With Emirates flying into Newcastle, WA travellers might be tempted by northern England. With this advice from Peter Lynch they might want to spend a little time there before moving on.
It's many years since I was last in Newcastle. If you've seen the iconic Michael Caine film, Get Carter, well it was pretty much like that. Grim. But once you've got your head around the accent, Geordies are as friendly a people as you'll ever meet.More Britain:
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So I was surprised to hear OK magazine report that the Geordie accent had been voted the UK's sexiest - thanks mainly to pop star and style icon Cheryl Cole.
Then I read a 2010 Trip Advisor poll revealing that Newcastle-Gateshead had been voted Europe's third best city for nightlife - topped by London and Berlin.
This didn't sound like the Newcastle I knew, so, Whey aye, mun! I'm gan back to the toon of Noowcasstle to see for mysel.
It's less than three hours by train from London or you can fly direct from Perth via Dubai with Emirates, where you can expect a more relaxed and friendlier welcome than you'll get at the chronically crowded Heathrow Airport.
All the industrial grime has gone from the buildings and the quayside has become a smart riverside walkway with pubs and restaurants instead of derelict warehouses, cranes and car breakers.
But not everything has changed. The Crown Posada - one of the oldest pubs in town - is still there, still full of friendly folk and still selling superb local ale. Three doors away I spot Martha's Champagne and Fizz bar, my first inkling of the party town.
Newcastle's history is as old as London's. The Romans built the first castle on the banks of the River Tyne but that wasn't good enough for the Normans, who built a "new" castle in 1168 and the name stuck.
Seven bridges connect Newcastle on the north shore with Gateshead on the south.
The Tyne is awash with iconic bridges - the High Level Bridge was the first combined road and rail bridge, the Swing Bridge rotates 360 degrees and the Millennium Bridge does a half somersault.
But the most famous is The Tyne Bridge, probably the most illustrated bridge as it appears on every bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. It looks like a miniature Sydney Harbour Bridge - that's because they were both designed by Dorman Long of Middlesbrough. The Sydney Bridge was started first but the Newcastle Bridge was finished first because it's smaller.
There's a surfeit of accommodation, from major chains and the classic Royal Station hotel to small, family-run hotels. I stayed at Jesmond Dene House hotel, a beautiful Georgian mansion, just out from the city centre and epitomising the way Newcastle has been rejuvenated. It's a grand mansion with a contemporary style and a restaurant that diners will travel a long way to sample.
Jesmond Dene (a wooded valley) flows down to what used to be a bleak industrial part of town called Ouseburn but now it buzzes with arts and creative businesses. The Biscuit Factory is an art gallery with busy artist studios. The Cluny, an old distillery, has become a bar and music venue for up-and-coming acts and those that have had their heyday like the Animals and Wishbone Ash.
Next door is Seven Stories, a children's literature museum that's designed for children. There are original author drafts, regular readings and popular book corners where children can dress up and immerse themselves in story characters.
Further on there's an urban farm and riding stables. This fascinating area has kept its edgy urban ambience but buzzes with creativity and innovation.
On Saturday nights, Newcastle really lives up to its party capital accolade. At seven in the evening the town is like any other. While I was eating a superb but refined dinner at Cafe 21, stag and hen parties poured into the city along with the regular party crowd. By nine the streets were heaving, more like Ibiza than Newcastle, the girls were unbelievably dressed as if it was a summer evening.
Revolutions Bar on Collingwood Street specialises in vodka but was originally a big bank and none of the 400 people lucky enough to get packed in shoulder-to-shoulder was much over 30. It has a nightclub ambience, though there's not a centimetre of space to sit or dance. And stepping back out on to the street, ears ringing, we were eyed enviously by the 80-odd people queuing to get in. It's like a city-centre rush hour on the streets - even the traditional boozers are packed. There's little evidence of a recession in Newcastle.
An unmissable treat for anyone with a sense of history is Beamish the Living Museum of the North. I took a bus from the central bus station directly to the village of Beamish in the beautiful County Durham countryside.
For centuries there's been a farm and a colliery behind the village but since the 1970s it has been developed into a 12.4ha microcosm of Victorian and Edwardian times. Salvaged buildings have been rebuilt and trams, buses and steam trains link the pit village, town high street, farm, and railway station. Guides in period costume work in the different areas and explain what life was like in those times.
Tynemouth is the Geordie beachfront, just 20 minutes by Metro from the city centre. It's reminiscent of Cottesloe, with little restaurants, pubs, and excellent sandy beaches but with rocks, dunes and cliffs. The wind and drizzle kept me well wrapped up - but what a surprise to see dozens of surfers and bodyboarders.
Steven Earl Hudson, owner of Tynemouth Surf Co, perfected his surfing in Australia and has hosted British Nationals at Tynemouth. He said there were more than 100 regular surfers and the waves were pretty good. "It may be bitter cold," he said, "but the upside is I do a great trade in thermal wetsuits."
It's impossible to visit Newcastle without tipping your hat to St James' Park, home to Newcastle United Football Club. The redeveloped stadium seats more than 52,000
Newcastle has undergone a transformation in recent years from a city of past industrial glories into the vibrant cultural capital of the north-east.
The Tyne, once one of the busiest waterways in the UK, is now quiet but the city itself buzzes with more life than ever.
• Newcastle-Gateshead tourism: newcastlegateshead.co.uk.
• Jesmond Dene House hotel: jesmonddenehouse.co.uk.
• Beamish: beamish.org.uk.
• Emirates: daily flights from Perth to Newcastle (via Dubai). emirates.com/au.