The only highlight on our drive to Newcastle was the Angel of the North, a ginormous, brown, metallic structure that looked a bit like a plane (it is said to be wider than a Boeing 747). Apparently it is the world's most viewed piece of art, which was possibly due to it being on a motorway. I can't say it was my favourite piece of art.
Once we arrived in Newcastle we wandered through the outdoor winter market, full of ready-to-eat food. It was heaven – we could have spent hours here. Unfortunately, we only had enough time to pick up a few free samples before we left to meet up with Danny’s family.
Danny's cousin Nick and girlfriend Beth live in a fantastic apartment right in the middle of the city, shared with a psychotic two-month-old cat named George. Leaving the furry ball of energy behind, Nick and Beth played tour guides and showed us the important sights of the city. First up was a bar for drinks; second was another bar for yet more drinks. We did eventually make it to dinner, in a lovely restaurant that would normally be out of our price range (but we don't mind splurging once in a while). By the time we arrived home, Beth and I were completely exhausted and headed straight to bed – and I mean an actual bed, inside an actual house, where it is warm and there is tons of space. Luxury! The boys decided to continue their night out, much to Danny’s regret the next day.
I had no idea what time Danny and Nick returned home, and they couldn't tell us either. But that was the least of my worries. When I woke up I discovered that George (the cat) hadn't been well in the night and had left us a messy present on our duvet. Our one and only duvet, the one we sleep under every night in the van. When Danny finally opened his eyes, I told him the news. His response, in a moaning tone, was: “Oh. I can't take my shoes off”. He had gone to bed fully clothed, shoes and all. Even though he was surrounded by cat diarrhoea, Danny just rolled over, fell back to sleep and didn’t rise until midday. When he was finally alert enough to have a conversation, we both couldn't stop laughing about how funny the situation was. Thankfully Nick put the duvet cover into the washing machine for us, saving us from having to hose it down in the street. The entire day was a write-off for both of the boys.
After having a real shower in a real house, Danny nursed his hangover in our bed inside the van (safe from ill cats) while I explored the city. I spent most of the day on the river, walking up and down either side and crossing several of the seven bridges. The view consisted of a mix of new and old architecture, but overall it appeared to be one of the more modern cities we had visited. I found the Castle (that gave rise to the name 'Newcastle'), however there was clearly nothing new about it. It's small size and uninviting façade resulted in me walking on by without entering.
I made it back to the van at sunset to find Danny just getting out of bed, although still feeling worse for wear. We headed back up to Nick's apartment where we watched TV (real TV!) and ordered Indian food for dinner. The meal was excellent, mostly because it was the spiciest food I’ve eaten all year. As we didn't want to risk a repeat of last night’s drama, we chose to sleep in our van tonight.
We never thought we would pass up the opportunity to sleep in a proper bed, but we had a wonderful sleep in the Prince and no nasty surprises were left on the bed. Danny felt somewhat better but was still feeling the sluggish from his drunken night out. After much prodding and prompting, I managed to drag him put for a walk around the city. Our first stop was Baltic, a contemporary art museum housed in an old flour mill. There weren't many exhibitions, but the main display was the nominations for the Turner Prize, the top award for visual art in the UK. As is common for us with this style of art, we didn't really understand many of the pieces (even when the description was right beside it). It didn't take us long to go through the museum.
Afterwards, we strolled along the water back to the winter market, as Danny was keen to pick up some pork pies. Even a hangover won’t stop him from devouring what I consider to be greasy, stodgy pastries that aren't fit for human consumption. With that mission accomplished, we could say goodbye to Newcastle and hit the road again.