Week 28 – United Kingdom (Edinburgh and Newcastle)

Geordie Shore why aye! If this doesn’t mean anything to you I recommend you click here for a brief introduction. MTV’s Geordie Shore is one of our guilty pleasures, even though we realise that it’s the epitome of reality trash TV. What’s not to love about a group of Newcastle’s trashiest youths placed in a house of debauchery and encouraged to drink way too much. It’s one of those shows where you’re appalled at first but then you can’t look away. The only reason I’m confessing our darkest sins is to clarify why we would book 4 nights in Newcastle, as most people would think that’s crazy. Our main motivation was so we could go visit the different bars and clubs we’ve seen on the show. Maybe even see some of the “stars”. We’re so cultured.

Last week I wrapped up the post on our arrival into Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands. I was quite surprised by the Highlands because I expected high mountain ranges with windy steep roads but it wasn’t really like that. We definitely did climb but it was quite gradual. So much for the mighty Fiat 500 being unsuitable for the Highlands like the rental car lady suggested, we could’ve driven a smart car there. We stayed in a proper Scottish guesthouse with full cooked breakfast included. The hosts were lovely but we discovered that it was best to avoid the husband as he was so boring and you couldn’t escape him. We spent our time in Aviemore roaming around the village and then we went for a walk around Loch Eilein. The walk was about 5kms long and was very scenic looking out across the water, particularly around the island castle. We then decided to drive up the mountain to where the funicular station is and it was amazing how much the weather changed in the 5 minute drive. The wind was so strong, Anna had to wind down the window to enable her to open the door agains the wind. The temperature felt like it dropped 10 degrees as well. We ended our day with a takeaway pizza that we snuck into our room for a movie night with wine.

As I mentioned last week, accommodation on the weekends in Scotland was really expensive so we planned our arrival into Edinburgh on Sunday, but that left us one night that we needed to organise. We opened up booking.com and searched for all of Scotland, sorted by price. It quickly became apparent that Aberdeen had the cheapest offerings and plenty of them so we delved a little further. The city’s wealth is fueled by offshore oil rigs and I’m guessing it’s not doing as well with the oil price coming down. Their loss is our gain though because we were able to stay at the Marriott for $AU70! It wasn’t the flashest Marriott but we realised that it’s the first accommodation of the trip that offered room service. It also had a swimming pool and fitness centre so we took advantage of that. We visited the Glenfiddoch distillery as our 2015 lonely planet guide recommended the free tour. When we enquired we were told they stopped that in 2012 and the tour is now £10 per person. We weren’t stumping up for that but we did have a wander through the gift shop and were amazed by some of the prices – $AU40,000 for a bottle of scotch is crazy! The gift shop did have some cool offerings like bottling your own from the cask, or the bespoke packaging options where you pick the box material and the felt lining.

Our arrival into Edinburgh came with a sigh of relief as we returned the Fiat without issue even though someone bumped into it in a carpark and scratched the back bumper. We have insurance for that sort of thing but we didn’t want the drama. Anna did a great job finding our accommodation for Edinburgh. Firstly it fit our budget which was a mean feat considering it’s festival season. Secondly it was uni student accommodation so there was a large kitchen shared between 8 rooms but we were the only ones that used it. Edinburgh was alive and happening with the Fringe Festival and sometimes it made it hard to walk around because the sidewalks were packed. We saw 2 stand-up comedy shows and watched a bunch of street performers. It was surprising how many Australians were performing at the festival but I guess it is internationally renowned.

Edinburgh Castle was the last thing we visited using our Historic Scotland passes. We didn’t keep track of the value but I’d estimate that we visited £60 of sites for the £40 price tag. It wasn’t just about the savings though, we visited so many places we would’ve skipped normally. The castle is definitely impressive perched up on top of the hill, but it was so crowded compared to the other Scottish castles. I think Stirling Castle was probably our favourite. Perhaps it’s that we’re “castled-out” after so many chateaus in France then all the castles here. Another popular place to visit is the Palace of Holyroodhouse but it was £12 each, you can’t take photos and we figured it would be much the same so we skipped.

Something I’ve always wanted the see is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo but it turns out that every other Edinburgh visitor has the same idea – tickets can be hard to come by. We were very lucky to score 2 reasonably priced tickets but we had to sit separately. It was quite funny because I was sitting 2 rows behind Anna and it was hilarious watching the old lady next to her try and drum up a friendly chat. Actually that’s one thing we found all around Scotland, the people are very friendly. Once the show got underway it was very enjoyable and we were surprised that it was quite high tech with pyrotechnics, projected images and motorbike stunts. Ok, ok… it was the motorbike stunts that excited me the most.

Of all the things we did in Edinburgh, I think the photography tour we did on our last day was my favourite. We had been thinking about doing a walking tour but I stumbled across the photography tour online so I thought I’d surprise Anna. The tour lasted for 4 hours and we walked through the city looking for some artistic angles. We were fortunate that it was only us 2 on the tour which meant we covered more ground and Ewan our guide was able to check out our photos as we went. Ewan also covered off some historical aspects of the city and pointed out some key buildings. Anna knew most of the technical stuff we covered but it was all new to me. I think it’s the first time I’ve had my little camera on full manual mode and I enjoyed trying different techniques and settings. I feel sorry for Anna sorting through the photos this week because the course has unleashed the amateur photographer in me. What I lack in talent, I make up with enthusiasm (and charming charisma of course).

After 4 nights it was time to farewell Edinburgh and catch the train to Newcastle. Upon first exiting Newcastle station I could’ve sworn I was in Australia’s Newcastle. And no that’s not because the architecture is similar, it’s because the natives bear a close resemblance. Teenage mums, thick makeup, trashy tattoos and track pants are things that come to mind. Obviously that’s not everyone but it’s definitely a higher frequency than any other places we’ve been. Our hotel is right in the middle of town which has been great for heading out at night time, but we did discover that they’re very strict about their 3pm check-in time. We arrived at midday and advised we’d have to wait until 3pm, which is fine but then they said they’d charge us £10 to hold our bags. We decided to sit in the lobby and work on the blog, and we figured that they would get sick of seeing us and allow us to check-in a little early. No such luck.

Having 4 nights in Newcastle has allowed a fairly relaxed pace to see the main attractions. Since it was Geordie Shore that lead us to Newcastle, each night we’ve gone out to visit some of the bars/clubs that they frequent in the show. The main ones for us were Bijoux, Tup Tup Palace, House of Smith and Revolution. It’s probably a bit sad that we could instantly identify different areas of each place from the show, but it was good to check it out in person. We did notice that each place was smaller than expected and I’m guessing that’s because they’re clever with their camera angles. We have noticed that Newcastle is very popular with stag and hens parties and I guess that’s because the place kicks off on the weekends. You may be wondering how we can afford nights out. Well typically it starts with some pre-drinks like Tesco’s 2L cider for £2 then we head for super cheap dinner. We found a place called Eat4Less where you can get a Panini melt for £1.49. We’ve still had just as much fun without spending hundreds of dollars.

It hasn’t just been about the nightlife though. During the day we’ve been trying to spot Geordie Shore stars (with no success) but even people watching the regular Newcastle folk can be entertaining. Fake tan is all the rage here. Not too surprising as summer is nonexistent. We caught the train out to the beach yesterday and walked 5kms along the coastline. I think we saw 5 people in the water but they’re mad. The temperature hadn’t even hit 20. We also caught the bus out to the Angel of the North which is a big statue on the fringe of town. The main bridge in town looks very similar to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and it turns out that they were made by the same company. They just scaled down the size of this one.

We’re heading to London tomorrow by bus which should be great fun. It’s a 7 hour journey but far cheaper than catching the train. We’re staying with Gerrit and Amy, and we’re really pumped to see them to find out how London (and married life) is treating them.

Newcastle… you’ve been done,

B&A

Fail of the Week
As I mentioned previously, everyone has been so friendly in Scotland. So friendly that at the start of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo the MC spent 10 minutes rattling off special welcomes to people celebrating anniversaries, birthdays etc. And by this I mean it was all by name, “special welcome to Hamish who is celebrating his 39th birthday and had made the journey from Glasgow. Apparently it has always been a dream of his to come and see the tattoo. A big welcome. Next Bob and Mary are celebrating their anniversary…”. At first it was hilarious but it felt like it went for eternity. I was actually cringing as it continued.

Meal of the Week
This week’s meal proves that you don’t have to spend a fortune for waterfront dining. We went to Tesco to buy the milk and Greggs to buy a coffee. The rest we already had. And yes we have plastic containers that we use as cereal bowls. All class!

DSC03855
Lovely water side picnic … with Tesco cereal and milk

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