Take Newcastle-Gateshead ... its heart was designed by John Dobson at the start of the 19th century - it radiates out from Grey Street's fine pale-gold Georgian buildings. Its icon-bridges are now joined by the 'blinking eye' bridge, described as one of the best inventions of the twentieth century. It's the home of the latest major contemporary art centres, The BALTIC. And yet if you travel for twenty minutes out of town, you'll either be in open country - or on the beach!
Or Sunderland ... it has one of very few national museums outside London - the National Glass Centre. It's just reinvented the Winter Garden idea, building a 21st century palm-house in a city-centre park; it has one of Britain's earliest Christian churches; and its University is a fashionable new hotspot for young film-makers. Durham was described by Bill Bryson as 'a perfect little city'. Its history shows in every cobble - it even used to be a principality! Its cathedral and castle are designated world heritage sites. And it's an international centre of learning, with one of Britain's leading universities.
Or how about Middlesbrough, and its striking Victorian architecture? The Town Hall is Victorian high gothic; the library is first-rate arts and crafts; the quite eccentric Transporter Bridge is utterly unique. And its shops and wine bars? Absolutely fabulous! Northumbrian city life - the exciting unexpected!