23 February 2014


It's been a while since a new blog post - but, if I'm being honest, for the last two months, I haven't done much worth telling you about. I haven't learned a bunch of exciting new facts about Manchester or even done very much outside of work.

Work is really tiring, and most weekends, I've just been recuperating, apart from a few cinema visits and one really boring ballet.

But finally, this past week, I took a week's vacation - and Jonti and I decided to visit a new place: LEEDS!

Another Northern Industrial town, just about an hour away, Leeds was the perfect match for
1) a few days off
2) bad winter weather - which makes the countryside unbearable - and
3) not wanting to deal with an airport or much travel.

The Leeds Corn Exchange now houses several independent shops - it's been done up recently, and the ceiling is stunning. Lots of old commodity exchange buildings of Britain have lovely ceiling windows - in Leeds, I learned that this was a functional decision! Without such ample skylights, traders wouldn't be able to properly examine the wares. Leeds Corn Exchange was especially admired for the even, uniform light shed by its skylights.

One of the real shining benefits Leeds has over Manchester is an enormous, lovely market, with fishmongers, butchers, produce stalls and cafes! Kirkstall Market is amazing. I've said it before, but a city really needs a market. 

Preferably one with beautiful dragons.
It looks like a selfie, but it isn't. I took this picture of handsome J.
I learned that Marks & Spencer's started out as a small penny stall in Kirkstall Market! I was really surprised by this - M&S is one of those classic, middle-market British brands, with branches on every street corner. It's crazy to think it started out as a tiny little stall - and even more surprising that the stall today makes great coffee. Had a delicious macchiato.

There is some really interesting street art project going on in Leeds.
And the Tiled Hall in the Art Gallery is a gorgeous room. The ceiling was mesmerising.

There were sculptured faces of famous male writers and artists all around the room: Homer, Dante, etc. This face had no name.

But this name had no face. Poor Goethe!

Leeds devotes a lot of its city centre to grand, luxurious shopping arcades. They're beautiful, but... they're just lots of expensive shops. 

We went to the art gallery and the city museum. I picked up a free local paper, to see what might be going on, but I couldn't find anything that excited me. 

Honestly, after a few days, I found myself feeling a bit unconnected to the town. I think it's probably a really nice town to live in. There are lots of great bars and restaurants. 

I'm not joking about the bars. There is some excellent beer out Leeds way. I probably drank more beer in the last 3 days than I have since December. 

But that's pretty much all Jonti and I really got out of Leeds. A nice market, some good restaurants, some good drinking. I can't help but feel like I missed something exciting about Leeds...

Despite all that, it was a lovely place to spend a few days. It's compact and visually engaging. It's got a nice Town Hall. An imposing building. Pretty.

'Not as pretty as our Town Hall,' I said to Jonti. I just couldn't help comparing Leeds to Manchester at nearly every turn.

And maybe that's at the heart of my ambivalence towards Leeds. I liked it. But I love Manchester. I love this city, even without a market. It was a Sunday morning, over three years ago, when I realised a one-year MA wouldn't give me enough time in Manchester... and I'm still not done with it.This is how good I felt the morning we were heading back to Manchester, even though it was the end of our holiday.I'll try visiting Leeds again sometime - hopefully with friends who have an infectious love of the place - and maybe I'll feel differently about it then.