Geoff Vickers visited Middlesbrough just before Christmas and sent us this blog about the happy experience. Formerly Secretary of Middlesbrough Supporters South and working in financial services in the City, Geoff is a Boro season ticket holder travelling up for matches from the Home Counties. In December he decided to make a weekend of the trip to see Boro v Swansea with his partner Liz in December.

It is a rare chance to spend some time back in Middlesbrough. I have spent most of my Boro supporting life travelling from my home just North of London – almost always driving or taking the train up and back in one day.

orange pip aug 1A month or so ago I read an intriguing blog from a group of Bournemouth supporters who had spent an overnight stay on Teesside back in October before and after our game with them and indeed their glowing report on the town centre especially around Baker and Bedford Streets in the town centre.  I also read that Baker Street had been named as a “Rising Star” in The Great British High Street competition.

So it was the Swansea game just before Xmas that provided us with the perfect opportunity to spend a couple of days sampling for ourselves what the Cherries’ supporters had so enjoyed and have a night on the town in Middlesbrough. It turned out to be a very good weekend.

We booked into a town centre hotel – the Express at Holiday Inn opposite the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), which, as it turned out, was perfectly located for a weekend stay. The room overlooked a fine seasonal display of lights sparkling from the trees in front of MIMA. Perfect to place us in the Christmas mood.

We had lunch on the Friday at another establishment that has been enjoying media accolades. Chadwicks Inn in Maltby owned by Gary Gill, his wife Helen, manager Lee Tolley and head chef Jon Appleby. A super relaxing way to kick off the weekend and shake off the 220 mile drive North.

I am told properties in Baker and Bedford Street were taken over by the Local Authority over the last two years and have undertaken a funding programme of regeneration and refurbishment. The area has been completely rejuvenated and what a job they have done. Baker Street was first to receive its make-over in 2014 and neighbouring Bedford Street followed over the following months.

Rob (Nichols) offered to host us on the Friday night and an initial walk down the two streets was a real eye opener. There is a continental European feel about the area with an array of independent shops, bars and restaurants with every establishment  seemingly full with season revellers.  We met in Sherlocks on Baker Street,  a small intimate bar with couches and a small corner bar with an array of beers I hadn’t really seen in a pub in Middlesbrough outside of the Wetherspoons in town.  There was a good buzzing atmosphere coupled with some new beers locally brewed.  Immediately along the road is The Twisted Lip and across the road The Slaters Pick –more fantastic editions to the small beer pub scene. To give the street a Bohemian feel both sides are full of independent shops that are so crucial in retaining character to the locality, including  a vintage clothes shop,  a deli and a furniture retailer amongst them.

And so to the next street along and Bedford Street which has become a go to place to both eat and drink with an array of recommended eateries and the Chairman pub the latest beer pub introduction. And the town centre rejuvenation doesn’t stop at those two streets.  Dimi Konstantopoulos has just opened his modern greek eaterie “Great” on Linthorpe Road and Al Forno  and Oven around the corner are, amongst many other strong offerings. According to TripAdvisor Middlesbrough has 80 places to eat with 4 or more review stars.

Match day morning we enjoyed a really good breakfast over at MIMAs new bistro the Smeltery and sister restaurant to the Waiting Room in Eaglescliffe.  The weekend was rounded off by a fine 3-0 win against the Swans.

I wanted to recount our experience, as Middlesbrough is no doubt becoming a serious weekend break destination that will only serve the town and local economy well. It is fantastic to see. I will come again before the season’s end and hope to try new places  Final mention of the hotel which is a fine ambassador for the town. The friendly welcome on reception and the hotel comfort was just top class. And as somebody who works in London fantastic value for money.

The Love Middlesbrough campaign is definitely working for me.

Blog originally printed in Fly Me To The Moon fanzine Issue 572 Boro v Leicester City 2/1/2017

Geoff Vickers