper item until many years later.  They now live in London with their fur baby Henry (who is probably the most spoilt cat I've ever met!)

The setting for their perfect day was Burnham Market in North Norfolk, fondly referred to as "Chelsea on Sea" and a haven for holidaymakers in the Summer.

The day began with the bridle party getting ready at Mallard's Cottage just off the main high street.  With a gorgeous garden room and a massive kitchen with an Aga  it was the perfect place for our pre-wedding preparation and I have to say we were probably the most chilled out bridal group ever. 

Lydia chose four bridesmaids and a "Man of Honour" and we all got to wear gorgeous shades of coral and probably the most comfiest wedding outfits ever.  The dresses were beautiful and had large pockets for tissues (essential). 

Helping Lydia get into her dress was a moment that I'll treasure forever.  She had spent months working hard to get in shape for her wedding, dropping several dress sizes in the process.   She looked absolutely stunning in her dress and it was completely different to any wedding dress I'd ever seen before.

The feather detailing at the top of the dress was stunning and I literally couldn't take my eyes off my beautiful little sister.

The most organised bridal party in history, the morning passed in a blur of happy chatter and hair styling which saw us ready early with more than enough time to take some photographs and start on the Prosecco.

The wedding took place at the picture perfect Sussex Barns and despite the fact we'd all been there the afternoon before to help set up, it still took our breath away as we made our way through the doors and into the barn. 

The roof was adorned with twinkly fairy lights and as we made our way down the aisle to "I Wanna Grow Old With You" from the Wedding Singer, everywhere we looked there were smiling faces of friends and family.

Weddings make me very emotional at the best of times and it wasn't long before I was reaching for the tissues.  The ceremony was beautiful and was made extra special by Matt's nephews doing a reading that had everyone giggling.

As the new Mr and Mrs Jones sealed their vows with a kiss the barn erupted with cheers.

Having managed to grab a quick drink we made our way to a quiet part of the barns for photos.  The photographer for the day was James Powell and he was fantastic at encouraging us all to goof around to capture some really lovely moments.   If you're looking for a photographer based in  Norfolk I really recommend him.

Simon managed to get a few shots of us all hanging out but I can't wait to see the official photographs.


Having endured months on a strict diet Lydia was more than ready for some carbs at her wedding and we feasted on pie and mash before turning our attention to the delicious naked wedding cake which was made complete by the addition of a little Henry.

The speeches were fantastic and the Man of Honour had us in stitches as he raised a glass to the much loved legacy of family cats.

There was only one possible song for the first dance, "Me and Mrs Jones" was a definite crowd pleaser and made us all feel a little jealous that we don't all have a special personalised song.

It wasn't long before the Barn had been transformed into the best disco in history!  The night kicked off with local band The Fuzz  who managed to pack out the dance floor during their entire set and then moved on to a pretty epic playlist, I'm pretty sure it was the only wedding I've ever been to where I got to groove to "Bump N' Grind".   The dance floor was constantly full with happy people busting out their best dance moves

When things got a little warm and a rest was needed there was plenty of outside space to chat and light up sparklers

The day was over far too fast and as we called it a night and headed to bed I couldn't help but smile to myself.  We'd had the most amazing day and I was now on official countdown to my own wedding day. 

But for the moment  I'm going to enjoy the next 12 months of being the only remaining Dawson sister.

Suppliers List:

Wedding Venue - Sussex Barns
Brides Dress - Ledurne by Pronovias bought at La Crème
Bridesmaid Dresses - Emily and Fin
Chairs and Lighting - Inline Events
Flowers - La Belle Flowers
Wedding Cake - Little Millies
Band - The Fuzz


Wednesday 23 September 2015

The Gin Bar at The Crowne Plaza, Newcastle

My social life has taken a bit of a dip in recent weeks.   Turning down invites in favour of spending evenings building flat pack furniture has become a necessity as we continue our quest to turn our house into a home.  

If there was one event to make me peep my head out of the "new house bubble" it was always going to be the opening of the brand new Crowne Plaza and when an invitation to check out the hotel's Gin Bar popped into my inbox I was more than ready to put on my glad rags and head to the Stephenson Quarter.

You may remember a little while ago I stuck on a hard hat and had a nosy round the Crowne Plaza.  At that point the hotel was still very much a building site and it was hard to imagine what it might be like when it finally opened its doors.

Well I'm very pleased to say that the Crowne Plaza is now open for business and it looks absolutely stunning.  It is the most exciting thing to happen in Newcastle this year and I'm confident it's going to put the North East on the business map.

The Crowne Plaza is much more than somewhere to rest your head for the night, it also offers residents and locals a new place to eat and drink and is quite different to anything else in the city.

As soon as I stepped foot inside, the Gin Bar was somewhere  I could imagine myself spending quite a bit of time.  It's effortlessly cool but still feels comfortable and I loved the décor so much I spent quite a bit of time working out if I could manage to swipe a copper table or blue chair out the door to have in our living room.

I love that the Crowne Plaza is passionate about its new home in the North East and the Gin Bar not only has Wylam Brewery Beer and Ouseburn Coffee, its interior is inspired by Newcastle's industrial heritage and its position near to the historic Stephenson Works.

The Gin Bar is keen to become the place in Newcastle to go for a martini and has 27,000 varieties to choose from allowing you to create your perfect drink.  I tried a Classic Gin Bar Martini which I must confess I was nervous about as we were warned Martinis are pretty strong and I've never actually tried one. 

I was pleasantly surprised by my Martini, although strong it was delicious and I can see myself ordering one again as a nice slow drink to enjoy in the bar.

If Martinis aren't your thing the Gin Bar also serves a variety of gin based cocktails.  We tried the Sloe Royale, Sloe Gin and Cucumber Sour and a Spiced Mai Tai. 

It's pretty hard to pick out a favourite as I really enjoyed them all but if you twisted my arm for a recommendation I'd say order the Spiced Mai Tai - it was pretty special!

Of course, it's not a good idea to drink all those cocktails without some food and we tried out some of the "small plates" from the bar menu.  Chicken Wings (served with blue cheese dip), King Prawns (with a curry and gherkin mayo) and the Salt and Pepper Squid went down a treat.   I didn't manage to get my hands on any of the Hot Butchers Sausage which I'm still really sulking about, but at least it gives me a very good excuse to go back. 

The Gin Bar is a welcome addition to Newcastle's fine collection of bars and I'm very happy we now have somewhere so fantastic that's close to the train station and the Metro Arena. 

If you've enjoyed this post please consider voting for New Girl in Toon in the "Best Travel Blog" Category of the North East Blogger Awards - you can find all the details here.

Monday 21 September 2015

My North East Story: Katie Jane Online

September's My North East Story comes from one of my closest blogging friends, Katie Jane from Katie Jane Online.  I only met Katie a few months ago but her bubbly personality meant she quickly found her way into my heart - she's a true gem and writes a fantastic blog about the wonderful North East.
1.  What is your North East Story?
I was born and bread in Durham. A city that is full of history and culture and I have never lived any where else. Durham is my home although I love to escape to Newcastle most weekends as there is more going on up there.
2.  Why do you love living in the North East?
In my first ever blog post I wrote. 
'I am 20 something from the North East. Living here is quite simply the best. If you want culture we've got Durham. If you want great restaurants, stylish bars and art galleries we've got Newcastle. If you want countryside and artistic scenery we've got the stunning Northumberland coast. London is less than 4 hours away by train and Scotland is a 2 hour drive away'
I honestly don't know what there is not to love about the North East.  Maybe I am biased?

3.  Where's your favourite place in the North East to relax?
To be honest my Mam's kitchen is my favourite place to relax. There's always something going on. People coming and going and lots of food to eat.
I absolutely love going for a walk any where with some good scenery. The Durham river banks is my all time favourite place. 
Or the Northumberland coast. There's just something about being by the coast walking along the beach and breathing in the sea air.

4. Recommend some yummy food places
Finbarrs is my all time favourite restaurant for either a quick bite to eat or a special occasion meal they've got it covered.  Fat Hippo Underground do the best burgers I've come across this side of the Atlantic. 

5. Describe your perfect day in the North East
Would start by going out for a late breakfast, I love the breakfast burrito at the Quay Ingredient. In fact every perfect day should start with a breakfast burrito.

Then going for a walk along the river banks in Durham with my dog Alfie.  The sun would be shining of course.

Afterwards I would go to Newcastle to watch the Toon Army win a football game for a change and a few drinks in Newcastle afterwards. Before retiring to bed
Make sure you check out Katie Jane Online and if you want to get involved with My North East Story drop me an e-mail at   

Friday 18 September 2015

Our Spare Room

When we were house hunting one of the things we were desperate for was a house with space. We felt so fed up of our tiny flat and were hopeful that we'd be able to afford to buy a place with three rooms and a garden.
We were ecstatic when we found somewhere perfect that was not only in a great location and within our budget, but also gave us the extra rooms that we'd been craving. 
So it may seem odd to be confessing that one of these rooms we'd been so desperate for we're struggling to know what to do with.
With one spare room currently being transformed into an office the other room has become a storage space for unpacked boxes and with no idea of what to do with our extra room we don't seem to be in any hurry to get them emptied.
We have a handful of friends and family that come to visit us so we know we need somewhere for them to sleep, but we also need the space to be functional to give us some extra storage space for my ridiculous collection of coats, shoes and books. I don't want our poor guests to be sleeping in an uncomfortable room full of clutter and forgotten junk.

I've been hoping that as we begin to build up each of our other rooms that inspiration would just hit us but so far it doesn't seem to be happening. We're constantly changing our minds about what to do with the room and even hunting through Pinterest is leaving us feeling lost.
The room really needs to include something affordable for guests to sleep on, so we're currently looking into practical beds online at Bedstar amongst other sites to optimise space and still look good. Storage is also an important element of the room. We'll need a way to hide our excess bits and bobs. We want to create a room that is practical but also somewhere that won’t just get forgotten about.
Our ideas so far have included setting the room up as a proper guestroom, a walk in wardrobe (one of these would be the dream!) and a cosy snug for chilling out. But we're just not sure what to do! 
So I'm shouting out to you guys to help. Do you have an unloved spare room? I'd love to hear your ideas of how we can make it work.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Wedding Chat: I've said yes, now what?

It's rather inevitable that some of New Girl in Toon over the next year will be dedicated to our wedding.   As a very normal girl with no crafting skills and not much of a clue I thought it may be helpful to write about my experience of planning a wedding.

As soon as we shared the wonderful news of our engagement with family and friends it was funny how quickly people started to ask us what our plans were - namely where we'd be getting married and if we'd picked a date. 

Of course, in the real world your wedding plans don't instantly fall into place the second you have a ring on your finger.  If, like me, you've never had any experience of planning a wedding the task ahead can be rather daunting.  How do you plan something you've never organised before?

Here's a few tips I've picked up over the last few weeks as a great starting point after you've got engaged.

Ask your friends

If you're very lucky like me, you may well have a couple of friends who are also engaged at the same time as you.   These friends are priceless.  They'll understand your worries and concerns and are brilliant if you do feel the need to have a bit of a rant.  If they are ahead of you in the planning process be sure to ask them for any hints on how to plan your day.

The Internet knows it all

There is a huge amount of information available to you on the net.  Snuggle down on the sofa with a nice hot cup of tea and have a good hunt around for things that can help you.  From reading up on venues to helpful checklists, there are plenty of answers for you on your laptop.  Just try not to get overwhelmed!

Grab a notepad and pen

Embrace your inner geek and get list making.   From the word go it's a good idea to make notes of any ideas you have, helpful hints from friends, venue ideas and guest lists. 

There are wedding journals available with helpful sections to fill in or if you want to make it your own head to a stationery shop for a blank pad and pen.

Create a Guest  List

We found the most helpful first job was to create a draft guest list.  You can't think about setting a budget or shortlisting venues until you've got an idea of numbers.  If you don't want your wedding to get crazy expensive be sensible and remember it's your day.  Don't let nostalgia and returning favours overrule your head.  

Set a Budget

Yes weddings are ridiculously overpriced and it's a little unfair but unfortunately that's just the way that it is.   Weddings make businesses huge profit and if you put the word "wedding" in front of anything expect to add a few 000 to the end of the price.

Location, Location, Location

Probably the part of the initial process that we've found the most exciting is picking a venue.  Have a think about how you want your wedding to look and feel and shortlist the venues that you think will most fit in with your plans and will be a good size for your guests.    

Contact the venues you are interested in and book appointments for a good look round.  Make sure you prepare ahead so you can provide the venue with your ideas and budget at the appointment and also any questions you may want to ask about your day.

Let me know if you have any helpful hints and tips for the initial stages of planning your wedding!

Monday 14 September 2015

Teasy Does It, Heaton

I do love a tea shop with a clever play on words so it was inevitable that Teasy Does It in Newcastle's trendiest suburb of Heaton was going to have my heart before I'd even walked through the door.  What an amazing name for a tea room!

Simon and I have been out and about exploring the wider area of Newcastle quite a bit recently and Heaton is fast becoming one of our favourite areas to wander.  A few stops from Monument on the Metro or, if the day is nice, a good healthy stroll from the city centre, it's easy to get to and a nice break from the crowds of shoppers in the Toon.

We arrived at Teasy Does It after a particularly stressful morning hiking round Ikea looking for more furniture for our new house.   Feeling slightly tired and grumpy, cake was definitely needed and as we pushed open the door of the tea shop to friendly faces and a counter full of cakes the stresses of our day were instantly forgotten.

If there's one thing that is always guaranteed to cheer me up it's choosing something to eat from a display of homemade treats.  The counter had a little bit of everything but it was the indulgent brownies and generous slabs of cake that had our attention. 

After a lot of careful thought I decided on the Sticky Toffee Cake and was quick to tuck in.  It was absolutely delicious, and not like anything I'd had before.  The pudding/cake hybrid worked so well and I loved the addition of the dates.

Simon is having a bit of a love affair with Oreos at the moment so decided to try the Oreo Brownie.  I didn't manage to swipe any because I was too busy wolfing down my own cake but he finished it in record time so it was a definite thumbs up from him. 

All of the cakes are homemade and if you love gazing at cake as much as I do you really should go and check out their Instagram . If that wasn't enough temptation to make you head to Heaton to say hello then it might interest you to know that Teasy Does It have reached the final of the National Cupcake Competition taking place this week (I'm keeping my fingers tightly crossed for them!)

There's a really impressive list of teas at Teasy Does It.  Unfortunately we're always a little boring and predictable and just can't help ourselves ordering English Breakfast.   We had a beautiful blue tea pot to share that was absolutely huge and I could barely pick up!  Arriving with mismatched crockery I was in my element pouring myself endless cuppas.

Being a girl from the South I often heard rumours about how friendly the folks up North are and at Teasy Does It you can expect a proper Northern welcome.   The ladies behind the counter are so lovely and within moments we felt like we were chatting with old friends.  We completely lost track of time as we sat talking about our favourite local eateries, holidays and, of course, cupcakes! 

The ever plotting bride, I was excited to discover that you can also custom made cakes at Teasy.  We're really eager to get a proper homemade cake at our wedding made by a local baker and there are some really beautiful and imaginative creations.

Teasy Does It is an absolute treasure and somewhere that we'll definitely be heading to again when we're in need of some delicious cake and friendly chat.

If you've enjoyed this post please consider voting for New Girl in Toon in the "Best Travel Blog" Category of the North East Blogger Awards - you can find all the details here


Friday 11 September 2015

Hens Hit Manchester

Wedding Season is well and truly here on New Girl in Toon and tomorrow afternoon my little sister Lydia will be getting married in a beautiful barn in the Norfolk countryside. 

I am SO excited and very proud of myself that I've resisted the temptation to spend my Summer twirling round in my bridesmaid dress.  It's been sitting in my wardrobe staring at me for months.

Of course, before the big day there was a small matter of a hen do to attend.   Luckily for me, I got to sit back and relax whilst Lydia's best friend Frazer took on the small task of organising a trip for 14 of us!

Manchester was the destination of choice and the weekend centred round Lydia's favourite things.  There were no organised activities at this hen do!  The last thing any of us wanted to be doing was making fascinators or decorating knickers, and we were all very much on the same page about wanting to enjoy our time pottering, chilling out, chatting, drinking and eating!

We stayed at the fantastic The Place Aparthotel close to Manchester Piccadilly Train Station.  If you're looking for great group accommodation in the centre of city I can't recommend this place highly enough.  Apartments sleep up to 6 people and are really big and comfortable.

In honour of Lydia we spent a lot of time sitting in our PJs eating beige junk food and playing silly games.  It all got a bit competitive and many bottles of Prosecco were drunk!

Of course a blogger's thoughts are never far from her blog and I made myself "Official Hen Photographer" and took 3 cameras along with me.  Maybe I'm a little bonkers but I just love taking photographs and capturing special moments is my absolute favourite time behind the camera. 

As well as my Nikon 3200 and Panasonic Lumix I also took my Fuji Instax out for its first trip. It's been sitting pretty in its box for months now just waiting for the perfect special occasion. I loved snapping some instant photos to give straight to the bride as a keepsake.

The weather was beautiful, bright blue skies and hot sunshine so after a hearty Saturday lunch at Bills, I decided to stay out and explore whilst most the others returned to the apartment for a nap. 

Although Simon comes from the North West I haven't had much of a chance to explore Manchester properly and I loved having time to myself to stroll round the Northern Quarter (which I'm now obsessed with!)  I found far too many coffee and cake shops I want to try so I definitely need to make a plan to return soon. 

The rest of the hen week whizzed by in a blur of fizz, banter and dancing. Of course I have plenty more I could share but what happens on a hen do stays on the hen do!

I didn't think it was possible to be even more excited than I was before but I can't wait to see all of the hens again this weekend to celebrate Lydia become a Mrs!
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