I cannot stress enough how scared I am of heights. There’s plenty of pictures of me looking (more) ashen-faced up the Burj Khalifa, Empire State Building, and random tall tourist monuments all over the globe. On a recent trip to Berlin for my birthday I found it difficult to sleep at night as we were on the 8th floor. People have told me over the years how illogical and irrational this fear is, especially when I’ve sat Googling how many times the lift in a building has failed before visiting certain tourist attractions. I decided, however, that at the grand old age of 38 I need to do something about it. To challenge myself I agreed to participate in Newcastle in the Sky, which may seem like an extreme way of attempting to conquer my fears to some.
There was a logic behind this madness. I thought that being distracted by food and the views may take my mind off the fact I was sat in a chair 100ft off the ground. More on that later..
The concept of Newcastle in the Sky is simple: over a number of days chefs from eateries all over the city will put on a special menu to be served on a special ‘island’ that is hoisted up into the air by a crane. Once up there diners will have a birds eye view of Newcastle – and Gateshead by virtue of its staging beside The Sage – while strapped in to a special seat. These ‘flights’ last for up to 45 minutes, and while up there guests can have a natter and a drink to steady their nerves while taking in this truly unique experience. An impressive line-up of breakfasts, lunches, high teas, and cocktails from some of the region’s noted restaurants awaits anyone with a sturdy enough stomach to participate.
I was invited along on the first of these trips up above The Sage today (Wednesday 23rd August) and was remarkably calm to begin with. I think it was as I parked my car and walked up the stairs towards the venue that the realisation of what I was about to do set in. I was met with many familiar blogger faces who tried to calm my nerves. It seems I wasn’t the only one with jitters and it was agreed that those who were more frightened than others would sit towards the centre of the island. I didn’t want to be reminded of the drop below! We were secured into the seats with 3 belts and given a safety briefing before our ascent into the air. My feet didn’t quite meet the rests either, which was another source of panic for me. At 5’5 I’m not tiny and felt uneasy with my legs dangling.
I was surprised by how smooth the journey up was, expecting my tummy to be all over the place. I also worried about needing the toilet because, as you’d imagine, once you’re up you can’t come down for a loo break! As the duration is only 30 minutes long I needn’t have stressed about things like that, especially as I was distracted by other things going on around me.
Red’s True Barbecue were catering and I was accommodated as a vegan. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to eat anything with my nerves! While others had Halloumi Burgers, Ribs, and other bits my dish did seem lacklustre in comparison. Another flight may have been more suitable for a foodie like me – perhaps Artisan – but the meal was not as big a focus for me.
They created a special non-alcoholic Iced Tea cocktail for me without honey, which was a lovely touch. I managed around half of the food. The man beside me had seconds (and thirds?) of his meat feast. Brave!
How the Beetroot, Bean and Avocado Corn Chip dish was assembled/prepared was explained but the distraction of where I was and trying not to drop my phone got the better of me. Those around seemed to settle into the experience quite quickly, even starting to spin their chairs around so they could take in the panorama. I was not brave enough, I’m sad to report.
There were definitely impressive views from up there, and it was interesting when the island started to spin slowly so the other 17 diners could take in the full skyline. The Millennium Bridge opened during the flight, although I only realised this while reviewing my photographs on the ground 🙂 I spent a lot of time feeling windswept and taking selfies as that was the way I felt comfortable participating. I’m really looking forward to seeing the professional shots that were taken once they are available.
While some people may lambaste me for not fully embracing the whole experience I feel proud of actually having the courage to go ahead with Newcastle in the Sky in the first place. For someone who has limited her own holidays historically because of an almost paralysing fear it was a big step towards working through this issue.
I managed to crack a few jokes and smiles so it couldn’t have been all bad, and as we descended back down to earth I started thinking about whether I’d get involved again if there happens to be a 2018 event. I’m not sure at the moment, although I did feel a tinge of sadness that I’d not even attempted to turn my seat around. Even as I type this my legs have gone ‘funny’ at the thought so I’m not completely ‘cured’ of my fear! Newcastle in the Sky was a bucket list item for me that was ticked off not long after my 38th birthday. Let’s see what goes on the list for my 39th 🙂
Thanks for reading,
There are flights still available for a variety of sittings and you can find out more on the Newcastle in the Sky website.