After a little hesitance about agreeing to spend six weeks travelling around my native United Kingdom, it only took two days for me to realise that I was about to have an unforgettable journey. Whilst it lacked the glamour of Jaipur or the thrills of Chile, I realised that I’d spent my life ignoring the opportunities to discover my own nation. Not having to worry about budgets and timeframes, I could let my hair down a little and enjoy the cities at face-value, leisurely pace and a new perspective.
Leeds is a city smack bang in the centre of northern England. Not as well-known as nearby Manchester and Liverpool, Leeds is actually larger than both and boasts character and personality in every street and alley.
On arriving at Leeds City Station via train, I was armed with a rather hopeful sun-hat and shades which instantly made me look silly in the overcast atrium. The clouds conspired against me and I was soon using the sun-hat as a makeshift (and ineffective) umbrella. By the time I sidled my way out of the turnstiles and came out to see Leeds spread in front of me, it was being assaulted by the heavens in buffeting sheets of wind and rain. Spirits dampened by the introduction, I had a quick coffee to see how the weather would behave under my glaring from the café window. Abating somewhat in pity for me, the sun managed to slither its way out from behind an enormous raincloud and I took my chance to dart through the crowd and leap onto one of the buses parked outside of the station, bound for the city proper.
Loop Road encircles Leeds and allows for easier travel around the heavily-trafficked city. It is incredibly busy; public buses brush bumpers with taxis, cyclists shout angrily at discourteous drivers and pedestrians make their way through the often stationary traffic like a game of checkers. Jumping off at Victoria Square, I was greeted with the local market in full flow and my senses were being torn in different directions. Grocers demanded my respect for their cheap apples; electronic salesman wanted my custom for their (likely stolen) CDs and DVDs and butchers laid out an array of pink and red meats for my review. I managed to reach the doors of my hotel without spending too much of my tight budget and within five minutes, was enjoying a well-earned temporary rest on the single bed that I was to call home for the next few days.
And then it was night. National travel, it appears, really takes it out of you; sitting down had obviously quickly devolved into lying down and subsequently I was wasting my brief time in Leeds with an un-scheduled afternoon nap!
As I often do when I awake from unplanned sleep, I panicked and assumed that I was missing some important meeting or function before realising that I was just being a sloth and hibernating when I should have been out exploring. A quick hop in and out of the cold shower saw me leaving my hotel room a half hour later, still tying my hair into a quick bun and making my way toward the city itself. The elevator music accompanied me down the few floors toward the reception, where I was greeted with an empty lobby and a sleepy looking porter.
I waved a cheery goodbye as I rushed towards the door before he asked me if I’d like him to call me a taxi. Not necessary, I said, I was only heading into the city to get some food and have a look around. He looked a little nonplussed before asking me what demanded such an early start. I looked at the large white clock embedded into the wall behind him, took a moment to calculate it’s bizarre modern art design before finally coming to the damning conclusion that it was 3:50AM.
Needless to say I sulked my way back up to my room and collapsed onto my bed for the second time, inches away from a tantrum and miles away from sleep.
Sarah Jane Fanning works on the marketing team at Lovestruck Leeds, and is currently writing up her experiences from an around-the-country travel journey. Whilst most of her excursions were a little more exciting than that of her first day in Leeds, the bed was really very comfortable…