One of the most rewarding travel experiences is discovering a hidden gem – some “off the beaten path” experience that will make for a great travel tale. It might be an awesome meal, or a favourite place to have a drink. It might be a local festival, or an out of the way, little known attraction.
These hidden gems equally exist in our home towns and we can quite easily overlook them by sticking to what we know.
A classic example of this for me is The Centurion in Newcastle. This is a pub at Newcastle’s impressive Central Station. I have been drinking in pubs in Newcastle for 10 years but until recently, I had never been to The Centurion. My friends and I have a pretty standard routine when we eat and drink out in Newcastle – we know where we like to go and we know what to expect when we get there.
The Centurion doesn’t look like much from the outside and I had never really considered going in. Jim and I decided to stop there for a drink after visiting the EAT festival, and we found this…
It turns out that The Centurion is actually the former First Class passenger lounge at the station with exquisitely restored original Victorian tiling.
It would be very easy to walk past The Centurion without giving it a second glance – there are certainly other bars in Newcastle with more kerb appeal, but I doubt there are many with such an impressive interior.
Another similar hidden gem right in the centre of Newcastle is the Central Arcade. Pretty much all of the shops in the arcade have an entrance onto the street, and so the arcade is mainly used by locals as a short cut between streets. It is very easy to rush through focused on getting from A to B without taking time to glance up or down at the beautiful Edwardian tiling.
Although originally dating back to 1837, the Central Arcade was rebuilt in 1906 following a fire. The intricate tile work has been wonderfully preserved and surely rivals more famous arcades around the country, such as the Burlington Arcade in London.
Again, there are no clues from the outside to suggest the treasure within. The Central Arcade is also a really popular spot for buskers, and the acoustics produce a really pure sound. The arcade is not very big, but taking a slow stroll through examining the detail and taking some photos whilst listening to buskers playing traditional folk music is a really pleasant way to spend some time.
These are the kind of little gems that we would rave about if we discovered whilst travelling, but can easily be overlooked at home. There is something cosy about the familiar, but equally, it is important every now and then to be a tourist in your home town and seek out the hidden treasures on offer.