For my Christmas and thirty third birthday present Kate bought me the best gift a part-time Geordie and full-time Newcastle United fan could wish for: two tickets to Saturday's home game against Spurs and a stop over in Newcastle's Malmaison hotel.
The weekend started earlier than we're used to with a 7:30am train from Kings Cross. Naively, I'd assumed the Spurs fans would be travelling up later - when I realised my mistake, my black-and-white Newcastle scarf somehow mysteriously fell off my neck and into the safety of my bag. Our reserved seats paired us with two amusing characters from deepest Tottenham discussing people they considered to be 'mugs', why these 'mugs' should 'jog on' and what time it was suitable to 'crack onto' their beers (9:00am was agreed).
Arriving in Newcastle we made our way through the already heaving town centre towards our hotel down at the Quayside. As we queued to check-in who should we spot sat in the foyer but none other than Mr. Harry Redknapp himself and what looked like his family. Sadly no Jamie or Louise, presumably busy with a hectic schedule filming Thomas Cook ads.
After check-in we headed in to town to Blakes cafe for lunch and a cheeky beer and then on to fortress St. James's. Arriving in the bar I made the obvious choice and 'cracked into' a Newcastle Brown, our Tottenham friends would've been so proud.
Drinks finished and programme read it was about time to take our seats in the Sir John Hall Stand. We had a perfect viewpoint for a nail-biting first half with chances at both ends, Leon Best going closest with an effort crashing onto the bar.
After half-time refreshments the second half provided everything I'd made the trip for - Coloccini picked up the ball up on the edge of the area, skipped inside and fired an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner of Cudicini's goal. The stadium erupted, we cheered and punched the air but I was too cold to take my scarf off for some celebratory twirling - obviously still a way to go before I'm a hardened Geordie.
Match Of The Day
Unfortunately it didn't stay one nil as serial eyebrow re-shaper, Aaron Lennon fired in a late equaliser for the away team and Newcastle once again snatched defeat (well, a draw) from the jaws of victory, but on reflection it was probably a fair result.
Spirits still high it was time to enjoy a night out on the 'toon'. Back at the hotel we freshened up and headed out for drinks in a nearby bar that overlooked the river and then dinner at the Biscuit Factory. Kate enjoyed the local cocktails while I stuck to the Brown Ale, probably a mistake I wouldn't fully appreciate until the next morning.
Ferry On The Tyne
After breakfast and time to nurse my hangover while Kate spent time in the hotel spa, we ventured out to explore the Quayside and take some photos. The local Sunday market was in full swing as we strolled along the river admiring the bridges, new and old. Crossing the Millenium Bridge we popped into the Baltic centre for a Dan Holdsworth exhibition and some photos of Kate Moss that had Bryan Ferry credited as the Art Director. Contemporary art galleries always have the best gift shops and we probably spent more time looking at overpriced kitsch than actual art.
After lunch we wandered around the town centre, tried and failed to find something worth buying in the official NUFC shop and then collected our luggage fom the hotel ready for our train back to London. All I'd wanted was to witness a Newcastle goal at St. James's Park and I wasn't disappointed - next time maybe we'll try getting tickets for the derby, there's always goals in that one.