Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there

The Tyne of your life
03/08/2009, 09:13
Filed under: travel | Tags: , ,

Twitchhiker - Popolo

My first double page spread for the Guardian – this guide to my adopted home city of Newcastle was published in a travel supplement for the paper on Saturday June 27th, and is lovingly re-created for you here:

The story goes that several years ago Newcastle was declared eighth-best party city on the planet. Not unexpectedly, the good folk proceeded to celebrate.

For too long that image of the people threatened to overshadow the gradual transformation of both Newcastle and Gateshead beyond their monochromatic ship-building roots. Fortunately, in the years that followed, the city matured into one of the most compelling and effervescent places in the country. There are few cities offering such a wealth of diverse experiences. And we know it, too; recent footballing under-achievements aside, everyone here is fiercely proud of what we have, far away from the clutter and splutter of London.


A leisurely stroll along the River Tyne is the best introduction to the history and regeneration of the city, as well as the majesty of the seven bridges that crisscross it. Gateshead Quays is dominated by the orange-brick might of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, its impressive girth hosting internationally acclaimed galleries and installations. The metamorphosis of this former flour mill was a significant marker in Newcastle and Gateshead’s charge to become one of the country’s cultural focal points. Alongside is the Sage Gateshead, a rolling hillside of glass and steel which plays host to world-famous musicians and global conferences.

Newcastle’s Quayside is the oldest neighbourhood in the city, with graceful Tudor merchant houses nestling among the imperious Victorian properties. It’s here you’ll find the bars that made Newcastle famous a decade ago, but in recent years it’s become a mecca for foodies: walk south from the city centre down Dean Street, and your palette will tingle with delight at the menus on offer. Hei Hei is one of the top locally owned restaurants, a punchy, urban space that reworks traditional Chinese dishes, while the rather grand Indian restaurant Vujon sprawls across the ground floor of a Victorian town house and serves a boro chinghri bhoona (king prawns with garlic, ginger and onion) for which I’d wrestle a man with 10 arms. Continue reading


05/02/2009, 01:53
Filed under: twitchhiker project | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

In an attempt to watch the latest episode of CSI on Sky+ while simultaneously opening online accounts to upload my first Twitchhiker vodcast*, I managed neither to any satisfactory degree and furthermore missed a text from Paul Richards, a TV producer at Sunrise in Sydney. Balls. Spectacular multi-task FAIL.

I’ve got an inbox full of writing for blogs about Twitchhiker, my freelance work to keep on top of (although admittedly my commute into work involves little more than crawling down the stairs to my desk in the dining room – dressing for the occasion is entirely optional) and I’m heading for my fourth 2am finish / 7am start in a row. I’m exhausted and I’m 24 days from this trip even beginning. Pathetic. That’s not a moan, by the way, more a public mental note that I need to pull my finger out and get better organised.

After a great day’s coverage from the Guardian, tomorrow (later today) looks equally promising; an interview conducted via Twitter with the Metro newspaper, a radio interview for Original 106 in Aberdeen and a face-to-face interview with the local BBC website tomorrow evening. Given the orgasm of interest of the past couple of days, I suspect there’ll be a lull for a week or two after this, so I need to do everything I can to keep the momentum up.

* attention, Vimeo: informing me that it will take 120 minutes to process a three minute video will not have me whipping out the credit card for your premium service. Sorry about that. This is something else I need to consider; I need a quick and easy way to not only upload, but display lots of video from wherever I happen to be. Plenty of people have mention Qik but I don’t fancy the data charges from abroad. Any ideas you have, please shout up.

Twitchhiker meets The Guardian
04/02/2009, 14:35
Filed under: twitchhiker project | Tags: , , ,

There are already several complimentary posts and features about Twitchhiker, and it’s only been two days. There are more to come, too – I’ve got a batch of Q&As to write for various blogs. If it’ll help pick up a handful of supporters, brilliant – one of them might just be the person I rely on to complete this.

Wow. I’ve just caught myself typing “the person I rely on to complete this”. Do I really believe I can get all the way to New Zealand? Not quite. Not yet.  Anyway, I’ll create a page for press links so you can see what’s happening, but in the meantime I wanted to ask you to read the Guardian for a couple of reasons.

As I’ve mentioned, I do some freelance writing and blogging for the Media section of both the paper and the website. I also wrote a feature for the travel section of the website last year, and editor Andy Pietrasik was kind enough to ask me to write a piece about Twitchhiker:

Twitchhiker in The Guardian

One of the great things about the Guardian is that they’re never afraid to push their content onto new platforms and try new ideas; if you get a chance, have a look at their new feature twitrips by @benjilanyado. At this moment, Benji is in Paris, following tips and advice passed onto him by Twitter users. If you know Paris well, get involved.