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During the last weekend in February I would usually be found exploring a European city, drinking wine by day and cocktails by night.
Every year I’ve been lucky enough to escape to a different (usually colder) climate and enjoy a well earned rest to celebrate ending one year and beginning the next chapter somewhere new. (Remember our ever so freezing escape to Vilnius where we returned with the Beast From The East in our case?!)
And this year was no exception. Even if we did have a baby in tow.
You may recall that originally we’d planned to head back to Amsterdam. Heavily pregnant, I’d researched hotels with lift access (essential in those tiny but tall town houses), we already knew the easy airport train to city route and read up on luggage allowances with a mini me.
“We’ll book it when he arrives though, you know, just in case.”
And what a good job that was. After experiencing the amount of bags required for our impromptu trip to Scotland the month before, fitting that mass of luggage into a suitcase and transporting it from place to place was justNOTgoing to happen.
So this year, we jumped in the car and visited the North East of England’s instead. So today’s post comes to you from Durham and Tynemouth.
Where to stay when visiting the North East
We upped the glam factor and booked into our 2019 favourite hotel chain… Premier Inn, this time in Washington. Located between Durham and Newcastle this small town had a number of restaurants near by and was straight off the A1 (M) making arriving super easy.
After such a successful trip the month before, it seemed sensible to stick with what we know and up camp to a chain hotel with family’s room complete with a decent travel cot provided.
I’d like to think in future we’ll opt for a quirky Air BnB or independent family friendly hotel, but whilst we find our feet with this parenting lark, we are sticking with what we know works.
A big bonus is the all you can eat breakfast… a must when someone decides 5am is the ideal time to rise and shine.
How to get to Durham and Tynemouth
We headed up North by car (a car filled to the brim with baby paraphernalia…) but made good use of the public transport on offer.
InDurham, the handypark and ridewas a ten minute drive from the hotel. Costing £2 per person (but free for under 16s) the buses arrive every 10 minutes and take you directly to Market Square. We did have to wait for 3 buses to manage to get one with pram space on our return journey, but, with very little parking available, it was still the easiest option.
Over inTynemouththe metro system is quick, easy and pram friendly. It’s very similar to the London Underground with some carriages adopting the bench style seating leading to lots of pram space. We drove up to Newcastle then hopped on the Metro, which takes 24 mins from city to coast and costs a few pounds.
What to see in Durham
With its cobbled streets, picturesque green landscape and Romanesque architecture it was easy to forget we were exploring our home turf rather than somewhere further afield. The pretty university town is ideal for having a ‘mooch’ around rather than a structured day, but if you want to see inside the castle you do need to book a tour in advance.
As pretty as the slim, uphill, cobbled streets were, they are NOT made for pushing a pram. So we abandoned our plan of a riverside stroll for a visit toDurham Cathedraland enjoyed some of the Fire and Ice festivities that were on display over this particular weekend. (22nd-23rd Feb)
Thecathedralis free to access (although a £3 donation is suggested) and is spectacularly beautiful. The Rose Window is especially stunning, as is the outdoor spaces. The restaurant and gift shop which are located below the cathedral are a great spot for a coffee (and baby feed) and the afternoon tea looked pretty epic!
What to see in Tynemouth
With the freakishly warm weather upon us, we decided to spend our second day up North at the coast. Tynemouth is to the north east of Newcastle city centre and was so different to what I expected.
A wander round the weekly market, a bag of chips on the seafront followed by ice cream in the Priory ruins wasn’t a typical February day, but having the sun on our backs did just the trick to get us in the mood for Spring.
Tynemouth was definitely more pram friendly than Durham, but the mass crowds headed to the seashore did make getting out and about trickier than we are used to.
Where to eat
A birthday isn’t a birthday unless you eat something scrummy. But, with baby in tow it was tricky to find somewhere family friendly in a city we were unfamiliar with.
San Lorenzowas a godsend. We booked mere hours before dining, but they still went to the trouble to create a wide space with plenty of room for a pram, in the quieter area of the restaurant. The staff went above and beyond to make a fuss over all three of us and couldn’t of been more attentive. We honestly left feeling like part of the family and gutted it wasn’t our local.
And the food? It was sensational. I opted for the Goats Cheese and Red Onion Flatbread to start with the risotto to follow. Both were easily some of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten, and the moderate price was an added bonus.
In Durham itself there’s plenty of gorgeous places to be fed and watered. But with a big pram on a busy Saturday we couldn’t get in for love nor money. If we return once the little one isn’t so little, I’ll be joining the mammoth coffee queue at Flat White and enjoying a glass of vino at The Shakespeare.
So maybe next time we’ll head further a field and tackle a 5 day break. I don’t think I’m prepared for a plane ride until we are out of the mammoth bottle sterilising routine, but once he’s eating properly I’m sure we’ll be ready for a spot of sunshine and swimming!
Where would you suggest we visit for a family friendly holiday?