Leeds, you were playing with my emotions before I even got to know you.
Before my trip, I Googled "things to do in Leeds" and found out that the oldest (and one of the biggest) Carnivals in Europe was happening on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
I jumped out of my seat (and my pants) with excitement. I'll be there! Me. Jeffrey. In Leeds. When the big parade happens!
I read on...
Then, I chucked my laptop out the window. (That's what I called defene-frustration.)
It did not give me pleasure to learn that in the UK, the August Bank Holiday fell on the last weekend of August instead of the first. Oh well, there's always next time, Leeds West Indian Carnival.
You know the old adage "there are plenty other fish in the sea?" I live by those words now! Why? Because, on my first day in Leeds, I found out that the city would play host to the Leeds Pride 2015 celebration.
Woot! A parade is back in the works!
I slept in a little bit after my busy Saturday (my second day in Leeds). After waking up and wolfing down a quick Tesco breakfast/lunch (have to be budget-conscious, sometimes!), I took my camera and went over to the parade zone. I'll let my pictures speak for themselves...
There were rainbow flags adorning every surface, smiles on every face, cheers, dancing, and good vibes abound.
After the parade was over, I decided to do a little more exploring.
First, refreshments were in order. Word on the street was that this hipster haven called Mrs. Atha had some pretty kick ass coffee.
Iced latte in hand, I took a seat near the back of the cafe, next to an enticing bookshelf. It was stocked with a trove of beautiful magazines supplied by my new favorite store, Colours May Vary (an independent shop I stumbled upon the day before). I flipped through a few of them before I looking through Lucky Peach, a quarterly journal focused on food, where, oddly enough, I started reading a short story, "Girlfriend on Mars," that didn't seem to have much to do with food.
After a few paragraphs, I was hooked. The story was about a dude whose girlfriend decided to enter a reality show competition (without telling him) that would determine the first two people to be sent on a one way mission to Mars. Written by Deborah Willis, it was a perfect combination of quirky, absurd, funny, and poignant.
It was one of those stories where you're not sure what to do after you finish the last sentence.
I sort of just sat there, glancing from my empty cup to the magazine. Maybe I was waiting for more of the story to materialize on the page. Maybe I just needed some time to digest what I'd just read. Anyway, I didn't feel like reading anything else after that so I got up and walked out of the shop to do some more exploring.
After a few minutes, I spotted an interesting looking circular building. The words "Corn Exchange" was etched into its stone exterior. I correctly assumed that's what the place was called. (Genius!) I'd heard about it before. That's where the Village Bookstore, the other independent bookshop I'd read about, was.
I went in to check out the bookstore but it had closed at five. However, I found a stack of free "little black book" featuring the best of independent Leeds outside the doors.
The Corn Exchange was an architectural marvel - I found out later that it's one of Britain's finest Victorian structures. It is now the home of some of Leeds' most creative and innovative enterprises. Rightfully so as the majestic dome gave the place an expansive sense of space, room for great ideas to breathe and flourish.
My wanderings next led me to the Calls, an industrial looking collection of streets near the River Aire. These days, it is the heart of Leeds' gay village and, at that moment, the site of the second half of the Leeds Pride celebration.
What an atmosphere! The streets were alive. People were jamming out to live performers on one end of the street while amusement rides towered over the other end, flinging joy left and right, round and round.
After taking it all in, I decided it was time to sit down to digest everything that I'd done that weekend in Leeds.
I had a pint (a Robustus Lunam stout from Half Moon Brewery) in a pub called Crowd of Favours - once as I had deemed it hipster enough for my tastes. (To back up the claim that it's a true hipster joint, I'd like to draw your attention to the Super Nintendos set up inside the pub - depicted in the pictures above. I rest my case.) In the fury of the moment, I scribbled down my impressions of the city, the things I did, what I enjoyed, reasons I travel, and things I didn't get to do. If you've followed my journey in Leeds so far, you'll know my thoughts about most of these things except for the last item: things I didn't get to do. Well, you're in for a treat.
Here are some of the things I missed (which means I'll have to return in the future):
- Hyde Park Picture House: The almost century-old art-house cinema "complete with gas lighting, balcony, & plush red curtains," according to the Little Black Book.
- Deeper exploration of the Holbeck Village area: Staying in this neighborhood meant I developed a bit of affection for the place - it was home for a (very) brief period of time. There were a handful of places I didn't get the chance to check out like the Northern Monk Brewery.
- Whitelock's Ale House: This pub is older than the good ol' US of A.
- The countless foodie joints: Leeds is the scene of a food revolution. From it's infamous burger joints to the Trinity Street Kitchen, a mall food court unlike any other (I got to try one place, Chip & Fish, for dinner after Crowd of Favours actually).
- Belgrave Music Hall and other live music venues: Another Leeds institution, it's three-floor restaurant, bar, and live music venue.
- Things outside the city centre like Meanwood Park, the Seven Arches aqueduct, or the Eccup Reservoir.
All in all, my trip to Leeds was a success. And, technically, it wasn't actually over yet. I had time to say a long goodbye as I'd be taking a day trip to York the next day, before leaving Leeds for Bristol on Tuesday.